Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "When an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl's country estate in 1920s England, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. From debut author Courtney Ellis comes a captivating novel about finding the courage to heal after the ravages of war.  Alberta Preston accepts the commission of a lifetime when she receives an invitation from the Earl of Wakeford to spend a summer painting at His Lordship's country home, Castle Braemore. Bertie imagines her residence at the prodigious estate will finally enable her to embark on a professional career and prove her worth as an artist, regardless of her gender.  Upon her arrival, however, Bertie finds the opulent Braemore and its inhabitants diminished by the Great War. The earl has been living in isolation since returning from the trenches, locked away in his rooms and hiding battle scars behind a prosthetic mask. While his younger siblings eagerly welcome Bertie into their world, she soon sees chips in that world's gilded facade. As she and the earl develop an unexpected bond, Bertie becomes deeply entangled in the pain and secrets she discovers hidden within Castle Braemore and the hearts of its residents.  Threaded with hope, love, and loss, At Summer's End delivers a portrait of a noble family--and a world--changed forever by the war to end all wars."


WWI is over and England is recovering.  The world is very different now and Bertie Preston finds herself 28 years old and unmarried. For the time period, this isn't the norm, but Bertie doesn't care about society's rules. She strives to be independent and wants to support herself as an artist.  She gains some attention after winning an art competition and with that she is contacted by the Earl of Wakefield to pain his home, Castle Braemore.  This is exactly the type of job that Bertie has been hoping for and one that will hopefully help her make the move to London.  In order to paint Castle Braemore, she must move there for a short period of time and to make things even more awkward, the Earl thought Bertie was a man.  Despite this, she is determined to make the best of it, but with the Earl hiding in his rooms and the Castle a bit dismal, things aren't what she thought they would be. Thankfully, the Earl's siblings are excited for to be there. As time passes Bertie learns why the Earl, also known as Julian, spends most of his time in his room and how the war has impacted not only him, but also the estate.  The world is changing around Castle Braemore and the big question is are the inhabitants ready for it? At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis is a compelling historical debut that fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy.

I really liked Bertie right from the start of At Summer's End. I always love a determined, spunky, and unconventional heroine, especially when that isn't the norm for the time period.  I was excited for her to start her life as an artist and use the money to support her dreams in London. Once she arrives at Castle Braemore, things start to get a little more difficult than she initially thought. For starters, Julian, the Earl, doesn't really leave his rooms, so there's a Beauty and the Beast vibe to this novel.  Bertie can't help but wonder what happened to him at the war? Why won't he leave his rooms?  I am a big Beauty and the Beast fan, so I loved the similarities here.

The best part of At Summer's End is the setting. Ellis brought this time period to life very well and she made me feel like I was at Castle Braemore. The secrets that the Castle holds, including its residents, also adds the mystery and the atmosphere.  Fans evocative historical fiction will appreciate the setting of the atmospheric Castle, the lyrical descriptions, the conflicting social classes, as well as the changing times. Also, if you are looking for a historical romance, At Summer's End has one that doesn't disappoint.

So, if you love historical fiction, especially ones with a Downton Abbey vibe, give At Summer's End a try as summer comes to a close--now is the perfect time! 


  1. The setting sounds amazing, and I love the post-war time period. Great review!

    1. The post-war time period is really an interesting one! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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