Summer, beautiful summer – as depicted in my novels

Summer, beautiful summer – as depicted in my novels

Summer, beautiful summer – as depicted in my novels


‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’ So wrote English novelist Henry James.

I quite agree! I love the month of June, because it heralds the beginning of summer – those long, heady months of warmth and vibrancy. It will come as no surprise to readers of my fiction to learn that summer is my favourite season. I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, in a house overlooking the Mediterranean, and to this day the hot sun and the azure sea call to me.

For me, summer means spending time in my home in Ste Maxime, near St Tropez in the South of France. It means sitting on my terrace and watching sailboats bob on the limitless ocean; pruning the flowers and plants that create a riot of colour in the gardens; dangling my feet in the swimming pool with my face cast to the dazzlingly sun. It means breathing in the scents of bougainvillea and lavender, and listening to the drone of happy bees; it means savouring crusty French baguette dipped in olive oil made from the olives we grow in the garden.

Hannah home

More than anything, though, summer means inspiration. All of my novels feature stunning scenery, and they all feature summery weather. The feelings engendered by summer feed into romance and passion; they daub the world with vibrant colours and sensations. Summer inspires me to write romance, and so of course it follows that I weave summery scenes into my love stories.

Today, I am sharing with you a summery moment from each of my novels. I hope you enjoy these glimpses of my story worlds, and that wherever you are as you read them – and whatever the weather is doing outside the window – you are transported to summer, beautiful summer.

Burning Embers (outside Mombasa, Kenya)

Her gaze swept over the garden, which was exploding with color. In the sunny afternoon it had the dazzling brilliance of fireworks. To the left, the flower-surrounded lawn sloped gently to the jungle, a tangled mass of braided vines in varied shades of green. There bloomed the most magnificent orchids amid a noisy chorus of tree frogs, cicadas, and the myriad life of a tropical forest. To the right, twisted canopies of shrubs and huge flowering trees abounded — plumeria and African tulip and monkey pod bearing red, yellow, or feathery white blossoms — filling the place with color to rival the most daring Matisse. Behind this vivid screen, the rare mpingo trees stretched as far as the eye could see. Facing her, beyond the pond where dragonflies and lizards darted among the chalice lilies, the dramatic alley of jacarandas formed a startling ocean of purple-blue flowers.

The Echoes of Love (Tuscany, Italy)

Shafts of incandescent sunbeams spilled into the room. Dazzled by this sudden brilliance, Venetia lifted her face to the warm rays, relishing the feel of them on her skin, and hugged herself. Below, the land fell away in a scattering of white rock and scrub to a semi-circular bay, almost landlocked by wooded promontories. Everything was clear in the crystal air, sparkling in the sunshine and filled with the fresh, tangy smell of salt, seaweed and iodine.

The Tyrrhenian coast glowed under the wide arc of a burning, cloudless blue sky, the sea a shimmering golden mirror; the sweeping coastline looked out over the distant islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, echoing their beauty with its wild and mountainous landscape, the pale rock densely interspersed with exotically green pine groves, and its almost luminescent aquamarine waters lapping the shores. In the still atmosphere, the picture was overwhelming.

Miraggio was a name that suited the place well. Hanging on its narrow bluff, it almost hovered in the void like an imaginary vision.

Indiscretion (Andalucía, Spain)

A soft, luminous brightness bathed the garden. Dawn burned through the trees at the edge of the hacienda and over the orange and lemon groves. The happy choir of birdsong had given way to the incessant hum of cicadas, heralding a scorching day. At this hour, the garden glowed with timeless enchantment. Alexandra wondered how many generations had stood at the same window, year after year, enjoying the tranquil view at daybreak, and would continue to do so for aeons to come. People would come and go but nature’s meticulous clock ticked on eternally, unchanging and immutable…

The sun was up, a swollen golden globe above the treetops. Gradually, its warm rays crept into the room, banishing the purple hues of night. Alexandra breathed in the morning air, trying to absorb some of its tranquillity. How invigorating it felt.

Masquerade (Andalucía, Spain)

Rays of sunshine poured into the room. The open window afforded a magical view of the garden. Olive trees coexisted cheerfully with orange, lemon and fig trees, as well as oleander, hibiscus, grapevines and a sprinkling of cactus and palms. Beyond this eclectic world fashioned by man and nature she could see gulls in the distance, in a huge arc of sky, their white wings flashing in the sunlight as they swooped over the phosphorescent ocean. Their far-off cries filled the air, punctuated by the chirruping sound of nearby cicadas. Luz let out a small sigh of pleasure. This was bliss. 

Legacy (Andalucía, Spain)

As Luna turned a corner into the broad, noonday glare, her first impression was one of a radiant atmosphere in the dry heat. The intense blue sky was growing molten as the sun approached its meridian.

The heart of the city was animated by a voluble and good-humoured crowd. There was movement everywhere as people shopped, walked and whizzed by on scooters, or sat and drank coffee in pavement cafés. The effect was kaleidoscopic and bubbling with life. As she walked further, pretty pink and yellow houses came into view, their narrow balconies decorated with hanging baskets overflowing with fuchsias and red begonias. They framed Plaza de Flores itself, which opened out into a triangle, rather than a square, and was lined with trees and ornately curling iron streetlamps. Luna ambled past the fountain at one end, stopping to look at the shops and stalls, topped by pale awnings. Most were crowded with flowers, which spilled in every direction in a riot of colour. Unable to resist such beautiful blooms, and thinking they would make the beach house look even more homely, she asked one of the stallholders to make her up a bouquet of carnations, marguerites and roses.

Aphrodite’s Tears (the Greek island of Helios)

The setting was perfect: the sky was flushing from blue to lavender as the time of sunset drew near. Here, at the top of the cliffs, the heat was fading to an agreeable coolness as the day began to decline. A smouldering warmth lay upon the sea, which looked like beaten gold in the light of the dying sun…

Long tongues of fire spread from the sun’s dazzling rays over the twisted rocks, the houses of the beautiful white town ablaze with a transparent copper glow that reminded her of barley sugar. Smouldering, the molten flames in the sky moved further, changing its smooth azure to violet streaked with apricot, to apple green blending into scarlet, bright yellow and cobalt blue. Within this veil of complex, glorious colour, the golden globe seemed alive with a magnificent sort of agony.

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