At Summer’s End

Courtney Ellis. Berkley, $17 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-20129-9

Ellis makes a captivating debut with this account of a budding artist and a reclusive aristocrat in 1922 England. Bertie Preston, 28, receives a letter from Julian, the Earl of Wakeford, asking her to make a painting of his Braemore estate in Wiltshire. Bertie eagerly accepts, due to the potential for greater exposure of her work. Upon arrival, she meets the earl’s younger brother and sister and learns she is unlikely to see Julian, as he has been a recluse since he was injured in WWI. Bertie enjoys the beautiful surroundings and eventually breaches Julian’s defenses. She is unbothered by Julian’s injuries, which are hidden by a face mask, as she volunteered medical aid during the war. As Bertie and Julian develop a romantic attachment, she hopes for a future between them but fears she cannot overcome Julian’s desire for solitude. Ellis’s lyrical, emotional writing brings the beauty of Braemore alive while revealing the complexity of the richly drawn characters as Bertie pursues artistic recognition alongside her emotionally charged love affair with Julian. Historical fiction fans will appreciate this. Agent: Abby Saul, the Lark Group (Aug.)
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