The year is 1914 and the people of East Sussex, England are enjoying a lazy summer of midday teas, dinners and dances. A teacher named Beatrice is brought into town the coastal village of Rye, among great controversy, to teach Latin at a local grammar school. Promising doctor-in-training Hugh and his poet cousin Daniel are visiting their Aunt Agatha in Rye too. But beneath these pleasantries, dark clouds are forming. This is, after all, the last summer before World War I.
The novel sheds light on the plight of young women living in small towns during the Edwardian age; even the most successful among them felt great shame and frustration over their finances and marital status. On top of that, the area gossip-mongers only make things worse. In times of war, love and loss can happen suddenly and often concurrently, and the plot really highlights that dichotomy as men are shipped off to battle. For Downton Abbey fans and those who prefer historical fiction with a female focus, this lengthy book is not one to miss.