Summer Fever
Date Published12 May 2022
Price£ 7.99

Summer Fever

by Kate Riordan

A young British couple have converted an isolated, old Italian villa into a guesthouse and their first booking will go a long way towards paying off the debts they have accrued.


When their final round of IVF seemed about to fail, Laura and Nick bought an old, run down villa with grounds and outbuildings, in the countryside in the Marche region of Italy. They have used nearly all their savings to convert it into a guesthouse and a lot of building work still remains to be done, especially with regard to the outbuildings.

Their first booking is from an American couple, Madison and Bastion, who want to take the best room for a three-week holiday. Laura has researched Madison via social media and appears rather apprehensive about the arrival of this attractive, confident American. Nick and Laura have to think hard about how to treat their first guests. Nick does the cooking, but they are uncertain how much of their lives to share. All uncertainties are removed when Madison arrives and starts to organise all of their lives. They even all gate-crash a party given by their neighbour, Ivan.  

The story is set in a very hot summer when there have been a number of earthquake tremors in the region. The Italian story is interspersed with a story about Laura when she was at university, some years ago, with her friend Lou, who has always been honest and open with Laura. When Lou comes for a week’s holiday in Italy, Bastion is attentive to them both and Laura’s friendship with Lou only just survives the week.

It takes a long time to realise that there is a plot in this book. Laura, and Lou are both of an age and temperament to think that life is all about men, sex and alcohol. Despite this they do show some awareness of the way in which attitudes have changed towards equality, but Laura’s, and indeed Maddison’s, understanding of such views is superficial to say the least. Most of the psychological angst concerns what is in Laura’s head, and the writing focusses on describing what she does and how she feels, and how she reacts to other people. Her many insecurities are certainly a problem for her.

There are a few descriptions that relate to Italy: a paragraph at the beginning about the external view of the villa; a mention of the terraces, the swimming pool and the vine-wrapped pergola; a brief description of a neighbouring garden that might have been classical in the past; an equally brief description of crowded streets in Urbano with an even briefer reference to the many medieval festivals for which the region is known; and the addition of the occasional Italian word. Despite these somewhat superficial details, I sometimes wondered why Italy was chosen as a setting for the story as it ends up lacking any strong sense of place. The reference to how to order food in a restaurant is misleading and there is an underlying assumption of stereotypical views of Italians, all of which could be deliberate way of demonstrating the shallowness of the main characters.

On the plus side, the writing feels comfortable and the plot does eventually command attention, providing a pleasant, light read for a lazy beach or poolside holiday.

Reviewed 29 April 2023 by Sylvia Maughan