Monday, August 16, 2021

Review: At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis


At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis
Publication Date: August 10th 2021 by Berkley Books
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
In the 1920s there’s not much in the way of opportunities for women artists, so Alberta, “Bertie” is thrilled to be offered a commission at Castle Braemore to immortalize the estate. After the Earl of Wakeford sees her work in a local paper, he requests that she come and paint, mistaking Bertie Preston to be a man, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue. The Earl, Julian Napier, however, is a mystery as he won’t set foot outside of his upper apartments.  On a whim she knocks on his door, and finds a man scarred physically and emotionally by the war and not much older than Bertie. They strike up a friendship that quickly turns into more.

At Summer’s End flips from the present to the past revealing the history of Julian and his siblings. Their mother wasn’t a nurturer and so Gwen and Julian, the older of the Napier kids, stood in as sort of parents to the two younger kids, Roland, and Celia. Gwen was like the rock of the family, and I just loved her. She had her own reasons to grieve and yet she still cared for Julian, Celia, and Roland. In the present Celia and Julian are estranged, with her refusing to see him since he arrived back from the war and it broke my heart that she’d shut him out like that.

While Bertie and Julian fall into each other pretty quickly the fact that Julian was so sad and damaged didn’t bode well. Bertie struggles with the thought of taking on a man so broken, when she has aspirations of her own. However, as she falls more and more for Julian and his family, her priorities shift. While I could see heartbreak on the horizon, I couldn’t help but root for Bertie and Julian, but I wasn’t surprised at the rough road they had to travel first.

At Summer’s End chronicled a time when Britain and the world were still recovering from the shock and losses of WWI and while I’m not a history buff, the story felt authentic. It was a beautiful emotional story of family, healing, and love! 

4 Stars

Book Description:

A sparkling debut from a new author we're all going to want more from."--Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

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.


  1. Historicals are not my thing, but I appreciate a family focused story, and sounds like it would grip my emotions as well

  2. Does it have a happy ending?

    1. Thankfully, yes! I don't do well with sad one.

    2. I don't do well with sad books right now either. So I'm glad to know this has a happy ending. :)

  3. This sounds so good. And that cover is beautiful!

    1. I know, I love that cover and the castle is the one the author based Braemore on.

  4. As much as I (occasionally) enjoy historicals, I don't think I've ever read anything set in the 1920's. I'm usually drawn too WW II-era but it might be interesting to try a post-WW I era story. Glad you enjoyed this one, Rachel!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I seem to read books set after WWII as well. Although, there is another that's right after WWI that I love: Verity Kent by Anna Lee Huber. It's really good!

  5. I have been really wanting to get more into historical fiction, and this is definitely a book I want to read.

    Loved your review.

  6. I haven't read this author but this sounds like a good story.