That Summer by Lauren Willig
Julia Conley inherits a house in London from an aunt she barely remembers. She’s unemployed, laid off from a finance job she always hated, so going to the UK presents a great opportunity for escape. The decrepit mansion she finds comes complete with ancestral artifacts such as a haunting portrait of an unknown woman. As she digs through the mountains of junk left behind by generations of relatives, she finds a second painting that she is convinced by the same artist, but who was this woman and why was the second painting hidden?
Julia’s social-climbing cousin Natalie is sniffing around while they clean the house, hoping to find treasures she can cash in on. She’s not exactly pleased when Julia finds herself bonding with antiques dealer Nick, whom Natalie has her eye on. Julia and Nick spend time researching the paintings and discover they have much in common, much to Natalie’s displeasure.
Interwoven with the modern-day storyline is a narrative of the lady in the paintings – a Victorian wife in a loveless marriage. She falls in love with the man who paints her portrait, a man associated with the artists who will later become the famed Pre-Raphaelites.
Well-paced and with a nice twist at the end, the novel captures the thrill of the hunt in Julia’s research on the painting. The romance adds a little drama without taking over. A satisfying treat, especially for art lovers!
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