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Over the years, I've read and enjoyed quite a few of Erica James' novels, my favourite is The Holiday - especially is I read it whilst on holiday in Corfu, where the story is set.

I was really looking forward to reading Summer At The Lake, not least because the weather has been so awful just lately, and I thought it would great to be able to transport myself away to the sunnier climes of Italy.

This novel is 400 pages of pure indulgence, I absolutely loved it. Despite the length, I raced through it, devouring the story which is filled with wonderfully created characters and takes the reader from the dreamy spires of Oxford to the evocative Lake Como in Italy.

Three very unlikely friends meet when Floriana is knocked over by a car. Adam Strong and Esme Silcox rush to help her and it is at that moment that a firm friendship between the three of them is formed. Floriana is an Oxford tour guide, a free spirit, independent, and a little bit quirky. She is also reeling with shock, having just received an invitation to the wedding of one of her oldest and closest friends, Seb. Seb and Floriana lost touch a while ago and it is clear that Floriana feels more than friendship toward him. Esme is in her 80s, a gentle and elegant lady who never married and spends her days listening to the radio with just her faithful cat for company. Adam Strong is a property developer, with a broken heart and welcomes the opportunity to be the knight in shining armour, it may help him to get over his latest failed relationship.

Erica James cleverly weaves the stories of each of the character into the here and now. As these three main characters form their friendship and begin to open up to each other, the reader learns their story too. For me, Esme's story of her time spent in Italy with her father, over sixty years ago was the most engaging and fascinating. It is clear that this elderly spinster has many secrets hidden in her past, and as she tells of how her heart was broken by the only man she ever loved, and the tragedy that followed, the story takes another turn.

Despite loving Esme's story best, I found both Adam and Floriana to be really well developed characters too, with their own stories of disappointment and heartbreak that impact on the people that they have become.

The three friends find themselves travelling together to Italy, so that both Floriana and Esme can face up to things that have happened in the past and learn to move on without so much regret and sorrow. Their seven days in Italy are beautifully written, the sense of the place with the sights, sounds and smells of Lake Como and the surrounding towns and villages is just wonderful, and as their friendship develops, so do the characters.

I was totally hooked by Summer At The Lake, it's the perfect read for either a sunny afternoon in the garden or curled up on the sofa in front of the fire. A real feel-good read, with characters and settings that the reader will really care for, and maybe even fall just a little in love with!
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on 27 February 2014
When I read this book at the beginning of February, I kept letting Erica know my thoughts of how much I was enjoying it. I love keeping the authors up to date. But this review isn’t going to do her novel justice.

The dramatic opening chapter brings the three main characters, Floriana, Adam and Esme together in an unlikely fashion. Different plot points are shown from each of their points of view and they’re all just as fantastic as the next. Generally, with different POV’s, I have a tendency to get lost or to favour one over the other but this wasn’t the case. I absolutely LOVED each one. They’re all as powerful and enjoyable as each other.

Throughout the narrative, a message of kindness and goodwill is portrayed – something which doesn’t happen all the time. Erica’s novel felt more like a wake up call and that I need to do more good things.

With the use of recalling memories through stories as well as flashbacks, readers are given the golden chance to get to know Floriana, Adam and Esme a lot better. For me, Esme was the cherry on top of the cake – her personality was big, bright and bold. By far, one of the loveliest characters I’ve ever read about. However, not all the characters were pleasant to read. UGH! I want someone to slap Floriana’s sister Ann. MY GOD. That woman got on my nerves so much. She is on the same annoyance level as Professor Umbridge.

Erica’s little touches here and there made the novel that little bit more enjoyable. With mentions of Harry Potter, Haruki Murakami and the book shop Blackwells, I felt right at home. The pace and tone of the narrative is calm and collective, with added hints of drama.

This novel could easily be made into a fantastic film. Despite this being an uncorrected proof copy, it’s absolutely perfect the way it is. The pace was on point and soothing, the characters were constantly in my head and I’d very much like to know what happens after the narrative ends.
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2014
When Oxford tour guide Floriana is knocked down by a car, she can have no idea that such a traumatic event would lead to her finding two new friends. Property developer Adam, nursing a newly broken heart and elderly spinster Esme go to her aid, and despite all three being very different people from diverse backgrounds, they find a connection in each other and, following Floriana's recovery, vow to keep in touch. I loved all three main characters, they each had something different to bring to the story - the quirkiness of Floriana, Adam, the serious natured problem solver and the wise and perceptive Esme. I became so completely engrossed in their lives that I couldn't put the book down.

The part of the story that particularly stood out for me was Esme's. She never married and lived alone with her cat Euridice however back in the 1950's when she was a young woman, she and her father did their own version of `the Grand Tour' and spent some time at the idyllic sounding Hotel Margherita at Lake Como. This trip was to have life changing consequences for Esme and when, many decades later, she returns to Lake Como accompanied by Floriana and Adam, it is a chance for her to lay to rest old ghosts. However it is not only Esme who has to come to terms with the past - Floriana also faces the heartache of seeing her former love Seb marry someone else.

Each character's story is superbly woven together to create a really lovely read. With such excellent descriptions of the Italian scenery and well developed and engaging characters, there was so much to enjoy that I was quite sad to come to the end.
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on 4 April 2015
When Oxford tour guide Floriana has a road traffic accident and is helped by Adam and Esme, two people passing by, it marks the beginning of an unusual and unlikely friendship between the three. Part of the reason why Floriana got knocked over in the first place was her mind's being distracted by the news of her oldest and dearest friend Seb getting married; Seb whom she hasn't had contact with for over two years after their friendship ended badly. Now, however, he wants her at his wedding in Lake Como. For Esme, Lake Como is a place she has always held dearly in her heart; it is the place where all those years ago she first lost her heart, and perhaps never recovered it. With Floriana and Esme both settled on making the journey to Lake Como, it stands to reason that Adam must accompany them too; after all they need someone responsible keeping an eye on them. Besides which they've both been a marvellous distraction in helping him recover his broken heart. Yet what will lie in store in Italy for them all?

Summer at the Lake is one of those books that you can just completely lose yourself in, James drawing you into her story effortlessly; casting a spell with her wonderfully evoked locations and charming characters. Within a few chapters I found myself quite hooked; and from thereon this book was a perfect escape to dip into whenever I could.

The story centres probably equally between Oxford and Lake Como; both locations brought vividly to life and feeling like characters in their own right really. The three central characters are all delightful; bright and quirky Floriana, wise and graceful Esme and resourceful but reticent Adam. The friendship that blossoms between the three of them, though unlikely, is charming; and I particularly enjoyed both Floriana and Adam's interactions with the elderly Esme. Indeed I thought having Esme in the mix with them brought something completely different to the story; and James did a splendid job of portraying the loneliness that can creep in as one ages, how one's world shrinks, and yet at the same time the range of experiences such a person may hold, which at first glance may well be taken for granted by people around, but if they only take a little interest they may well find themselves surprised. Such it is with Floriana and Adam, who both become intrigued by Esme and the life she has led.

Furthermore, having parts of the book centred around Esme's own experiences in Lake Como as a young lady again added diversity and range to the story. Esme's tender romance set in the 1950s, and her retracing her footsteps in the present day made for a delightful read; and which I thought James integrated well with the rest of the story.

Also interspersed throughout the book are chapters relating back to Floriana's longstanding friendship with Seb, stretching back to childhood and through University at Oxford. James provides a rich and complex history between them; and Seb himself is a somewhat tortured character, who despite his selfish tendencies I couldn't help but still warm to. I actually thought James' portrayal of their relationship was very well done; and what with Floriana's newly developing relationship with Adam, did provide a genuine dilemma for her between these two very contrasting men. However, I personally felt that she did in the end reach the right decision, and enjoyed watching her come to some of the realisations that she did. Themes of friendship and the balance of give and take in relationships, were I thought well explored; and I thought James kept a certain realism in the relationships portrayed, as opposed to overly romanticising them.

A very engaging and satisfying read; and one which now has me desperate to visit Lake Como.
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on 3 July 2014
I really enjoyed this book I loved the characters and the settings. It was great to read. I loved Esme and the way the book followed her younger life. A great read. Now to go and buy another Erica James, as that was my first.
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on 19 July 2014
Another poignant read from Erica! This is a wonderful holiday read set in wonderful historic Oxford, and beautiful Lake Como in Italy. I fell in love with all the main characters.
The novels starts with Floriana who is knocked down by a hit and run , and a wonderful old lady Esme, and a property developer Adam is at the scene, and follows the life of the 3 main characters.
Esme fell in love 60 years ago to a man that was to follow his faith into the priesthood. Floriana has a soulmate Seb who is her best friend, and has fallen in love with someone else, and we go on her journey. Adam's girlfriend has just ended their relationship, and we see all three relationships develop.
I loved it, especially when they all end up going to Italy to attend Floriana's best mates wedding, and the meeting again of Esme and her first love... aww it was so emotional, I loved it! I can't wait for Erica's next novel
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on 9 July 2014
Not one of Erica James best. It must be very difficult to churn out a tale to please your publishers every year. I haven't finished it yet but I will though I skipped some of the back story as it was boring. The old ladies story could have come out in drips and drabs throughout, not in one long piece which takes you away from characters you are beginning to like and want to get to know better.
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on 22 March 2016
Another beautifully written and thoroughly engaging tale from one of my favourite authors that I decided to read when I was laid up with a rotten cold. Made me forget how thoroughly miserable I was feeling. Won't spoil the plot for others because it is a wonderful tale to be explored. Bought this on offer but would've happily paid full price.
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on 28 May 2014
Love Erica James books, she always transports you into the world and characters of her book.
I thought she may not be able to deliver another gem but she has. Have annoyed myself by reading it too quickly.
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on 5 March 2016
Reading this story brought back bitter sweet memories. It's been a deja vu for me, the holiday at the beautiful Lake Como.
I am an old woman now, but the memories are fresh. I enjoyed remembering the time when I was young.
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