Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer of Love: Standalone Sequel to The Summer House Party

Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels which are based on her experiences as a lawyer as well as well as The Summer House Party.  Caro is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser, and she lives in London.  Ms. Fraser is currently working on the next novel in the Caper Court series.  You can follow Caro Fraser on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

Summer of Love by Caro Fraser is a sequel to The Summer House Party.  It is August of 1949 when Meg, Dan, Sonia, Laura, Avril and Max gather at Harry Denholm’s home, Chalcombe in Kent.  Meg has spent the summer decorating the house for him.  They are out enjoying a picnic, when Avril tells ten-year-old Max a secret about his mother, Meg and stepfather, Dan.  This one events leads to a tragedy that will change their lives.  Laura, Avril and Max grow up in the 50s where decisions and actions made by their parents and relatives affect their lives.  Avril resents Laura and will do what it takes to achieve her goals.  The lovely and ingenuous Laura is looking for love and finds it with someone unexpected and unaccepted.  Max nurses his resentment and anger as he grows up.  Discover what happens to them in Summer of Love.

Summer of Love is a sequel to The Summer House Party, but it stands on its own.  The past is never really in the past.  The actions of others as well as our own continue to haunt a person throughout their life (especially in this digital age).  The story takes place from 1949 through 1963 in England.  I thought the Summer of Love was well-written and an engaging book.  The book has a steady pace and the transitions are smooth (as you switch between characters).  The author created complex characters whose lives are interwoven courtesy of their parents.  Avril is a resentful woman who dislikes the attention her mother pays to Laura.  Laura is raised as Avril’s sister, but her mother was their nanny.  Max is a happy kid until a cruel girl reveals a secret that forever changes his life.  The characters are not necessarily likeable (they are relatable), but I was drawn into their stories and wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next.  Summer of Love is a character driven novel.  We follow the characters in their life’s journey as they face love, heartbreak, happiness, grief, success and failure.  I like how the author worked in the happenings of the 50s and 60s into the story and into the characters lives.  Some of the issues/events mentioned are racism, drugs, homosexuality, birth control, changing fashions, and unwanted pregnancy. I also liked the inclusion of music from the era.  While many of the storylines are wrapped up in the book, the ending is left open.  I wonder if Caro Fraser will continue their stories in another novel or has she left their outcome up to our imagination.  Caro Fraser would like to know if you want her to continue the story with the next generation into the 70s and 80s (you can let her know on Facebook @carofraserauthor and Twitter @CaroFraser).  Summer of Love and The Summer House Party are available on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Program.

To tempt you, here is an extract from Summer of Love:

The air was full of the fresh, damp scents of early spring as Meg and Dan Ranscombe turned off the road and walked up the narrow path that led to the back of Woodbourne House. They made a handsome couple – Meg, in her early thirties, was vividly pretty, with dark eyes and chestnut hair curling to her shoulders; Dan, a few years older, was by contrast fair-haired and blue-eyed, his clean-cut features marked by a faint arrogance, a remnant of youthful vanity. They walked in thoughtful silence. It was four years since they had last been to Woodbourne House, the home of Sonia Haddon, Meg’s aunt and Dan’s godmother.  ‘I’m glad we took the train instead of driving,’ said Dan, breaking the quiet. ‘I have fond memories of this walk.’ They paused by a big, whitewashed stone barn standing at the foot of a sloping apple orchard.  ‘Uncle Henry’s studio,’ murmured Meg. ‘I remember that summer, having to traipse down every morning with barley water and biscuits for him while he was painting.’

Sonia’s husband, Henry Haddon, had been an acclaimed artist in his day, and in pre-war times to have one’s portrait painted by him had had considerable cachet. In Britain’s post-war modernist world, his name had fallen out of fashion.
Dan stood gazing at the barn, lost in his own memories: that final day of the house party twelve years ago, when he had come down to the studio to say farewell to his host. Finding Henry Haddon, his trousers round his ankles, locked in an embrace with Madeleine, the nanny, against the wall of the studio had been absurd and shocking enough, but what had then transpired had been even worse. He could remember still the sound of the ladder crashing to the floor, and the sight of five-year-old Avril peeping over the edge of the hayloft. Presumably the shock of seeing his daughter had brought on Haddon’s heart attack. That, and unwonted sexual exertions. The moments afterwards were confused in his memory, although he recalled setting the ladder aright so that Avril could get down, then sending her running up to the house to get someone to fetch a doctor, while he uselessly attempted to revive Haddon. Madeleine, unsurprisingly, had made herself scarce. And the painting – he remembered that. A portrait of Madeleine in her yellow sundress, seated on a wicker chair, head half-turned as though listening to notes of unheard music, or the footfall of some awaited lover. Haddon had been working on it in the days running up to his death, and no doubt the intimacy forged between painter and sitter had led to that brief and ludicrously tragic affair. The falling ladder had knocked it from the easel, and he had picked it up and placed it with its face to the wall next to the other canvases. He didn’t to this day know why he had done that. Perhaps as a way of closing off and keeping secret what he had witnessed. To this day nobody but he knew about Haddon’s affair with Madeleine. Had the painting ever been discovered? No one had ever mentioned it. Perhaps it was there still, just as he had left it. Meg glanced at his face. ‘Penny for them.’  ‘Oh, nothing,’ said Dan. ‘Just thinking about that house party, when you and I first met.’

What a fateful chain of events had been set in motion in the summer of 1936. He had been a twenty-four-year-old penniless journalist, invited to spend several days at Woodbourne House with a handful of other guests. Meeting and falling in love with Meg had led to the clandestine affair they had conducted throughout the war years behind the back of her husband Paul. Its discovery had led to estrangement with much of the family. Paul, a bomber pilot, had been killed on the way back from a raid over Germany, and the possibility that his discovery of the affair might have contributed in some way, on some level, to his death, still haunted them both. They never spoke of it. Meg and Dan were married now, but the guilt of what they had done remained. Meg’s mother Helen had been trying for some time to persuade her sister, Sonia, to forgive Meg and Dan, and today’s invitation to Woodbourne House was a signal that she had at last relented.
They walked up through the orchard, and when they reached the flagged courtyard at the back of the house Meg said, ‘I’m going to the kitchen to say hello to Effie. I don’t think I can face Aunt Sonia quite yet. I’ll let you go first. Cowardly of me, I know, but I can’t help it.’ She gave him a quick smile and a kiss, and turned in the direction of the kitchen.

I hope the extract has wet your reading appetite.  Summer of Love is available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Waterstones and GooglePlay.  Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you will take the time to visit the other stops on Summer of Love tour (see below).  I will be sharing my thoughts on Mulberry Lane Babies by Rosie Clarke tomorrow (06/17).  It is third book in The Mulberry Lane Series.  May you have a heartwarming day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

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