Who knew what baggage Charlie might have brought with him from New Orleans? What demons he might have battled? It was so difficult to ascertain a man’s true character glimpsed only through the eyes of others. – from Summer in the South –
Ava Dabrowski finds herself reeling from a failed romance and the death of her mother when she decides to accept an invitation to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee at the home of an old college acquaintance, Will Fraser. Ava has a dream to write a novel, but she finds it hard to get started once she arrives in Tennessee. Woodburn is a classic small Southern town and Will and his family take center stage. Ava moves into Will’s aunts’ home – a rambling, historic house that is haunted by the ghosts of the past. When she unearths a family mystery – that of the death of Charlie Woodburn – the story consumes her and her novel comes to life. But things are not always as they first appear, and the mystery of Charlie and his untimely death have been kept secret for a long, long time. As Ava becomes embroiled in the lives of the Woodburns, she discovers that truth may be more compelling than fiction.
Cathy Holton’s Summer in the South is a well-written novel about a young woman caught in a dark mystery from the past. It explores the Southern culture, family loyalty and the difficulty of untangling fact from gossip and community lore. Ava Dabrowski is a strong, “Yankee” woman who finds herself unsettled when she moves to a small Southern town where the rules of society are anything but clear. When she begins to dig into the history of the Woodburn family, she finds herself confronting shadows and ghosts and the tricky maze of high class Southern etiquette.
There is a bit of romance mixed into the mystery in Holton’s novel, but it doesn’t overwhelm the plot. I found this book highly readable, and the ending took me a little by surprise as the reader finally uncovers the truth behind Charlie’s death.
Readers who love novels set in the South, and for those who like women’s literature and a bit of mystery in their reading, will find much to enjoy in Summer in the South.
I’ve read one other novel by this author. Read my review of Beach Trip.