Sometimes a story really speaks to you. This is one of those stories. It’s a very special moment when you get more than a story from a book, and here you get so much more: inspiration and courage to do what makes your heart sing. It certainly had that effect on me.
One Last Summer
They have the whole summer ahead of them. Is it enough to rekindle the friendship they once shared?
Harriet Greenleaf dreams of spending the summer in a beautiful ancient priory on the Somerset coast with her two best friends—but her dream is bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a chance to reconnect three lives that have drifted apart; on the other, she has a devastating secret to share that will change everything between them forever.
First to arrive is Audrey—the workaholic who’s heading for a heart attack unless she slows down and makes time for herself. Then Lisa, the happy-go-lucky flirt who’s always struggled to commit to anyone—or anything. Ever the optimist, can Harriet remind them of the joy in their lives and the importance of celebrating good friendship before it’s gone?
Through the highs and lows of a long, glorious summer, these three women will rediscover what it means to be there for each other—before they face the hardest of goodbyes.
About the Author
Victoria Connelly studied English literature at Worcester University, got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and now lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a young springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens.
She is the author of two bestselling series, Austen Addicts and The Book Lovers, as well as many other novels and novellas. Her first published novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in 2008 by Ziegler Films in Germany. The Runaway Actress was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Comedy Novel award.
Ms Connelly loves books, films, walking, historic buildings and animals. If she isn’t at her keyboard writing, she can usually be found in her garden, with either a trowel in her hand or a hen on her lap.
Catch up with Victoria via her website , on Twitter @VictoriaDarcy and on Instagram @VictoriaConnellyAuthor. For Facebook users, there’s a reader’s group too:
Harrie, Audrey and Lisa met at university, studying to be teachers. Their friendship was secured at that point, and no matter how much time elapsed between get-togethers, they all knew that they’d have each others’ back.
As the book began, six years had passed since the women last met up. And for Harrie, life had delivered her the mightiest of blows. Having had breast cancer a few years earlier, she then went into remission, but now it was back – and this time it was terminal.
The time had come for her to tell her best friends, and so she booked the Priory for them to spend one last summer together. But telling her friends was not as easy as she thought it would be. You might wonder why she hadn’t mentioned it before, but Harrie is the kind of person who wants to spare them from the upset, trauma and awkwardness of having a friend with cancer. She fully admits she would have kept it from her daughter too, had she not needed her help and support.
Now at the Priory, the three women immediately resumed where they left off, catching up on the last six years – except Harrie was still not forthcoming. On hearing her friends reveal their own issues, she felt she simply couldn’t ‘dump’ the bad news on them, and decided to stay quiet.
Audrey had started her own school, and was obsessed with work – she couldn’t switch off, no matter how many times she was chided for checking her emails (yes, she brought her laptop with her!) All work and no play was about to take its toll, and when Audrey collapsed with a later-diagnosed heart problem, Harrie knew she was right to stay quiet.
Lisa, on the other hand, was struggling to find something in life that really excited her. Working as a supply teacher paid the bills, but she hated the fact she was still renting her house – at her age! Harrie knew Lisa’s mum had died from cancer and she was fully aware how this had affected her, despite it being many years ago. This was another reason for Harrie’s decision to not tell them.
But Harrie hadn’t banked on her daughter, Honor, struggling with the idea that her mum’s original plan had fallen by the wayside because she (Harrie) was too concerned for her own friends’ feelings.
Wow! Harrie was really that strong, and Honor couldn’t sit back and watch her mum fret over others when she felt it was her mum who deserved so much more in her final months.
Another key player in getting Harrie to tell all was Mrs Ryder, the housekeeper / cook, whose brusque manner initially put the fear of God in the three women. Mrs Ryder was a no-nonsense woman, and her constant criticisms of Harrie’s vegan diet brought moments of humour and absolute clarity to the story. She recognised Harrie as an ill woman, and made her a meat pie because she needed ‘building up’.
When Harrie finally came clean, Audrey felt guilty for having not been there for her friend, and Lisa retreated into her own world, recalling how her mother’s death had impacted her life. Over time, the three women finally came to terms with Harrie’s fate, and they spent the remainder of the holiday living life to the full – their final party was a joy!
There were a few subplots that ran alongside the main story that gave it even more impetus. Harrie befriended the stonemason, Samson, who was restoring the Priory during their stay. Their friendship was subtle, sweet and made me wish Harrie had more time. Together, they explored old churches and enjoyed each other’s company.
By the end, all three women had been changed dramatically by that summer holiday. Audrey began to see that maybe the school – and all the work that came with it – was not really the best thing for her health or her marriage. Her husband, Mike, was a sweetheart, and had plans of moving out of London and back to the coast. Audrey, however, had been blind to his ideas – until now.
Lisa, who enjoyed yoga and often practised in the grounds of the Priory caught the attention of the young gardener. Her nurturing of him and his back pain, as well as encouraging him to follow his dreams, led to her finally realising that she should take her own advice. Supported by Audrey and Harrie, she too found herself a new future, doing something she loved.
For both Audrey and Lisa, none of this would have been possible if Harrie had not booked that long summer break. And they both knew she would approve of the changes they ultimately made.
Oops, did I mention how stunning the Priory was? Beautifully brought to life by the author, making me feel like a guest there myself.
This is the kind of inspiring book that really has an impact on its readers – me, included. The strong message to follow your dreams and do what makes you happy resonated with me totally. As a result I’ve taken up watercolours again – something I’ve not done since school, but always said I’d resume one day. Well, now is the time and I’m booked on a course next month ( I’ve bought my paints, brushes, paper, etc already because I am that excited!) Thank you Harrie, and the author too, because the future is not something any of us can guarantee.
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