“After years of romantic drought, Nell is enjoying a thrilling fling with a sexy new man and loving London life, somehow managing to juggle single motherhood with a busy career. Plus, in the city it’s easy to avoid her sister who is about to marry Nell’s ex. (Yes, messy.) Then she gets the news. Please could she return to Tredower, the crumbling old family home in Cornwall for the summer? Disaster. Tredower has no wifi, harbours her big dysfunctional family, and, far worse, memories of her passionate love affair with the man who is about to become her brother-in-law. The past is another county. Can she go there?

 Another woman is making her way west too, carrying an explosive secret. Love will be lost, broken, and found, lives changed forever…”

Nell is a journalist and single mother living in London with her four year old daughter Cass. She struggles to combine the career she loves with her home life, but enjoys the hustle and bustle of the city and the challenges of her job. Then one day Nell finds she’s on the receiving end of one of the many redundancies being made at her work. Nell’s still puzzling out what to do when she receives a phone call from her brother Ethan begging her to go to stay and care for their ailing mother at the old family home in Cornwall.

Nell is eventually coerced into agreeing, but is extremely anxious about the prolonged visit: not only is her mother rather difficult and not the easiest woman to nurse, but Nell’s sister Heather and her fiancé Jeremy have also agreed to visit and give a hand whenever they can. As Jeremy also happens to be Nell’s ex-boyfriend things are likely to be awkward. And matters are made even worse when Nell’s mother drops a bombshell about her will.

A secondary plot, which becomes intrinsically entwined with the main story, is provided by 43-year-old April James. April hails from Oxford and superficially has booked herself on a Summer art course in Cornwall; but there is another, very secret, reason why she’s travelling to this particular part of the world.

Nell was a lovely character, and I thought her relationship with her daughter was beautifully depicted. I felt so sorry for poor Nell being stuck in a house with such awful relatives: Heather, in particular, is just horrible – not only did she basically steal Jeremy from Nell, but she also then tries to sabotage all of April’s plans; if she’s not complaining then she’s busy whining like a spoilt child – and she’s even worse when she’s drunk. Why anyone would bother to be nice to her is beyond me.

Sister-in-law, Janet, is almost as bad as Heather: she’s a gold-digger, doing whatever she can to assure that the family home is left to her husband when his mother dies, and a pretty useless mother, ignoring her awful feral twin sons in favour of relaxing in the sun. I had a great time trying to guess what she’d get up to next!

I enjoyed the little twist in the tale provided by April’s story, the culmination of which had me in tears – it was very sensitively written. It took me a long time to work out how she was going to fit into the main narrative, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least with the final result.

In ‘It Happened One Summer’ Polly Williams shows a real love for Cornwall. The intertwining of the two plots was superbly done and really kept me guessing. She’s created a wonderfully dysfunctional cast with a fantastic array of entertaining, maddening and lovable characters which I thoroughly enjoyed reading about.

4 stars

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