cover image The Summer Country

The Summer Country

Lauren Willig. Morrow, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-283902-2

Rich settings, romantic intrigue, and engaging characters will draw readers into this dramatic epic of estate owners and slavery in 19th-century colonial Barbados from Willig (The English Wife). Emily Dawson has arrived in Barbados from England, and she surprises her new neighbor Dr. Nathaniel Braithright, the nephew of a wealthy freedman, by proclaiming her inheritance of the nearby derelict sugar plantation called Peverills. The story then reaches back to 1812, when connections between the plantation families and their slaves are gradually revealed through the relationships of landowners such as Mary Anne Beckles, as well as Mary Anne’s maid Jenny. Mary Anne marries and becomes pregnant, and soon Jenny is expecting as well, but lineages are questioned and, in Jenny’s case, shrouded with mystery. The narrative alternates between the period of 1812–1816 and 1854: in the earlier age, ardent battles for love and land shape the future, while in 1854, Emily struggles to rebuild and run a plantation, but she’s filled with the same uncertainty that underlies her attempts to understand hidden details of her family line. The physical and emotional passions of the characters keep the stakes high and the pages turning, making this a powerful exploration of slavery and reformation on Barbados. (June)