The Summer Country

Morrow. Jun. 2019. 480p. ISBN 9780062839022. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062839046. F
Willig’s latest historical stand-alone (“Pink Carnation” series; The English Wife) is set amidst the lush sugarcane plantations of 19th-century Barbados, with two parallel story lines. In 1854, Emily Dawson discovers she has inherited the neglected Peverills estate from her beloved grandfather. She’s willing to give up her life in England, even though she doesn’t have a clue what she’s getting into. A helpful neighbor knows more than she is saying about what really happened at Peverills nearly 40 years ago. Emily’s investigation is put on hold, however, after cholera hits town. It’s all she can do to try to help those stricken by the disease without succumbing herself. Meanwhile, in 1814, Charles Davenant is not so subtly encouraged to marry the Beckles heiress, but he’s far more interested in her enslaved maid Jenny. Naturally, complications ensue that echo through the years. Willig’s exceptional research into the period and her skill at drawing characters shines on every page. She doesn’t shy away from the realities of slavery, and carefully depicts both the oppressed and the oppressor.
VERDICT Not always a comfortable read, but a compelling one, this book is appropriate for readers who like complex family dramas in exotic locations. [See Prepub Alert, 12/17/18.]

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