Here’s a little selection, a few romantic novels, a historical romp, a great thriller, a book of short stories and even a bit of time travel. Whether it’s sweltering (as it is in the UK at the moment) or pouring with rain (which will happen at some point) these stories are set against a long, hot summer backdrop that will provide escapism, whatever the weather.
‘The Summer of Impossible Things’ by Rowan Coleman
Any fan of time travel narratives will adore this novel. Luna has travelled to New York to confront her mother’s past when she somehow finds herself ‘in Brooklyn during the long, hot summer of 1977. Luna and her sister must confront the secret that their mother has kept for thirty years, but if Luna can time travel, she can change the outcome.
The setting is intensely atmospheric, a very believable backdrop for some emotional, magical and impossible events. Coleman’s novels tend to have life-affirming narratives, this story is well written and uplifting, it stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
‘The Empress of Ice Cream’ by Anthony Capella
This was published back in 2010 but I recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical novels or gourmet food. This is a gastronomic romp through history. Based on the real-life of Louise De Karouelle, who went from Louis XIV French court at Versailles to ‘keep company’ with the British King, Charles II.
An Italian chef, Carlo Dimirco, is sent to tempt the Royal British taste-buds with ices, sorbets, cordials and ice creams. His observations about the royal household, experiments in the ice house and the addition of extracts from “The Book of Ices” balance Louise’s view of her life. You’ll come away with a dozen summer recipes and a good knowledge of a woman who is distantly related to both Princess Diana and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
‘Summer on the Italian Lakes’ by Lucy Coleman
A nice light read; this is a perfect book for summer vacations. Brianna Middleton, successful author of steamy chic lit, is suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. She’s had a disastrous and very public affair with a rockstar and retreated to her cottage in the countryside to lick her wounds and finish her novel. With her deadline looming and no words on the page, an opportunity to help run a writer’s retreat in Lake Garda may be just what she needs. Will her time at an idyllic villa in Italy, with the handsome host Arran Jamieson, boost her love life as well as her word count? We all know the answer.
‘Coming Home to Island House’ by Erica James
In the summer of 1939 successful crime writer Romilly Temple is living an idyllic life with an older, charismatic man, Jack Devereux. Their happiness is interrupted by Jack’s sudden illness and a request to call his family home to Island House. In one week they must come to terms with the past, settle old differences and accept Romilly as their step mother.
Erica James pulled me into this dysfunctional family saga and I enjoyed every minute of this book. Attention to detail regarding the war, descriptions of food, fashion and family life all added to the narrative which was well-crafted and character driven. Although the story came to a satisfying conclusion, I genuinely hope there will be a sequel so that we can learn what lies ahead for the residents of Island House.
‘You, Me, Everything’ by Catherine Isaac
Anyone who needs a dose of warm sunshine will enjoy this novel set over a long hot summer in the French countryside. Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend a summer in a chateau restored by Adam, his father and Jess’ ex-partner. Jess wants William and Adam to form a closer bond and finds herself impressed with Adam’s successful hotel venture. Friends arrive and the summer rolls on, secrets and stories unfold.
This novel emerges you in the lavender scented warmth of France, the dynamics of family, old friends and new acquaintances and heart wrenching decisions. Isaac’s characters are believable and pull you into their world. This could be equally appreciated on a sun-lounger or curled up by the fire.
‘Sweet Sorrow’ by David Nicholls
Taking its title from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, this novel explores the highs and lows of first love. The story is set in the summer of 1997 where we meet Charlie Lewis. He’s just finished school, his exams didn’t go well and his home life has changed irrevocably since his Mum left and took his little sister. Then he meets Fran Fisher and his world is turned upside down in an effort to win the girl of his dreams.
Award-winning author Nicholls has many fine novels under his belt, ‘One Day’, ‘Us’, ‘Starter for Ten’ and his key to success seems to be his deft delivery of love stories that are full of honesty, bittersweet humour and sharp dialogue, very much like the real thing.
‘The Holiday’ by T M Logan
This tense thriller is the third novel from ex newspaper journalist T M Logan. Lots of unexpected twists and turns make this an exciting read.
Kate and her three best friends have decided to spend a week in France, celebrating their 40th birthdays with their husbands and children. Her world is shattered when she finds evidence of her husband having an affair and has to figure out which one of her old pals is the other woman.
‘The Temptation of Gracie’ by Santa Montefiore
I had never read any Santa Montefiore novels before and this was pure escapism. Yes, the story is a tad cheesy and the ending is pure Italian mozzarella but the depiction of the characters, Flappy Scott-Booth and the ladies of Badley Compton, make the story thoroughly enjoyable.
Gracie lives in a quiet seaside town on the Devon coastline, distanced physically and emotionally from her daughter Carina and barely knowing her teenage granddaughter, Anastasia. A photo in a magazine sparks a yearning to visit Italy and attend a cookery course in the beautiful setting of a Tuscan Castle. Gracie ploughs her savings into taking the trip of a lifetime and her family ponder the randomness of the venture with no idea of her past or why she would be so determined to visit Italy.
‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ by Ruth Hogan
A great debut novel which explores the story behind lost items and their meaning, significance and emotional value.
The central character, Laura, is a PA for a once-famous short story writer Anthony Peardew, the titular collector of lost items. After his death, Laura is charged with finding the owners of hundreds of meticulously catalogued items shelved in his study. Her journey is brightened by several characters and lightened by love. This light, whimsical read has topped the charts for some time and has proved popular on many book groups.
‘Paris for One’ by Jojo Moyes
Top up on hapless heroines and roaring romance in this collection of eleven beautifully crafted short stories. Jojo Moyes is a skilful spinner of characters and fantasy male/female relationships and this short collection is just as satisfying as her novels. The protagonists are warm and slightly quirky which makes them endearing and memorable. If you haven’t read a book for a while, short stories are just what you need to warm up your reading habits. Several stories in this collection will get you hooked on Moyes’ light-hearted take on the world.