Today I have a review of another book I read just because I wanted to – The Summer of Love and Secrets by Helena Fairfax was independently published for kindle and in paperback on 26th July, and my thanks to her for sending me an e-copy. Helena’s actually partly responsible for this new rebellious streak – I so enjoyed Penny’s Antique Shop of Memories and Treasures when I went off-piste to read it a few weeks ago (you’ll find my review here), and I was very much looking forward to trying her writing once more.
Kate Hemingway is prickly and aloof…or at least, that’s what she likes people to think. Since the death of her photographer husband, Stuart, the only people Kate allows near are her best friend, Orla, and her son, George. She loves them both more than anything in the world. Everyone else she keeps at a distance…including Paul Farrell.
Paul was Stuart’s closest friend. An ex-war journalist, he and Kate have one thing in common. They both seem equally distant. Then Paul publishes an article, revealing an astonishing secret. On a trip to the Yorkshire moors with a group of teenage girls, Kate’s scarred heart begins to open up.
But can she risk her son’s happiness, as well as her own?
Isn’t it lovely when you discover an author whose books you know, with absolute certainty, that you’re going to love? I think it’s fair to say though that this one was a little bit different from the others I’ve read – a tad more serious maybe, but with the warmth I expected and that perfect touch with the emotional content.
It opens with a prologue that shares Kate’s unbearable anguish at the loss of her husband Stuart: he was the centre of her life, other than her young son George, and close friend Orla who’s been there for her through the very worst of times. The raw intensity of that opening scene really hurts, and is quite excellent writing.
What follows is largely Kate’s story, and I loved every single moment. She moves forward slowly, learns to trust a little, to loosen some of her tight self-control, but is also paralysed with fear at times that her life – and that of her son – might disintegrate again. There’s a powerful back story about her life before Stuart, a very emotive one about families, parenthood and what they mean – and an uplifting theme of the power of supportive friendship. And that theme of supportive friendship in Kate’s life is mirrored in Paul’s story – always in love with Kate, afraid of showing it when she’s married to his oldest friend, perhaps rather too successfully hiding his feelings and giving her the totally opposite impression.
As their relationship unexpectedly develops, they both become involved with a charity for disadvantaged and damaged teenagers: and they try to put their feelings for each other on hold as they accompany a group (every individual and their interactions beautifully drawn) to the Yorkshire Moors.
As a portrait of two complicated people, this book is exceptional – sometimes painfully intense, making you ache, but also immensely uplifting and life-affirming. I was incredibly impressed by the character development – entirely “real” and emotionally authentic. It’s a love story, of course – but one you feel at so many levels rather than simply read.
But don’t let me make you think that it’s a “difficult” read – there’s also a lovely lightness and humour at times, and young George’s exuberance and enthusiasm lifts your heart and always succeeds in bringing a smile. “Heart-warming” is such an over-used expression – but it really does sum up this book quite perfectly. I loved it – and recommend it without reservation.
(I will just mention that this book was originally published as A Way from Heart to Heart: I do remember reading some excellent reviews at the time, and I did find a copy buried in the depths of my kindle. I also found copies of The Silk Romance and In the Mouth of the Wolf – now, when can I fit them in too?!)
About the author
Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. She is addicted to reading and will read the cornflakes packet if there is nothing else to hand. Helena writes romantic novels in which women take the centre stage. She is also the author of a history of the lives of women in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Readers can keep in touch via Helena’s website , where she blogs about books and editing, or else subscribe to Helena’s newsletter for book news, photos of her beloved Yorkshire moors, gossip, and the occasional free stuff – use this link to subscribe. Helena can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.