Let’s just get one thing out of the way up-front: I am a sucker for anything Spanish. So when I found a romance—a literary erotic romance—set in Mallorca, Spain, I was pretty much sold. And when I started actually reading The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh, I wasn’t “pretty much” sold, I was completely sold.
Walsh’s prose is gorgeous. The beach town setting is the perfect backdrop for this sultry book. Through lines like “the dark hangs damp in her lungs. Sea dampness: salty and lucid and nicked with the scent of pines,” Walsh makes Deia into another character, a town buzzing with heat and sexual energy. Though the story takes place in the lazy, sexy heat of a Spanish summer, the characters create plenty of tension themselves.
Jenn and Greg are a married couple on their yearly trip to Deia. Greg’s daughter—and Jenn’s stepdaughter—Emma comes partway through the vacation with her new boyfriend, Nathan. The next week is a blur of attraction as Jenn and Nathan are inexplicably drawn to each other. The intensity of their affair is what attracted me to it, but the complexities between them are what really kept me reading. This isn’t your standard hidden affair. Walsh gives Nathan and Jenn a secret passion that pulls them together. The power dynamics between them as they balance their motherly and boyfriend duties to Emma and muddle through the age difference were really interesting. Not to mention the sheer erotic power of their affair…which isn’t only interesting, it’s intoxicating.
This isn’t only a May/December romance, though. Through Jenn and Greg’s marriage and Jenn’s relationship with Emma, The Lemon Grove is also a deep look at the intricacies of family life, the little (and big) secrets and disappointments that make up the fabric of a family. The family dynamics were the other big way that I got pulled into this book. I could see myself as Emma, the young daughter just figuring out love and I could just as easily imagine myself as Jenn. These characters seem real.
Read this book if you want something sexy and complex, with plenty of talk about drinking Rioja and swimming in the sun. Read it if you want to daydream about a vacation in Spain. Read it if you like novels that read as if the plot is pulled taut on a wire, ready to blow up at any moment. Read it if you want to be drunk with the language of a good book. Read it if you’re on the beach, on a plane, in your bed, anywhere. This is going to be one of my top summer recommendation books.
On-sale today, June 3, 2014.
Helen Walsh was born in Warrington, England, in 1976. Her second novel, Once Upon a Time in England, was the winner of a Somerset Maugham Award. She now lives in Liverpool.
Find out more on her website.