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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 come 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.


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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 come 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.

30 review for At Summer's End

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rachel McMillan

    When I saw this book I was like: catnip! CATNIP! and wait! check! Catnip! But what lured me in terms of plot and a very obvious Beauty and the Beast type trope (le sigh) impressed me greatly when I fell into Ellis' luminous natural writing ability. I don't know if anyone can call words a colour; but Ellis's are mellow and tinted with gold. Bertie lures us into a world shadowed by war despite its opulence. And the artistry that determines her fate and her meeting with the delightful ALL my catnip When I saw this book I was like: catnip! CATNIP! and wait! check! Catnip! But what lured me in terms of plot and a very obvious Beauty and the Beast type trope (le sigh) impressed me greatly when I fell into Ellis' luminous natural writing ability. I don't know if anyone can call words a colour; but Ellis's are mellow and tinted with gold. Bertie lures us into a world shadowed by war despite its opulence. And the artistry that determines her fate and her meeting with the delightful ALL my catnip Julian is flourished across a canvas that is at once gothic, balanced with psychological depth and so freaking romantic you will grab for smelling salts you don't have. I enjoyed that the art motif is not only made manifest in Bertie ... Ellis' talent in inviting the reader into the unique perspective of a creator is really magnificent and winsomely done. But I also love that it is reflected in the prose itself: each moment a stroke of colour, each misunderstanding a shadow or slip of the brush, each contour an added layer to the depth of these two lost souls forged together by a world they want to recreate in artifacts and grand tapestries, in an estate lingering long after its function has become archaic. If ever one can say that a writer paints with words, I think we can afford that to Ellis. A magnificently readable debut that will tickle the romance bones and sweep you to a world on the brink of being lost forever. Bertie is expertly crafted and her narrative balances the right measure of romance and strength. So see the world through her eyes for a bit and fall for dashing Julian. I freaking loved this book. thanks to Netgalley and Berkeley for the ARC

  2. 5 out of 5

    ♥Rachel♥

    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 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! A copy was kindly provided by Berkley Books in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christie«SHBBblogger»

    Title: At Summer's End Series: Standalone Author: Courtney Ellis Release date: August 10, 2021 Cliffhanger: no Genre: historical fiction You never know what to expect when you take a gamble on a debut author. You could be blown away by their raw talent, or you could feel that their writing quality isn't quite up to par. At Summer's End was a pleasant surprise filled with human vulnerabilities, family dysfunction and struggle, and one woman's determined leap of faith to find her place in the world. No Title: At Summer's End Series: Standalone Author: Courtney Ellis Release date: August 10, 2021 Cliffhanger: no Genre: historical fiction You never know what to expect when you take a gamble on a debut author. You could be blown away by their raw talent, or you could feel that their writing quality isn't quite up to par. At Summer's End was a pleasant surprise filled with human vulnerabilities, family dysfunction and struggle, and one woman's determined leap of faith to find her place in the world. Not all historical fiction has a heavy theme of romance in it. This one did, and in fact, that was one of the draws for me going into it. It isn't the only area of conflict and interest by far, but it does have a solid place in the forefront of the story. There were two other major focus points: unraveling the Earl of Wakeford's family secrets through flashback chapters, and the outcome of Alberta "Bertie" Preston's summer job at castle Braemore as a struggling female artist. All of this came together to form a cohesive, compelling story that easily drew me in, enticing me to keep reading. Bertie was what was considered a "spinster" of her time. I hate that word and all of the connotations attached to it. The story takes place in the 1920s when a woman's value was purely measured by her marriageability and child bearing capabilities. Bertie has reached her late 20s as a single woman out of choice which was considered something to be ashamed of at the time. From an early age, her passion centered around creating art and she wants nothing more than to be able to have a career doing what truly makes her happy. Her parents do not agree, and she has become almost invisible in the shadow of her sisters who have faithfully produced the requisite grandchildren. I’ve spent my years not looking for a husband, not building a family, but painting. I am nothing without it, and if I stay here, nothing I shall remain.” “If that’s how you feel,” said Mother, “then I have failed you.” When Bertie wins an art contest, the newspaper article about her piece draws the attention of Julian, the Earl of Wakeford. It seems like an opportunity of a lifetime for an unknown, female artist looking to make a name for herself. Going against her parents' wishes, she banks her entire future on the success of one summer at castle Braemore. If she fails, she will have no home to return to and no prospects of commissions to support herself. You can't help but admire the courage it would have taken for a young woman to go after her dream in an all or nothing gamble like this one. Of course, her time taking care of wounded soldiers during the Great War had already shown that she has character and substance beyond her years. After arriving at the castle, she meets Julian's three siblings: Celia, Roland, and Gwen. On the surface, they seemed like the average affluent, high society family living a life of privilege. She was surrounded by opulence unlike anything she was experienced before and it put stars in her eyes in a way. But her preconceived notions of what life was really like there quickly began to fall apart. The Earl is a physically and mentally wounded man from the horrors of the war. He and his youngest sister Celia had a falling out which causes much friction in the house. Roland has an odd temperament-one minute exuberant, the next withdrawn. And Gwen has been through hell and back with the loss of her beloved husband and the responsibility of holding her broken family together. Soon, what was once a simple visit to paint the stately home of a noble family becomes something completely unexpected. How easily I’d been seduced by the Napiers, by their lavish life and their twisted past. How gratifying it had been to nurture again, to be Julian’s protector. But I couldn’t offer them what they wanted. This wasn’t a job for a nurse, and it certainly wasn’t a job for an artist. Julian is fragile man hiding from his family and the world behind his bedroom door. The only one he allows in his sanctuary is his older sister Gwen, until the young woman he hired comes to his home and begins to open his heart again. Julian was such a quiet man to begin with. Someone who was highly reserved and comfortable in the quiet of his own thoughts. Like Bertie, he was a disappointment to his parents. They wanted someone more outgoing and aggressive to take the reins of the family's legacy. They saw him as weak where he was only kind. Powerless when he was merely soft spoken and gentle. His interactions with his siblings were such a sweet thing to read in his younger years that it was such an injustice he wasn't recognized for the rock he really was for his family. He and Bertie had other things in common besides the ill-fitting place in their family. They also shared an affinity for art, though he doesn't have the heart to do the things that he once enjoyed. Slowly but surely, Bertie tries to ease him back to taking control of his life once again. Their friendship begins slowly and graduates to confidants and the hint of something more. But will he ever be mentally stable enough to take control of his crumbling life once again? Will his emotional wounds ever mend enough for the two of them to find some sort of happiness together in the future? Julian is very, very unwell. He suffers horribly with grief, guilt, PTSD, and a level of desolation that no one quite knows how to approach. I've heard it said that we never move on from grief, but we find a way to move on with it. Julian must find a way to do so and forgive himself for the things that he thinks are unforgivable. What I liked about the story was that Bertie's support and love were not the magic key to solving all of his issues. Realistically, she wasn't his cure, and she understood that enough to let him find his way back to her if he could without any recrimination. You were always light, Bertie. I would have you know that. You were a light, but God forgive me, I couldn’t see past the dark.” I enjoyed that aspect of it very much, however I did feel that the end was not quite as impactful as I was expecting. I'm not sure what was missing there, but I was left feeling just a tad deflated. Perhaps the section of the story after Bertie left the castle could have used some more exploration and detail. In a way it felt that everything fell together so smoothly and almost too easily after such a build up to the harsh realism of what Julian was struggling with internally. However, that's just my point of view and it didn't cause much of an issue for me. I loved Bertie's unconditional acceptance of Julian-at his very worst and seeing the best of him even when he could not. I also enjoyed learning more about the masks (like Julian's) that were common for soldiers who were disfigured during the war. It's a great reminder of what WW1 soldiers willingly volunteered for in order to protect their loved ones and their country. It was a sacrifice of the ideals of the world that they once knew and the comfort inside their own skin. It's a lifetime sacrifice that should never be forgotten. If you love a historical fiction with a strong element of romance and mysterious family secrets to be unraveled, this is the perfect book for you. I really enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading more from this author in the future. FOLLOW SMOKIN HOT BOOK BLOG ON:

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lian Dolan

    At Summer's End was an unexpected reading pleasure. I was expecting Downton Abbey but it was more Durrells in Corfu, an inspired choice by Courtney Ellis. The story unfolds when an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl's country estate in 1920s England. Bertie think this is the entree she needs to high society and a steady stream of commissions. But instead, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. So, not great for Bert At Summer's End was an unexpected reading pleasure. I was expecting Downton Abbey but it was more Durrells in Corfu, an inspired choice by Courtney Ellis. The story unfolds when an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl's country estate in 1920s England. Bertie think this is the entree she needs to high society and a steady stream of commissions. But instead, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. So, not great for Bertie's art career, but great for the book. The set-up allows for human emotions and interactions rather than the stiff confines of proper society. A lovely late summer read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    This book was my most anticipated book of the summer! The cover, the premise, swoon! Everything sounded so incredible! I couldn’t wait to dive into this one and I can tell you right now that I read it in a matter of days. I could have finished it in one siting but I breezed through it in just 2 days. It was so addicting and if you are a fan of historical fiction then you need to read this one. It boasts a unique romance, complex characters with a rich backdrop full of history and human rawness. I This book was my most anticipated book of the summer! The cover, the premise, swoon! Everything sounded so incredible! I couldn’t wait to dive into this one and I can tell you right now that I read it in a matter of days. I could have finished it in one siting but I breezed through it in just 2 days. It was so addicting and if you are a fan of historical fiction then you need to read this one. It boasts a unique romance, complex characters with a rich backdrop full of history and human rawness. I am a huge fan of WWI historical romances and this should have been right up my alley for that reason alone, but I especially loved the ‘Beauty and the Beast meets Phantom of the Opera ‘ element to the story. But all of the amazing praise I have for this book was slightly tarnished by some of the issues between the characters. While I loved this one, I also felt a little conflicted about how the story unfolded and what kind of message it was sending to readers (more on that soon). I want to say that I think readers should absolutely read this book without question. It’s well written, interesting, and romantic. But it isn’t without some issues. One of the things that stood out in this one was the historical background on prosthetic masks during the Great War. The main character, Julian, has been horribly injured in the Great War and one of the main aspects of his character is his prosthetic mask. I loved that the author went all in with his character. Not only was he emotionally damaged from the war but he had to endure a horrible disfigurement (not just loss of limb which is common in WWI historical fiction). His mask works as a wonderful figurative and metaphor for his character. I thought it added so much to his character and I loved that the author went in this direction. The characters were well developed, rich, and complex in their showcase. However, there were times I had difficulty with Bertie’s character. She started out so strong for me but quickly she felt out of place with the other characters. My guess is that was intentional to highlight how similar her and Julian were in that case, but some times she felt farther removed than I think the author intended. While I loved Julian and Bertie together, I struggled with the message it was sending to readers. There was quite a bit of toxicity in their relationship with Julian struggling with his own demons and Bertie struggling to be her own woman. I felt that the whole family basically sucked Bertie in and pressured her to ‘fix’ their brother and it just felt wrong to me. While I think it was realistic and made sense especially for the time period, as a modern reader I was screaming at Bertie to just run and leave well enough alone. As their romance unfolded it became clear that there was way way way too much going on with Julian’s mental health for her to fix and I think her character made a good choice, ultimately I felt like that good choice because moot in the end. I won’t get too much into the details for people who want to read it, but I felt like the ending (while appropriate and the one I was hoping for!) was a little too quick in the resolution. I felt like more time needed to go by and more healing to be demonstrated. It felt too fast for all that was going on and transpired by the end. Even with that criticism though, it was still a solid book that was wonderful to read. I love the Great War and I think that the author did such an outstanding job with her research and showcase of mental health as well as the use of prosthetics. I was blown away by the complexity of Julian’s character and I just love how well done this book was. While I might have had issues with this one, overall I couldn’t deny the wonderful writing and characters. I ended up giving this one 5 stars even with my criticism of how things wrapped up. It was a wonderful book and I am looking forward to her next book! See my full review here

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deanne Patterson

    This book is different than many historical fiction books. It is one that captivates you and draws you in from the first page. A Beauty and the Beast story if you will. A debut author that you're going to want to read more of. Pub Date 10 Aug 2021 I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own. This book is different than many historical fiction books. It is one that captivates you and draws you in from the first page. A Beauty and the Beast story if you will. A debut author that you're going to want to read more of. Pub Date 10 Aug 2021 I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee (bookswithnopictures)

    I am incapable of expressing exactly what I think about this novel. It is a rich and powerful read. If Downton Abbey met Beauty and the Beast, this would be their baby. Told in dual timelines, At Summer's End mostly takes place a few years following the end of the Great War. Bertie aspires to be a great artist and gets the opportunity of a lifetime to paint for the Earl of Braemore. With little information to go on, Bertie arrives at his seat unprepared for the enchantment of the grounds and the I am incapable of expressing exactly what I think about this novel. It is a rich and powerful read. If Downton Abbey met Beauty and the Beast, this would be their baby. Told in dual timelines, At Summer's End mostly takes place a few years following the end of the Great War. Bertie aspires to be a great artist and gets the opportunity of a lifetime to paint for the Earl of Braemore. With little information to go on, Bertie arrives at his seat unprepared for the enchantment of the grounds and the mysteries revolving around the reclusive family. At the heart is Julian, the earl and previous officer during the war. This book reminds me so much why I love historical fiction. Courtney's ability to weave a engrossing plot within a beautifully described setting will sit with be sure to stay with me. After finishing, I just want to go back and see Gwen and Celia get their own happily ever after's. Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the advanced copy. All thoughts in this review are my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    India Holton

    This book was an utter joy to read. Impeccable and luminous prose, lyrical storytelling through the light and the dark, and richly formed characters all blurred together in a golden haze. Courtney Ellis writes with exquisite skill, and captures the tone of the post-WWI period with what appears to be effortless ease. I read the book slowly, luxuriating in its language and scenery, in much the same way one might eat a chocolate every night after supper. I loved Bertie, with her courage and ambitio This book was an utter joy to read. Impeccable and luminous prose, lyrical storytelling through the light and the dark, and richly formed characters all blurred together in a golden haze. Courtney Ellis writes with exquisite skill, and captures the tone of the post-WWI period with what appears to be effortless ease. I read the book slowly, luxuriating in its language and scenery, in much the same way one might eat a chocolate every night after supper. I loved Bertie, with her courage and ambition. I felt deep sympathy for Julian. And the ending, while taking me by surprise, rang as perfectly true and perfectly right. In fact, surprise is a good description for my whole reading experience. I went into it thinking it would be just another pleasant historical fiction piece - not realising the gorgeousness I was about to find. And the secrets of the book also provided a surprise, which is rare for me. I honestly can't recommend this book highly enough. It's literary art.

  9. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    I REALLY enjoyed this post-WWI historical fiction love story set on a large English estate between an Earl and the artist he commissioned to come paint the house. Bertie is an up and coming artist looking for a way to make it on her own in the world when she receives a letter asking her to come to Castle Braemore. She immediately jumps at the chance even though it means going against her parent's wishes. Once there she meets the large family of brothers and sisters who have returned for one last I REALLY enjoyed this post-WWI historical fiction love story set on a large English estate between an Earl and the artist he commissioned to come paint the house. Bertie is an up and coming artist looking for a way to make it on her own in the world when she receives a letter asking her to come to Castle Braemore. She immediately jumps at the chance even though it means going against her parent's wishes. Once there she meets the large family of brothers and sisters who have returned for one last summer at the house before it gets sold. Many of the siblings are still reeling from the war, not least of which is Julian, the earl, who was left disfigured and with great mental anguish. Bertie slowly befriends the earl, helping him to start opening himself up to the world again until a shocking event sends her running away. I loved how this was part of history we don't often learn much about in fiction books and I thought the author did a really good job highlighting how hard the war was on the men who returned and their families who were left behind. Highly recommend this great debut, especially for fans of strong women characters and the television show Downton Abbey!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley for allowing me to read this book early! I marathoned it in a single sitting/lounging. I didn't think about nothing else but this book. I was INVESTED. Remind you, I am someone who enjoys clean romances, reading the synopsis for this one had me intrigued. I love characters who are hardened by war and are looking for guidance. I love girls who are strong-minded and creative. I also love a family or a cast of characters with secrets. ... but the romance has to be pal Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley for allowing me to read this book early! I marathoned it in a single sitting/lounging. I didn't think about nothing else but this book. I was INVESTED. Remind you, I am someone who enjoys clean romances, reading the synopsis for this one had me intrigued. I love characters who are hardened by war and are looking for guidance. I love girls who are strong-minded and creative. I also love a family or a cast of characters with secrets. ... but the romance has to be palpable, slow, and true. This book is as if you mixed Brideshead Revisited, Downton Abbey, and Charlie Cox's character from Boardwalk Empire in a blender. (All I could think of when reading this was Charlie Cox as the lead and I was not upset.) A girl who enjoys art and is trying to make her way in a world dominated by men is asked to paint the grounds for a recluse Lord. She goes and is met by his brother and sister, both who indicate that he is not to be disturbed because he had returned from the war wounded and wishes not to be disturbed. However, our lady wishes to know the man who saw her art and wanted her to paint his work, and not just someone with notoriety. There their relationship begins and blossoms through the book. There is also a bit of a time jump that allows you to see things as they were years ago, prior to our leading man going off to war. What happened to the family? What secrets and or other misgivings is he/they hiding? This is the kind of book I enjoy, written well enough that you could just let it play in your head. There are also some gorgeous quotes that have you reeling. Why did I rate it down a star? I think... it was the end of the book that kind of jived to a different beat than everything else? (view spoiler)[ You find out his older sister (he has two sisters) has a girl who is adopted. In the flashbacks, you find out he had feelings for a maid and slept with her before going off to war. She became pregnant, gave birth to a girl, then passed. He holds regret because he believes that he should have married her and never went off to war. The little girl was adopted by the elder sister and has no idea her father is her uncle. ... Meanwhile, the lead discovers this by putting clues together. She wishes to have him leave his house/his room and continue to live life but with his family and her in public. He gets angry and when she confronts him about the girl, he turns her out... but then he gets upset and tries to commit suicide. She leaves him to not upset him further while he is healing and - surprise - turns out she is pregnant. Obviously there is a happy ending in store but it clashed a bit in my head.) (hide spoiler)] I guess I wanted some drama of a different kind, but the playout was just a bit too messy for me. All in all, it's a gorgeous book and I do hope when it releases people read it and add this author's work to their 'watch' list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Liao

    What a wonderful glimpse into 1920's England and the life of an earl and his family at his country estate. I love how ambitious Bertie is about her art. She is determined to make a name for herself, despite her family's disapproval and the fact that as a woman, she isn't taken seriously in the art world. But when a chance to go live at the earl's estate for a summer painting for him falls in her lap, she leaps into the opportunity, along with the earl's family, with both eyes open. The relations What a wonderful glimpse into 1920's England and the life of an earl and his family at his country estate. I love how ambitious Bertie is about her art. She is determined to make a name for herself, despite her family's disapproval and the fact that as a woman, she isn't taken seriously in the art world. But when a chance to go live at the earl's estate for a summer painting for him falls in her lap, she leaps into the opportunity, along with the earl's family, with both eyes open. The relationship between Bertie and Julian is so heartrending; you know there's going to be heart-ache for both, yet you can't help but root for them to overcome the many obstacles thrown in their way. And the twist later on in the book - I didn't see it coming at all (and I'm usually good at predicting twists!). It kept me surprised, turning pages to see what happens, and wishing I could go back in time to experience everything Bertie was. A wonderful story set in a vividly described setting!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Blacke

    Courtney Ellis' AT SUMMER'S END is absolutely divine. No, "divine" doesn't quite cut it. Fracking spectaculosity. (You'll have to forgive me. I couldn't come up with words to describe my overwhelming feelings for this book so I had to make one up.) This story, and the fantastically painted characters within will still be with me for a very long time. Every word played out like a movie in my head-a lush and lovely movie filled with perfectly flawed people. It isn't often I find a book that the aut Courtney Ellis' AT SUMMER'S END is absolutely divine. No, "divine" doesn't quite cut it. Fracking spectaculosity. (You'll have to forgive me. I couldn't come up with words to describe my overwhelming feelings for this book so I had to make one up.) This story, and the fantastically painted characters within will still be with me for a very long time. Every word played out like a movie in my head-a lush and lovely movie filled with perfectly flawed people. It isn't often I find a book that the author has literally poured their soul into, but this is such a book. I'm going to go stare at a blank wall now, but in my mind, I'll be gazing at the English countryside.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Everett

    It is a cliché to say a book is “richly atmospheric” but right off the bat, Ellis immerses us in post-war 1920’s Britain where the consequences of wartime are still being felt during peacetime. The war forced the acceleration of socio-political changes on the British people and a young artist, Alberta Preston, leaves her middle-class home for a risky venture. She’s been commissioned by the enigmatic Earl of Wakeford to paint his estate on the basis of his appreciation for her award-winning paint It is a cliché to say a book is “richly atmospheric” but right off the bat, Ellis immerses us in post-war 1920’s Britain where the consequences of wartime are still being felt during peacetime. The war forced the acceleration of socio-political changes on the British people and a young artist, Alberta Preston, leaves her middle-class home for a risky venture. She’s been commissioned by the enigmatic Earl of Wakeford to paint his estate on the basis of his appreciation for her award-winning painting. It isn’t until Alberta, otherwise known as Bertie, arrives at the estate that Wakeford and his family discover “Bertie" is a woman. What follows is a dream of a summer for Bertie, the earl, and his siblings. The earl was wounded in the war and as Bertie brings to life the earl’s estate on her canvas, she slowly attempts to bring to life the man himself who has barricaded himself away from the world. Readers will be hooked by the compelling relationship that develops between the artist and the man who eventually becomes her subject. Ellis has a gift for quick shifts in a scene that serves to both increase tension and reveal the fault lines of the crumbling family that lives in the estate. While reflecting on familial ties and the trauma that creates them, Ellis draws rich, centered characters with full inner lives and believable conflicts. Life isn’t perfect behind the walls of an English manse – there are dark secrets and old wounds, but the setting is gorgeous and compelling. Again, “atmospheric” is overused, but in this case so apt. Ellis invites us into the heart of the English countryside in summertime and we wander the grounds along with Bertie as a season ends for Wakeford’s family and heralds a transformation among the British aristocracy. In turns bittersweet, honest, romantic, and tragic, At Summer’s End is a remarkable debut by a very talented author.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Painter

    I had no idea what to expect when I started this book, as I'm not usually much of a historical fiction reader. But this book swept me away to another time and place. It's like Beauty And The Beast meets Gatsby meets The Duke Undone...? I adored it so much!!! I had no idea what to expect when I started this book, as I'm not usually much of a historical fiction reader. But this book swept me away to another time and place. It's like Beauty And The Beast meets Gatsby meets The Duke Undone...? I adored it so much!!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Martin

    Bertie Preston is surprised when she gets a letter from the Earl of Wakeford who wants to commission her to make a series of paintings of his home at Castle Braemore. She is eager to accept since she believes it will lead to more commissions from others in his social set and provide security for her to set up her own studio. When she arrives, she finds the Earl isolated in his room after suffering terrible injuries while serving in the First World War. The Earl only accepts visits from his older Bertie Preston is surprised when she gets a letter from the Earl of Wakeford who wants to commission her to make a series of paintings of his home at Castle Braemore. She is eager to accept since she believes it will lead to more commissions from others in his social set and provide security for her to set up her own studio. When she arrives, she finds the Earl isolated in his room after suffering terrible injuries while serving in the First World War. The Earl only accepts visits from his older sister Gwen. His younger brother Roland has been trying to handle things on the estate and his younger sister Celia hasn't spoken to him since he went off to war the last time. Needless to say, Bertie is disappointed in the situation but she quickly falls in love with the area and is intrigued by all the residents of Braemore. She is especially curious about the Earl. His injuries don't disturb her since she spent part of the war as a VAD nurse dealing with lots of wounded soldiers. Bertie gradually works her way into the Earl's confidence and finds a man who has taken lots more than physical injuries in the war. Julie, Earl Wakeford, was always a shy, quiet, gentle man. The war changed him immensely. He fears leaving his rooms, has nightmares, and is deeply depressed. Even so, he is concerned for his family. His sister Gwen is also a war widow who was left with two small children including her adopted daughter Anna. Roland is a homosexual and Julian wants to shelter him. Celia is an angry young woman who is having trouble dealing with what she sees as betrayal by her older brother. Julian's younger siblings are having a magical summer and only Julian knows it will be their last since the estate is bankrupt and will need to be sold when the fall comes. Bertie is encouraged by Gwen to form a relationship with Julian but doing so, falling in love, was never in her plans. She wanted her independence and her art. She isn't sure she can deal with all the problems that come with Julian no matter how deeply she falls in love with him. I liked the way the story was arranged with chapters going back to earlier years to explore how the current situation came about. I liked that there were more viewpoints than just Bertie's. The story was very emotional. The horrors and effects of war were an almost constant background of everything that happened. The way the war disrupted society is shown in how the characters lives were all changed by it. This was wonderful historical fiction with intriguing characters. I recommend it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    You know what it's like to read a book that draws you so deeply into its sense of place and atmosphere that putting it down leaves you kind of dazed and wondering where you are? This book does that. At Summer's End is a richly drawn with words as I imagined Bertie's paintings to be with color. And because of that, I felt so much reading this book. I loved Bertie, and her ambition and refusal to let her gender define her path. Like her, I also got completely caught up in the family drama. Ellison' You know what it's like to read a book that draws you so deeply into its sense of place and atmosphere that putting it down leaves you kind of dazed and wondering where you are? This book does that. At Summer's End is a richly drawn with words as I imagined Bertie's paintings to be with color. And because of that, I felt so much reading this book. I loved Bertie, and her ambition and refusal to let her gender define her path. Like her, I also got completely caught up in the family drama. Ellison's portrayal of a shell-shocked Julian was unflinching and sympathetic, and a strong reminder that there are degrees of "surviving" a war. I appreciated that there was no easy resolution to the plot that unfolded. The one given felt realistic yet sweet and hopeful, which also seems like a good way to describe this book. Definitely read this if you want to be transported to post-WWI England and enjoy a gorgeous and tender love story!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate Khavari

    This was the perfect summer read: the lush setting, the decadent descriptions, the nostalgia of summer days surrounded by green, and the temptation of romance. I wasn't sure what exactly this story would be but was immediately swept away in the story within the first few pages. It was an engrossing combination of romance and family drama, wrapped in lovely artistic and historical details. Definitely one that is staying on my shelves for future rereads when I need to sink into a beautiful story. This was the perfect summer read: the lush setting, the decadent descriptions, the nostalgia of summer days surrounded by green, and the temptation of romance. I wasn't sure what exactly this story would be but was immediately swept away in the story within the first few pages. It was an engrossing combination of romance and family drama, wrapped in lovely artistic and historical details. Definitely one that is staying on my shelves for future rereads when I need to sink into a beautiful story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    3.5. Historical fiction 1920’s, post WW I. A Dysfunctional family, of course,; young woman ( the family thought they had selected an upcoming male artist) to paint the family’s castle. Julian, head of family, is a very damaged man—ravaged and disfigured by the war and suffers PTSD, wears a mask to hide his face and stays locked away in his room. Of course, Bertie, our young artist, falls in love with him…..not exactly a happily ever after, but interesting

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rdanforth

    Had the luxury of getting an early peek at this before release and it was absolutely fantastic. Genuinely hard to believe its from a senur author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly_Instalove

    HOLY COW SO GOOD. Pacing, relationship development, worldbuilding, it's all there. HOLY COW SO GOOD. Pacing, relationship development, worldbuilding, it's all there.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Jayatissa

    This was such a beautiful and atmospheric read! Bertie is instantly compelling— bold and unafraid to go after her dreams, and Ellis does a fantastic job questioning what it means to be a woman in post-WW1 England. The relationship between Bertie and the Earl was beautifully nuanced and I thoroughly enjoyed this exceptionally well-written book! I’m looking forward to reading the next one by this author!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)

    WWI is over and England is recovering. The world is very different now and Bertie Preston finds herself 28 years old and unmarried. For the time period, this isn't the norm, but Bertie doesn't care about society's rules. She strives to be independent and wants to support herself as an artist. She gains some attention after winning an art competition and with that she is contacted by the Earl of Wakefield to pain his home, Castle Braemore. This is exactly the type of job that Bertie has been hopi WWI is over and England is recovering. The world is very different now and Bertie Preston finds herself 28 years old and unmarried. For the time period, this isn't the norm, but Bertie doesn't care about society's rules. She strives to be independent and wants to support herself as an artist. She gains some attention after winning an art competition and with that she is contacted by the Earl of Wakefield to pain his home, Castle Braemore. This is exactly the type of job that Bertie has been hoping for and one that will hopefully help her make the move to London. In order to paint Castle Braemore, she must move there for a short period of time and to make things even more awkward, the Earl thought Bertie was a man. Despite this, she is determined to make the best of it, but with the Earl hiding in his rooms and the Castle a bit dismal, things aren't what she thought they would be. Thankfully, the Earl's siblings are excited for to be there. As time passes Bertie learns why the Earl, also known as Julian, spends most of his time in his room and how the war has impacted not only him, but also the estate. The world is changing around Castle Braemore and the big question is are the inhabitants ready for it? At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis is a compelling historical debut that fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy. Read the rest of my review here: http://www.confessionsofabookaddict.c...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    It was really slow for me and I didn't enjoyed the back and forth flashbacks. I got lost what year it's. It goes back 4 years ago then 2 then back to the present. I got mixed up and I didn't enjoyed the characters much. It was really slow for me and I didn't enjoyed the back and forth flashbacks. I got lost what year it's. It goes back 4 years ago then 2 then back to the present. I got mixed up and I didn't enjoyed the characters much.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paulette Kennedy

    Absolutely gorgeous. A symphony of light and shadow with a historical setting so fully realized it’s like a character in its own right. 1922 - When emerging artist Bertie Preston receives the commission of a lifetime, she goes to Castle Braemore expecting a drafty pile full of stodgy aristocrats. Instead, she discovers a charming, eclectic family with long-held secrets centered around the mysterious Earl of Wakeford himself. After returning wounded from the war, Lord Wakeford has shut himself awa Absolutely gorgeous. A symphony of light and shadow with a historical setting so fully realized it’s like a character in its own right. 1922 - When emerging artist Bertie Preston receives the commission of a lifetime, she goes to Castle Braemore expecting a drafty pile full of stodgy aristocrats. Instead, she discovers a charming, eclectic family with long-held secrets centered around the mysterious Earl of Wakeford himself. After returning wounded from the war, Lord Wakeford has shut himself away in his rooms—far away from the prying eyes of society and even his own family. When he finally opens his door, just a crack, that’s all Bertie needs to send her light streaming into his shadows. The moments that follow are emotional and fraught with understated tension as Bertie patiently attempts to heal the earl’s wounds, both physical and emotional. The beauty of this book is in its nuance and the languid, unspooling nature of its plot. Like a long summer day, Ellis’s luminous prose draws you in and keeps you spellbound. If you love Downton Abbey, you will enjoy this book immensely.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    "Fear is a notion, Bertie. The action that follows is far more important." The genre of this book strikes me as "romance plus" because while the love story is as detailed and moving as I could wish, the plot is much broader, drawing you into a fully realized world full of living, breathing characters. We are swept away to 1922 England, a nation still healing from the inhumanity of The Great War. Bertie is our protagonist. She worked as a nurse with the Red Cross, and now her fledgling art career "Fear is a notion, Bertie. The action that follows is far more important." The genre of this book strikes me as "romance plus" because while the love story is as detailed and moving as I could wish, the plot is much broader, drawing you into a fully realized world full of living, breathing characters. We are swept away to 1922 England, a nation still healing from the inhumanity of The Great War. Bertie is our protagonist. She worked as a nurse with the Red Cross, and now her fledgling art career is kicking off, much to her parents' displeasure. Hired by the Earl of Wakeford to draw his family estate, a baroque castle that is a work of art in and of itself, Bertie sets off for the unknown to make her name. The story is a spin on Beauty and the Beast. The Earl is suffering from PTSD after his time in the war, called shell-shock in historical parlance. His two younger siblings haven't seen him in a year because he has locked himself away in his apartments, suffering from agoraphobia. The family is war-torn, but the weight of their secrets and shared history also bears down on them. As each flashback reveals more about how the four Napier siblings came to this point, you can't help but feel compassion for all they have endured. This book features dark elements regarding mental health and also social strictures of the times. The 1920s blare to life in this precise writing with all the champagne, jazz, and cigarettes needed to obfuscate deep wounds. The great house brings a personality to the story-- not just backdrop, but living art, a growing history. Ultimately, it's a story of healing. It's messy, it's terrifying, and it's nonlinear. And it's about family-- the kind that errs but that loves and supports one another unconditionally. All in all, these elements make for a breathtaking read. Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book, out 8/10.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    Thanks to NetGally for a digital ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review. This was a book that at first, despite it being about everything I could want in a book, that felt too convenient. The stumbling blocks that Bertie would hit never felt like enough to topple her, even though they should have? Leaving her parent's house, not knowing precisely what the next step would be, etc., always felt like "yes but she'll get it solved" and I'm not sure if it's because the author did such a go Thanks to NetGally for a digital ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review. This was a book that at first, despite it being about everything I could want in a book, that felt too convenient. The stumbling blocks that Bertie would hit never felt like enough to topple her, even though they should have? Leaving her parent's house, not knowing precisely what the next step would be, etc., always felt like "yes but she'll get it solved" and I'm not sure if it's because the author did such a good job at making Bertie be who she is, or if it was the way the story unfolded. Everything, while it was actually dark and uncertain and tense, still felt like a shoulder shrug? Family secrets? Eh. Troubled and haunted past? Eh. Scarred and bitter solider recluse? Eh. Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed this book, but there were several moments I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Bertie and go "maybe you're a bit thick?!". To me, the 4 or 5 really big "oh WOW!" moments mostly weren't presented in such a way. 3 of them came off as "oh yes, there's this thing _____ but all of us characters just accept that it is how it is" and honestly I was a bit thrown by that. Several of those topics would've been 100% devastating for a person in that time period and the family just sort of shrugged at it or accepted it as is. The two big plot twists that actually were GASP-inducing were pulled off well, but also felt a bit...rushed? Like the author wanted to tuck these extra two bits in for some shock-value. One of them didn't even feel like it HAD to be in there, but the author wanted another bit of a twist. This was a good book, very slow build, stumbling/ambling middle and then a dash to the finish. I like it, and I hope the author continues to write and do more in this time period-it was evident that they had researched it very well!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Schwab

    Alberta Preston, an unknown aspiring artist in 1922 England, enters a competition as Bertie, hoping the assumption would be that ‘she’ is a ‘he.’ Her painting titled, Something for the Pain, wins and is featured in the Times. Soon Alberta receives a letter from the Earl of Wakeford, addressed to Mr. Preston, offering to commission ‘him’ for several paintings of his estate in Wiltshire, England, known as Castle Braemore. Against her parents’ wishes Bertie accepts the commission to spend the summe Alberta Preston, an unknown aspiring artist in 1922 England, enters a competition as Bertie, hoping the assumption would be that ‘she’ is a ‘he.’ Her painting titled, Something for the Pain, wins and is featured in the Times. Soon Alberta receives a letter from the Earl of Wakeford, addressed to Mr. Preston, offering to commission ‘him’ for several paintings of his estate in Wiltshire, England, known as Castle Braemore. Against her parents’ wishes Bertie accepts the commission to spend the summer at the castle and the experience changes her life forever. This debut novel by Courtney Ellis is a superb character study of women and their aspirations in the early 20th century, the long-term effects of World War One on soldiers, nurses, and those left behind, along with the economic aftermath dealt with by families. Upon his father’s death, 12- year-old Julian becomes the Earl of Wakeford and his oldest sister, Gwen, takes over the responsibilities of her siblings. The author’s use of flashbacks develops compassion and empathy as alternating chapters take a glimpse into the family dynamics, early years, and the personalities of each of the Wakeford children. Bertie’s personal feelings are explored as she comes to grips with her own aspirations and her feelings of unworthiness within her own family. Readers will get a true sense of Bertie’s inspiration and obsession in painting and sketching Castle Braemore as Courtney Ellis fills in with superb descriptions of the palace and grounds, along with artistic details of composition and techniques. As the family faces reality, the Earl of Wakeford and his siblings attempt to heal their wounds of war with love and loyalty. Readers will be filled with suspense, sometimes even anxiousness, but also cheer for Bertie’s boldness, her sense of accomplishment and the decision she makes “at summer’s end.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    Unlike most well-born women her age who aspired only to marriage and motherhood, Alberta “Bertie” Preston dreamed of having her paintings hang in the poshest salons of London. Her parents refuse to accept that this is what she desires most from life - even after her modest win in the Royal British Legion’s art contest. Bertie is now faced with a decision. Live as she chooses or become that which society says she must be. Her mind is instantly made up when a letter arrives with an unexpected offer Unlike most well-born women her age who aspired only to marriage and motherhood, Alberta “Bertie” Preston dreamed of having her paintings hang in the poshest salons of London. Her parents refuse to accept that this is what she desires most from life - even after her modest win in the Royal British Legion’s art contest. Bertie is now faced with a decision. Live as she chooses or become that which society says she must be. Her mind is instantly made up when a letter arrives with an unexpected offer. So she’s going to spend the summer painting for the Earl of Wakeford – regardless of the consequences. Someone—a bloody earl! - wanted me to paint for him. For money. This had been my goal when entering the contest. But how could I ever have expected such a commission? An earl might display my paintings where his titled friends could see. It wouldn’t be long before more commissions came through and I had the income for a solo show, to submit a piece for entry in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, to rent a flat with a view of Hyde Park. Now I certainly was going to faint. I sat down in a nearby chair to save myself the fall and put the petunia under my nose to breathe the warm sweetness. I was finally on my way. Life at Castle Braemore isn’t at all what she thought it might be. The Napier family is shrouded in mystery and in secrets. With the Earl being the most mysterious of all. Julian Napier has shouldered the responsibility of his title since a very young age. Taking care of his family has always been paramount and every action was always taken with them in the forefront of his mind. But after the war scarred both his heart and his body, he’s been hiding from them. The arrival of Bertie Preston is the greatest of blessings and the worst of curses. With her independent spirit, she’s worked her way right into a heart that he long believed to be dead. But would she still dare to love him when all his sins are laid bare? I fell in love with the way his teeth touched when he said my name, the crooked bottom row peeking out from behind his lip. His lip—my God, did I want to know what it tasted like. I thought perhaps it was time I stepped away to gain some composure, but Wakeford had a firm hold on me. With At Summer’s End, Courtney Ellis delivers the kind of historical that I’ve always wished for! With a breathtaking combination of fiercely independent female characters unafraid to walk their own path, tender romance, and opulent landscapes, I was instantly captivated. She somehow fashions the Napiers themselves into a microcosm of the modern world. They embrace each other and Bertie with a devotion that never ever waivers. And it’s what makes them something truly exceptional. This story is everything a historical romance should be. And so much more…

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marija

    Courtney Ellis’ debut is rather good. Its style is reminiscent of the old Catherine Cookson stories that I enjoyed reading in my teens. The tale itself reminded me of Brideshead Revisited—a portrait of the splendors of the English aristocratic family meeting its end. There’s nostalgia of things and times past, with memories that are pleasant, yet bittersweet. The story also develops the theme of gender politics, as Alberta or “Bertie” uses her ambiguous nickname to help secure initial notability Courtney Ellis’ debut is rather good. Its style is reminiscent of the old Catherine Cookson stories that I enjoyed reading in my teens. The tale itself reminded me of Brideshead Revisited—a portrait of the splendors of the English aristocratic family meeting its end. There’s nostalgia of things and times past, with memories that are pleasant, yet bittersweet. The story also develops the theme of gender politics, as Alberta or “Bertie” uses her ambiguous nickname to help secure initial notability and recognition for her art. Ellis’ portrayal of reclusive, shell-shocked Julian is likewise thoughtful, as is her characterization of his sister Celia, who has been sheltered her entire life on this family estate and has had little experience beyond what has been told to her as a child. Her lack of experience has led to skewed perceptions and years of unfortunate misunderstandings. Some readers may find inconsistencies with the run of the story, however. Perhaps, this is in part due to the author’s use of flashback to direct the plot. If readers consider the timing of certain events as they occurred in the past, there are some scenes that don’t quite match up. Regardless, this is a good debut. Readers should look forward to read whatever this author produces next.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Savannah Heil

    Thank you to @netgalley and @berkleypub for access to this ebook 🙌🏼 This was a good one! It had many of my favorite things such as historical England, the “royalty falls for a commoner” trope, and a strong female lead. The story actually ended up being a bit more complex than I expected, which I liked, but it was also a bit slow at times. There was a lotttt of flowery and descriptive writing, which makes sense as the main character is a painter, but it made some parts drag for me. The character bu Thank you to @netgalley and @berkleypub for access to this ebook 🙌🏼 This was a good one! It had many of my favorite things such as historical England, the “royalty falls for a commoner” trope, and a strong female lead. The story actually ended up being a bit more complex than I expected, which I liked, but it was also a bit slow at times. There was a lotttt of flowery and descriptive writing, which makes sense as the main character is a painter, but it made some parts drag for me. The character building was great though. The Earl, Julian, was very broken which was really well written.I felt for him throughout, but main character, Bertie, stole the show for me. I loved how she was confident and bold; she said what she was feeling and never held back. The Earl’s siblings were also really fun characters with a lot of personality. My only caveat about the story itself was the (8 year!) grudge between Julian and his younger sister, Celia. It felt really silly when we found out the reasoning. That said, I do think the ending wrapped up very nicely and I was overall pleased with the story as a whole. If you’re looking for a unique historical fiction that has romance without it being the entire premise, this book might be for you! If you’re interested, it will be published and available on August 1st 💞

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