Last Summer is a searing story of love, lies, and deceit.
Ella Skye is a lifestyle journalist living in San Francisco with her handsome and successful husband, Damien. She vividly recalls every celebrity she has ever interviewed, every politician she charmed, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. She remembers her chance meeting with Damien, how quickly they fell in love, their intimate wedding, and, in particular, one conversation before their wedding about their individual dreams for the future.
What she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ended her pregnancy. Or even being pregnant.
Damien is distant, seemingly devastated at the loss of their unborn son, Simon. As Ella recovers from her injuries and searches for clues about the memories she has lost, she is assigned to conduct an interview with Nathan Donovan, an adventurer and retired reality tv star, who seems to know more about her than she does about him. And the feelings Ella develops for Nathan seem eerily familiar, even though Ella recalls nothing about their prior encounter.
To unravel the mystery behind her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska where she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her — she’s hiding them from herself.
Ella learns that some truths are best left forgotten. . . . Or are they?
Kerry Lonsdale is the author of the popular Everything series. She reveals that the concept for Last Summer presented her with her greatest writing challenge to date because she “would be dealing with characters who went against my own moral compass. I’d have to push myself as much as I did them.” Determined, she set out to write “an unputdownable page-turner that is as entertaining as it is unpredictable.” She has succeeded spectacularly.
With Last Summer, Lonsdale turns again to the topic of memory loss. But in this story, the memory loss is not all-encompassing and the amnesia victim has not taken on a new identity and whole new life. Rather, Ella remembers everything about her life up until dinner on the evening of the car accident that killed her unborn child. As the story opens, she awakens in the hospital with no memory of how she got there. She can recall what she cooked for dinner, but not why she left right after, why she was driving, or where she was going. Worse, she doesn’t even remember being pregnant. She has no recollection of the physical feelings of pregnancy, much less an emotional connection to the child she was carrying. When she must convince Damien that she truly does not remember, he exclaims, “You weren’t supposed to forget him,” a comment that baffles Ella, leaving her wondering what would provoke him to say such a thing.
Because of her memory loss, Ella doesn’t experience the psychological pain of losing her unborn child in the ways that an expectant mother normally would. But by all appearances, Damien is mourning the loss, and the grief that he is largely bearing alone is driving a wedge between them. Damien is also distracted by the loss of several clients and an ongoing investigation into the possible sabotage of his company — by his own father. The needs of his business take him away from Ella for meetings with lawyers and investigators just when she most needs his support and understanding.
You weren’t supposed to forget Simon.
When Ella is assigned by her editor to interview Nathan Donovan, Ella cannot let on that she has no idea who he is. And Damien provides little insight. In this, as other areas of their life that Ella has forgotten, Damien provides scant information to assist her effort to recover her memories. He does not provide answers to her questions, promising he will sit down and talk with her detail . . . later. Ella grows increasingly frustrated. The medical advice she has been given — to talk about the past, immerse herself in familiar surroundings, and surround herself with familiar people in order to bring back her memories — simply doesn’t work. Her life as a woman expecting a child simply doesn’t feel like her own.
Surprisingly, however, Damien emphatically asks Ella not to travel to the Lake Tahoe area to interview Nathan, telling her, “Do me a favor. Think before you go. Ask yourself if you really want to remember.” Ella has also forgotten the ten days she spent with Nathan last summer, or what happened to make him suddenly back out of the exclusive story he promised the magazine. She is perplexed by the fact that, although she keeps meticulous records of her work, she can’t find any evidence of her research on Nathan, or notes or recordings of their prior interview. She is forced her to decide between trying to conceal her memory loss from Nathan or simply being honest, risking Nathan’s wrath about having to conduct the entire interview all over again. The story and Ella’s future with the magazine are both at stake.
Lonsdale gives readers a clue as to what has happened to Ella via a short prologue. But it is merely a glimpse at the possibilities. Lonsdale keeps readers guessing as Ella searches for the truth. The tragedies that Ella has survived have made her the strong but troubled woman that she is: one who quickly throws herself headlong into relationships, a character trait with which some readers will easily relate. In Ella, Lonsdale has crafted a female protagonist who is empathetic and likable, despite the professional compromises and poor choices she has seemingly made over the years, and the regrets she carries. As she struggles to piece together and make sense of the events of her immediate past, she has fleeting sensations that make her increasingly suspicious that Damien is hiding something from her — something powerful enough to destroy their marriage. She is convinced they were arguing right before the car accident . . . but about what? She is consumed by guilt — about the accident, as well as another tragedy in her past that she feels she should have prevented.
Likewise, Lonsdale has bestowed upon Damien a troubled family background and failed first marriage — as well as one explosive secret — which inform his outlook, motivations, and choices. She adds Nathan to the mix — a sexy, fit, adrenaline junky who is convinced that his lust for adventure brought unspeakable tragedy to his family.
Last Summer is an inventive take on a provocative question: Can what you don’t know hurt you? Lonsdale’s plot twists and turns, full of red herrings and jaw-dropping surprises that make readers question which character, if any, they should be rooting for. It’s more than just a fast-paced, tautly-constructed mystery. Last Summer is a sneakily sophisticated exploration of the power of secrets to destroy or unite, and the consequences of a secret promise that yields unexpected results. Lonsdale examines the impact of manipulation and deceit — even lies told in the name of love — upon the lives of three highly intelligent, accomplished, but damaged individuals. She ends the book with a final, chilling revelation that will take readers by complete surprise . . . and leave them clamoring for a sequel.
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