When Emily Dawson inherits a plantation in Barbados from her grandfather, Jonathan Fenty, in 1854, she is not quite sure what to make of the bequest. Emily, an English vicar’s daughter, has long been the “poor relation” of her merchant family, but the bigger surprise is that her grandfather never once mentioned the existence of this property, Peverills.
In the company of her cousins Adam and Laura, Emily embarks on a sailing vessel for the West Indies. In Bridgeport, further shocks await. Their contact, Mr. Turner—reputed to be the wealthiest man in Barbados—is of African descent; and neither he nor anyone else in his family seems to think much of the English visitors. When Emily expresses the desire to see Peverills for herself, the Turners explicitly warn her away. Emily persists, only to find the estate in ruins and the family next door eager to take her in. But Emily soon begins to wonder about the neighbors’ motives, as well as the history of the plantation. How many other secrets did her grandfather conceal?
In The Summer Country (William Morrow, 2019), Lauren Willig nimbly balances Emily’s story against her grandfather’s, interweaving the stories of three families across two timelines into a seamless whole. Better yet, she does it against the backdrop of a Barbados so beautifully realized that you will feel that you can smell the sugar cane burning and hear the singing carried on the wind.
C. P. Lesley is the author of nine novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, The Vermilion Bird, and The Shattered Drum), a historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible, and Song of the Siren, published in 2019. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.