BLOG TOUR: ‘The Darkest Summer’ by Ella Drummond ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Today is my stop on #TheDarkestSummer blog tour.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy at BOTBS Publicity for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS:

One hot summer, Dee disappeared. Now she’s back…but she’s not the girl you knew.

Sera and Dee were the best of friends.

Until the day that Dee and her brother Leo vanished from Sera’s life, during a long hot summer thirty years ago.

Now Sera is an adult, with her own child, five-year-old Katie, and has returned to her childhood home after her husband’s death.

While she grieves, the past haunts Sera at every turn … and then Dee and Leo return to their small Hampshire village, along with Dee’s young daughter.

But Dee is silent and haunted by her demons; no longer the fun-loving girl that Sera loved. And when Sera uncovers the shocking secret that Dee is hiding, it’s clear that the girl she knew is long gone – and that the adult she has grown into might put all of them in danger…

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REVIEW:

This twisty, readable book is perfect for a hot summer’s day. You can practically feel the heat sizzling from the pages as the author vividly describes the sweltering weather and fires. It is a mystery filled with dark secrets, murder and life-changing revelations.

For fifteen years Sera has wondered what became of her best friend, Dee, and her family after they disappeared suddenly one day that hot summer. When she sees Dee’s brother Leo back in town she’s hoping that she finally gets answers and the chance to rekindle her lost friendship. But it is soon apparent that Dee and Leo aren’t the people she used to know, and that there seems to be something sinister about the secrets they’re keeping. Maybe inviting them into her home wasn’t the wisest thing to do…

The Darkest Summer is set in the New Forest in the present day with flashbacks to the summers of 1990 and 2003. The scenery of the New Forest is described with breathtaking beauty and is a large part of the story. I spent my formative years near that area and as I read it conjured up images of my youth spending time in places like the ones Sera describes. It is an almost idyllic place to be and I was so fully immersed in the book that I really felt like I was back there.

As well as our main storyline there are numerous subplots that run parallel in the flashbacks and ultimately merge together, though I couldn’t see how some of them would. I loved the clever twists and turns the author wrote that made seemingly mismatched the pieces fit together. 

One subplot was Henri, the Sera’s new neighbour. I had a soft spot for Henri from the start and had a gut feeling he was a good guy, so I was hoping I’d be proven right. I loved the blossoming friendship between him and Sera and the mystery surrounding his past. I had no predictions about his past so I thoroughly enjoyed she surprises in his storyline. The subplot concerning Mimi and Hazel was also fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about both mothers and how they came to be the women their daughters now know, particularly Mimi as she’s not the warmest character in the book. 

This book was filled with a host of colourful characters, each of which I loved for different reasons. Sera, our main narrator and our protagonist, was a great character. She and her daughter Katie moved back to her hometown to live with her mother three years ago after her husband died suddenly. She’s still working through her grief and feels suffocated at times by her mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with. When she was a child her single mother was mostly learning lines or away working, so she got little of the attention she craved. Instead, she found maternal attention from Hazel, her best friend Dee’s mother, who was the cool, vivacious, affectionate mother she dreamed of. She and Dee were inseparable, had many things in common, and Sera spent most of her time on their farm and felt a part of their family so their sudden disappearance cut her deeply. She’s never recovered from that loss so rekindling those relationships is a dream come true when Dee and her brother Leo first come back into her life and, as a reader I was rooting for that, and for the potential relationship between Sera and Leo. 

Dee was so well written that despite the massive change in her personality and how moody and dismissive she is as an adult, I had a lot of sympathy for her. It seemed like she must have been through something extremely traumatic as she was showing signs of mental health issues and possibly PTSD. Her refusal to talk about anything that had happened was suspicious, especially as Leo was cagey too, but I hoped it was just that she was too traumatised to discuss it yet and he was respecting her wishes. The author made the many facets of her personality completely believable but like Sera I too got tired of her outbursts, how she controlled the entire household with them, her taking advantage of people, and with her strange behaviour towards her daughter. By the end I couldn’t stand her and wanted Sera to get as far away from her as possible. 

This intriguing story started slowly and built the tension steadily until it became a crescendo in the last third of the book. It didn’t feel like a tense thriller but was full of mystery and had me guessing throughout. The many twists and turns were mostly unpredictable, with one in particular completely blindsiding me and turning so much of what I had predicted on its head. 

I hadn’t read any of the author’s books before this one but when I read the description I was sold and I will definitely read more of her work. A compelling, character-driven summer read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys mysteries and literary fiction.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy, Hera Books, Ella Drummond and NetGalley the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Out Now.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie is out now and The Darkest Summer will be out on 18 July 2019 and is available for pre-order.

She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/  

BUY THE BOOK:

Review: ‘Lady in the Lake’ by Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A stunning, multi-voiced, period piece – tackling race, gender politics, and the volatility of mid ‘60s America – from the author of SUNBURN

Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she’s about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

REVIEW:

“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake..” 

Set in Baltimore in the mid ‘60s, Lady in the Lake tackles some of the prominent issues of the era such as racial discrimination, women’s role in society and gender inequality. It is also a story of women trying to make a better and happier life for themselves, forbidden love and secrets. 

The story begins with a haunting, mysterious, and foreboding prologue that left me excited about the book and full of questions that I couldn’t wait to have answered. 

Told by multiple narrators, the two women whose stories are the focus of this novel, are also the narrators we see the most. Cleo Sherwood is a single mother who is trying to get ahead and create a good life for herself and her two sons. She had moved out of her parents house leaving her boys there, although she visited regularly, and was working in a local bar. She disappears on New Year’s Eve after being seen on a date with a mystery man but no-one other than her family seem to care.

Maddie Schwartz is the typical beautiful and perfect housewife but she feels bored and trapped. She leaves her  husband after almost two decades of marriage and is trying to start again, which for her means an exciting relationship with an unsuitable man and getting a job as an assistant at a local newspaper. When Cleo’s body is found she becomes determined to find out what happened to her despite warnings that not only does no-one care, but she will get herself and others hurt if she pursues it. Wanting not only justice but her name on a story, she decides to ignore the warnings and continue her investigations.

The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect but really enjoyed. I liked that I could never figure out who had killed Cleo and that most of the twists took me by surprise. I loved the historical aspect of the book and the author had me immersed in the era, especially when reading the parts narrated by Maddie and Cleo.

The abundance of narrators did sometimes feel too much, but most of them did give a perspective that added to the story and gave you possible clues so I could see a reason to give them a voice. The chapter narrated by Cleo’s eldest son was particularly heartbreaking and I was in tears reading it. It was a great reminder of Cleo as a mother as that side of her was overlooked by most people as they chose instead to focus on the more salacious side of her character to paint her in the light that suited them. 

I’ve wanted to read a novel by this author for a long time so I was thrilled to have the chance to review this ARC and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Lady in the Lake reminds us how difficult it was for women of any race to make a better life for themselves outside of the social conventions in a time not so long ago. An intriguing and alluring novel that I would definitely recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber & Faber and Laura Lippman for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 25th 

Publication Day Review: ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Emma Rous!

SYNOPSIS:

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are the first set of twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of a stolen baby.

Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and there was more to her mother’s death than she’s ever been told…

Why did their beloved au pair flee that day?

Where is she now?

Does she hold the key to what really happened?

REVIEW:

This family saga echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. There is something lurking behind the facade of the prestigious family. Could the folklore and whispers in the village be true? Who is Seraphine? What really happened the day she and Danny were born and their mother plunged to her death?

Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are born on the family estate, Summerbourne, in July 1992. They are the first “summer-born twins of Summerbourne” in decades even though the family has a history of twins. There are no pictures of the twins first six months because the day they were born is also the day their mother died after jumping from a cliff. Seraphine has always been full of questions about that day, questions that are left unanswered when twenty-five years later her father dies in an accident. When she finds a picture of her parents and older brother with just one baby taken the day of her birth, Seraphine’s questions only increase. She has always felt like an outsider in her family, always been bothered by the village whispers of a stolen child and teasings of “the sprite twins” because she and her brothers look nothing alike. With her Grandmother refusing to give her answers and her brother, Edwin, too young at the time to really understand, Seraphine decides to search for Laura, the au pair who worked for the family the year prior to her birth and disappeared the same day she was born. Surely she will have the answers she craves.

One of the things I loved about this book is that for most of it I couldn’t tell where it was going. The narration is split between Seraphine in the present day and Laura who tells the story leading up to the twins birth. These alternating chapters provided details of the many different dynamics in the story between the main and secondary characters. They also increased the tension and mystery as the revelations unfolded.

The characters in this story were well written. Out of the two narrators I found Laura’s story more interesting as it was the one with the history of the family and events up until the twins’ birth. Who we are is the core of our being so I understood Seraphine’s need to know the truth about herself despite the fact it had the potential to tear her family apart. You were never sure who was a villain in this story which is something I liked. The author wrote this aspect of the plot expertly as Seraphine suspects almost everyone and has you second guessing what you know as she’s threatened to stop searching, the mystery deepens and the revelations about the family’s history and what happened that summer keep coming.

I found the book impossible to put down as I raced to the end desperate to know the truth.  But just when I thought I’d got to the big reveal there were more shocking twists still to come. The Au Pair is an absorbing debut novel that kept me guessing throughout. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little Brown Book Group UK and Emma Rous for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Out today.