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. Available August 10, 2021
Courtney Ellis is the author of the forthcoming historical fiction novel, AT SUMMER’S END. She began writing at a young age, and developed an interest in history from her grandfather’s stories of World War II. After obtaining her BA in English and Creative Writing, she went on to pursue a career in publishing. She lives in Western New York with her rescue dog.
Photo by Kelly Gleason
Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
“Everything important and remarkable I had ever done, I’d done on my own.” Bertie
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.”