That Summer By Lauren Willig Julia Conley, drifting without purpose after losing her job in New York City finance, finds herself on an unexpected journey when she inherits an old house just outside London from a great-aunt she barely remembers. Prepping the house for sale, she unearths a mysterious painting with ties to a sordid affair 150 years in her family’s past. Julia finds a possible love interest — or possible rip-off artist — in a dashing antiques dealer who can help her investigate the possibly valuable painting. As the past and present unfold against each other in the narrative — think of A. S. Byatt’s “Possession,” with art — we learn that Julia’s ancestor Imogen Grantham lived a sad, cloistered life in the house, married to a distant man and stifled in her intellectual pursuits until her husband hired an artist, Gavin Thorne, to paint her portrait. She embarked on an affair with Gavin, a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who may figure in Julia’s family tree more than she thought. The clues, strewn throughout the house — how did Gavin’s second painting of Imogen end up in a secret panel in a wardrobe? — make for an involving mystery whose art-world implications imbue the romantic indulgences with an intellectual glow.
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