From the blurb:
Isobel Harrington, fresh from her English finishing school in the summer of 1922, is sent to visit cousins in Italy for just one reason: to catch the eye of their wealthy and eligible house guest.
But the man who awakens Isobel’s passion is not the respectable British heir to a nobleman – it is local Italian Stefano, an enigma who doesn’t fit any of the ‘boxes’ she’s been taught to expect.
In Stefano’s arms she experiences a sexual awakening. He dares her to follow her dreams, but is she brave enough to defy convention, and her parents’ expectations, to pursue her own happiness?
A magical love story of Isobel’s first time away from home on her own, when she is forced to acknowledge that she doesn’t have to do what her family want her to do: marry for money and position. Isobel’s summer in Italy is described through her eyes as an artist – she sketches and paints what she sees and feels – adding to the vivid description of the book. Through Isobel’s eyes, Rae Summers paints a wonderful picture of the 1920s Italian coastal town of Positano – its landscapes and its people – and you can’t help but be swept away by the vibrant descriptions of the orchards, the sea, the buildings and the people.
She paused at the edge of the formal gardens and looked out over the impossibly blue sea. The air in Italy smelled so different from England, so fertile and fragrant. She breathed in deeply, enjoying the rich, clean smell, the tang of citrus and the salty sea. She wished she could bottle it and take it home with her, to keep the memories alive while she endured the Season.
But Isobel doesn’t just encounter the breathtaking images of Italy that we all know and love, she also describes the more shocking aspects of the time – the beggars, slums and squalor of Naples, and the political unrest of the country as a whole.
Isobel is on holiday in Italy to capture the heart of a young English man. Instead, she is distracted by a strikingly handsome local, Stefano, who forces her to question what she wants for her life, rather than what everyone else wants.
He leaned closer, his intensity radiating through their joined hands. “This is a new world we live in, a world in which anything is possible. The old rules no longer apply. You can be, and do, anything you want.”
She pulled her hand away. “I don’t know yet what I want. And even if I did, I don’t know that I’m brave enough to go after it.”
Isobel is braver than she thinks and breaks many rules while exploring her feelings for Stefano. It is a true coming-of-story, expertly detailing that feeling of first love. Written entirely from Isobel’s point of view, you really sympathise with her confusion about the desires she is feeling for the first time and her anxiety at not wanting to upset her family or ruin her reputation. Other characters that are important to her summer in Italy are the shy yet attractive English gentleman Christopher, whom her family want her to marry, and Isobel’s beautiful cousin Frances, who is caught up in her own romance with a local Italian.
“I’m not the beauty, my cousin Frances is.”
He picked Frances out of the crowd with ease, and shrugged. “The simple frescoes of the medieval masters are very different from the elaborate Baroque ornamentations of the Duomo in Amalfi. But both are beautiful.”
Just like a summer, this book is not long, but it is a charming tale of Isobel’s journey from young girl to passionate woman over the space of a few weeks.
He was making no promises for the future, no declaration of love. He offered no assurance that this would not end badly. All he offered was the answer to her spoken desire. For now it was enough.
This is Rae Summers’ third novel. I really enjoyed the way it was written and I loved the characters. I will certainly be looking to read more from this author.