That Summer by Lauren Willig (audiobook)

  • that summer (CD)Title:  That Summer
  • Author:  Lauren Willig
  • Narrator:  Nicola Barber
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – Macmillan Audio
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  2009: When Julia Conley leads that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. When she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house she discovers a Pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open.

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts. When Arthur hires one of the artists to paint her portrait, no one can guess the outcome of events that the hands of fate have set in motion.  (publisher)

My take:  Lauren Willig had me from the synopsis with the dual-storylines (1800s and 2009).  I’m a fan of historical fiction especially when it involves art. At first I wasn’t sure listening would be as good an experience, in terms of distinguishing between the two eras, as reading a print copy but it wasn’t a problem.

Although Julia is the one trying to solve the mystery of the painting it is the reader who comes to know most of the details from Imogen’s story. Lucky for Julia that she is introduced to Nick, a dealer in antiques and friend of Julia’s cousins. From the start Julia (as well as the reader) is not sure of his motivation so there’s a trust issue. Julia has trust issues with a lot of people in her life so that isn’t surprising. That conflict worked well with the plot.

Not only is Julia looking for answers about the painting but she’s also seeking answers about people in her immediate family. Living at Herne Hill brings past experiences to the forefront in her memory. She needs to figure out if the memories are true or not.

I enjoyed the flow of the story. The resolution was satisfying if not a little surprising in how it came about. If you enjoy historical fiction (with light romance) and dual-storylines having to do with art I recommend That Summer.

Nicola Barber’s narration is wonderful. Her voicing of both female and male voices was easy to listen to and I wouldn’t hesitate to select any book she’s narrated. My thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing the review copy.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Title:  The Rose Garden (audiobook)

Author:  Susanna Kearsley

Narrator:  Nicola Barber

Genre:  Historical Romance; Time Travel

Published:  October 2011 – Audible

About:  (product description) Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.

But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.

My take:  I loved Susanna Kearsley’s latest historical time travel novel. Eva is grieving the recent loss of her only sibling. She goes to a favorite family vacation spot in England – Cornwall – to scatter her sister’s ashes. While there she stays with old family friends and becomes involved in helping them spruce up the house to become a tourist destination. She researches the history of the old home and learns of some former residents who may have been smugglers  – the Butler brothers. While walking on the grounds one day she sees a man who seems of another time. Turns out, Eva has turned up in the time of Daniel Butler. The story takes off from there and I was completely swept away. If you enjoy time travel novels I think you’ll like The Rose Garden.

Nicola Barber’s narration was great. I’m glad I listened to the book because the accents made the characters come alive for me.

Source:  I bought it.