I loved Nikola Scott’s debut novel, My Mother’s Shadow, and I was thrilled to receive an early copy of her follow up, Summer of Secrets, to review.
At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives…
Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband’s devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…
Summer of Secrets alternates between Maddy’s storyline in 1939 and Chloe’s tale in the present day, and I thought that both were equally fascinating. Although they seem to be quite different narratives, they do intertwine, and I loved seeing how parallels developed between the two as the novel progressed. Scott does like to leave one narrative at a crucial point to swap to other, leaving you on tenterhooks as to what happens next, and this is a novel that you’ll want to read in as few sittings as possible – I didn’t want to leave either narrative unfinished.
Chloe is a great character, and I sympathised with her situation – it doesn’t take long for the reader to understand why her pregnancy makes her fearful rather than elated as might be expected. I won’t go into the details, but Chloe’s situation is one that is much more common than you might think, and whilst I think it’s very easy to question why she doesn’t just get out (I thought it, I’ll admit) as the novel progressed, I came to understand how such a situation might build up over time in such a way that might not be immediately noticed, so that by the time you do realise, it’s far from straightforward to do anything about it. Chloe shows such a great strength of character, even though she’s afraid at times, and I couldn’t help but admire this plucky protagonist.
Maddy’s story is quite different, although there are common themes and parallels between the two narratives. I didn’t find her as immediately likeable as Chloe, although she won me round in the end. I’m not sure of her exact age, but she comes across as being on the cusp of womanhood, although she does at times seem to act as a much younger girl might. She is very sweet, but ultimately naïve and seems overly dependent upon those around her, not fully appreciating issues that don’t impact her in any obvious way. Her behaviour can be partially explained by having lost her parents at a relatively young age, and it’s easy to understand why she has become overly reliant upon her older sister, Georgina, as a result. She too shows great strength of character, and proves herself to be a strong and resourceful young lady.
Summer of Secrets is ultimately about love, although it’s definitely not a romance. Love is presented here in many of its forms – between siblings, friends, husband and wife, etc. – and looks at the positive aspects that you might immediately associate with the word, but also its darker undertones and what happens when love becomes obsession. Highly recommended.
Summer of Secrets will be 6 September in paperback and digital formats. Many thanks to the Becky Hunter for the review copy.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐