A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant
On her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea’s Sudoku and Mah-jongg Club. The prospect isn’t entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting — an engagement ring from her boyfriend — doesn’t materialize, Gwen decides to go. At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it’s the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and stunning vistas of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment: skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre, and taste-testing pastries at a Marseilles cafe. Revelling in every new experience — especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor — Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within…
While there were parts I enjoyed about this book, I thought the writing was a bit too slow and heavy for me to become really engaged in the plot. I was tickled that Gwen lives in Dubuque, IA, which is my hometown, and liked watching her grow throughout the story. There were some great descriptions of her travels that were probably my favorite due to my love of traveling. But I just never felt that connection to the book due to the pacing, and a lot of times I felt that Gwen’s narrations didn’t match her age; I kept viewing her as much, much older than thirty. Overall I thought it was okay, but not one of my favorites.