Juliet West, author of The Faithful and Before The Fall shares her pick of the best romantic summer reads. 

There’s no denying that romance and summertime make brilliant bedfellows in fiction. It must be something to do with all that uncovered skin, and the balmy nights, and the way that emotions (good or ill) are heightened in hot weather. 

My second novel The Faithful is a love story that opens in the summer of 1935. The book has some dark themes, but it begins on a beautiful July day that’s full of promise. Tom, a seventeen-year-old south London boy, is setting off to the Sussex coast for a seaside camp. There he meets local girl Hazel, and the connection between the two of them is immediate.  Tom and Hazel’s not-so-straightforward romance plays out over months and years, but neither of them will ever forget the intensity of their first summer together. 

As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed a novel with a passionate love story at its heart, and if the weather’s warm and sultry, so much the better. Here are a few of my favourite summer-inspired love stories:

 

Prodigal Summer

Set in the Appalachian mountains, this is a novel of many layers – friendship, community, the natural world - but it’s the passionate affair between reclusive Deanna and a young hunter called Eddie Bondo that sears into the memory.

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Mothering Sunday

I’m cheating a little, as most of the action takes place in springtime. But in my defence, here’s a line from the first chapter: ‘It was March 1924. It wasn’t June, but it was a day like June. A window was flung open, and he walked, unclad, across the sun-filled room as carelessly as any unclad animal.’ This intimate and desperately poignant novel traces the affair between housemaid Jane Fairchild and Paul Sheringham, the young heir to a country estate.

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Atonement

The unforgettable first section of this novel plays out over one smouldering-hot day in the summer of 1935. Cecilia and Robbie are childhood friends who grow up to find themselves irresistibly in love.
But Cecilia’s younger sister Briony is watching . . .

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Brokeback Mountain

Not a novel but a heart-stopping short story about Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, ranch hands who take a summer job herding sheep in the Wyoming mountains. Their intense love affair haunts the rest of their lives. The 2005 film adaptation is breathtaking, but the original story is definitely worth seeking out.

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At First Light

There are many strands to this historical novel, but the driving force is the love story between brothel-owner Alicia Cortez and WW1 veteran John Morales, a mixed-race couple living in Key West, Florida, at a time of violent segregation. It’s tender, tragic and uplifting – all the ingredients of an epic romance, complete with sun-drenched beaches and steamy swamps.

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