Summer in the South by Cathy Holton
Published by Bellantine Books, an imprint of Random House
Review copy provided by the author
Chicago-based writer Ava accepts an offer from her college friend Will to spend a summer at his aunts’ home in Tennessee. She plans to take the summer to really work on her novel without the distractions she typically deals with over the course of her “normal” life. The Southern town where Will’s elderly aunts live is a whole different world from the one Ava’s used to, and she soon discovers that Will’s family has an intricate history with many unanswered questions – the kind of family drama that would make great fodder for a novel. But as she peels back the layers of his family’s past, she realizes that most of the members of this family would rather some secrets remain buried forever.
Summer in the South is an absolutely perfect title for this wonderfully sweet novel, as the book details one heck of an interesting summer for the main character, Ava. The book is just dripping with Southern-isms, from the over-the-top perfect manners to the five o’clock “Toddy Time” that Will’s family holds every evening. I have to say that the novel instantly transported me to Tennessee and I enjoyed every minute I spent there.
One thing I enjoyed about Summer in the South is that it isn’t just one type of novel. It would best be categorized as “women’s fiction” but there is more to it than just one woman’s story. There is a touch of romance, there is a touch of mystery, and it’s all wrapped up in a well-written, well-constructed package. I particularly enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel, it had me guessing the entire time and I desperately wanted to understand the story behind Will’s family history. It really kept me engaged. In fact, I must admit that Summer in the South reminded me quite a bit of a Karen White novel, and that is a huge compliment because I absolutely adore her books.
The characters in this novel were very well-drawn, and I liked Ava immediately. There was a bit of a push-pull thing going on with Will and Ava and while I’m not sure I like how that ended up, it made me more interested in their characters for sure. I couldn’t figure out if they were going to get together or not, and the suspense of that really kept my attention. The aunts were very well-created and they were the quintessential Southern older ladies – just a delight to read about. I actually found all of these characters interesting and engaging.
I would definitely recommend Summer in the South for a well-written and interesting Southern novel with great characters. Cathy Holton is a talented storyteller and I really admire what she’s done here.