Let me start by saying that I LOVED this book! Room With A View by Merchant Ivory is my all-time favorite movie and I LOVE Italy (who doesn’t?). Starting A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant immediately made me think of Room With A View. I then found out from the author that my favorite movie helped inspire the book. She even references the movie on page 108.
Brant’s writing is smart, quick-witted and her character development is swift and detailed. By example, the first sentence of the book immediately introduces you to Gwen, the main character.:
“The thing no one understood about Gwendolyn Reese was that she was three ages at once: thirty chronologically, forty-five intellectually and fifteen experientially.”
Gwen’s eccentric Aunt Bea invites her on a trip to Europe with Aunt Bea’s S&M Club- Sudoku and Mah-jongg (not what you were expecting, huh?) Gwen has just turned 30 and, after her long-term boyfriend ponies up with earrings rather than a ring, decides to go on the trip. Richard didn’t propose but alludes to the fact that he might when cooler weather comes,
“As a result, she felt herself in the odd limbo of being attached to the man by an invisible string. There was a bond, yes. Just not a readily apparent or wholly logical one.”
Aunt Bea laughs at Gwen’s incessant lists of things to sight see- reminscent of the Baedeker’s scene in Room With A View. Gwen needs to learn to enjoy Europe and not just check off sights from the guide book. The author clearly has a great sense of humor- is the nickname for the two uptight British women on the tour is the “Britsicles.” The S&M tour group includes a wide array of characters from the Britscicles and geriatric couples to two youngish British brothers named after Thoreau and Emerson.
There is romance on the trip for Gwen but Brant presents it in a believable, non-fairytale way.
Overall, this was a delightful read that I was sorry to finish. I will reading Brant’s prior books soon!
Kensington Books provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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