Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Summer in the South by Cathy Holton

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345506014 (ISBN13: 9780345506016)
Ava Dabrowski is still mourning the death of her mother, reeling from the breakup with her married lover and disenchanted with her job. So when Will Fraser, an old college acquaintance, asks her one more time to visit him in Woodburn, Tennessee, she quits her job in Chicago and accepts even though she has some not too flattering preconceived notions of "The South". He lures her with the idea that she can stay with his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn,  in the family home for the entire summer and finally work on that novel she keeps wanting to write.

Unfortunately, Ava seems to have a bad case of writer's block and she doesn't make too much progress on her book but she is fascinated by the Woodburn's family history as her own family history is sketchy at best and staying in one location was not one of her free-spirited mother's strengths. She is amazed that one family could live in a town named after them for so long and in the same house. To the Woodburns living in the South means no one is "crazy" just eccentric, manners are an ingrained way of life and knowledge of one's family tree is almost de riguer.

What seems like genteel family living turns out to have some deep buried secrets and dark undertones. After  Ava starts hearing snippets of Will's Aunt Fanny and her first husband Charlie's past, the mystery of his death begins to intrigue her and her writer's block is at an end. It's almost as if the story writes itself; she spends night after night penning Charlie and Fanny's story at a frenzied pace even though she knows the Woodburns will be livid at any hint of exposure. They sure aren't willing to say too much about this time in their lives.

I don't want to give away too much more of the story. This book has it all; southern setting with a gothic atmosphere, love, hate, jealousy, passion, family dynamics, black sheep and skeletons, estrangement, revenge, repentence, surprise twists, history, murder, self-discovery and even a little paranormal thrown in. Phew! I think I got it all.

Cathy Holton grabbed me from the beginning with her tale, her fantastic characters and sense of place that never let me go until the last word. I loved it. Loved! It !! All of it; beginning, middle, end. There wasn't a lag anywhere in the book. This is the first 5* book I've read in months. A perfect beach read or any other place for that matter! Just read it.

One lucky follower of this blog will have a chance to win a copy when Cathy visits here soon. Her guest post will be where you can enter.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Ballantine Books through the early reviewer program at LT.


  1. Ok, you've convinced me that I need to read this book! Great review.

  2. I have this one on my Kindle, I think. Isn't that terrible? I don't even remember. Anyway, I'm convinced as well to pick it up soon. Thanks for the nudge, Kaye!

  3. I like everything about the book, including the mystery and the writer's block!
    Book Dilettante

  4. Wow, Kaye, you make me want to read this one. As you say, it seems to have everything. And then of course, you left me hanging there and now I have to know the rest of the story!!

  5. I have this on my wish list but now I know I will have to read it. Great review!

  6. The Southern setting and the secrets both sound appealing to me.

  7. Ha ha, Margot,that's the point. If I told you everything that happened you would have no reason to read the book. Let's say my reviews are more tantalizers than analytical assessments.

  8. Yay for the end of your 5 star drought!

  9. Yep...this one sounds like a winner to me!!

  10. Great review, I'd love to read this one!


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