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Under a Dark Summer Sky

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,878 ratings  ·  332 reviews
The Help meets The Perfect Storm in this debut novel set in 1935 in the broiling Florida Keys

Huron Key is already weighed down with secrets when a random act of violence and a rush to judgment viscerally tear the town apart. As the little island burns under the sun and the weight of past decisions, a devastating storm based on the third-strongest Atlantic Hurricane on reco
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published January 13th 2015)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,878 ratings  ·  332 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
2nd Update: Nov. 4th, 2015: $1.99 on Amazon Kindle today! GREAT DEAL for a wonderful book!

Update: This book is $2.99 today on Amazon Kindle! (worth every penny)

5++++++ Stars!!!!!!
However....This is only part 1 of this review: ( check back again - in a day or two):

I'm dying to share with MY FRIENDS... (especially my friends from Goodreads.......hard-to-explain-these -close feelings-to our families of how much this community is a huge part of our hearts):

"Under The Dark Summer Sky", is a WONDERFU
Angela M
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it

This is a well written , well researched story based on the true events of veterans of WWI sent to the Florida Keys to build a bridge instead of being given the bonus they were promised after the war. The working conditions are awful and huge hurricane is on its way.

At Heron Key in 1935 , there's tension in the air - literally and figuratively- a hurricane is coming and racial tensions abound . A brutal beating of a white woman is blamed on an innocent black man , whites only are allowed in the
Diane S ☔
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of the history in this book is actually true, the vets not being given their bonus pay, the racial injustice blacks faced after serving in the armed forces and then returning home to their families. The vets sent to the Florida Keys to build roads and the abysmal conditions they lived in. The hurricane that hit Islamorada in the Keys, though in this book it is called Heron Bay.

But what makes the story are the people on the island, this is the part that is created and the author did a wonde
Iris P
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris P by: Elyse Walters
**Please be aware that my review contains what might be considered spoilers**

Under a Dark Summer Sky a debut novel by author Vanessa Lafaye, is an intense and enthralling piece of historical fiction.

Lafaye, who was born in Tallahassee and grew up in Tampa, has created a great story that blends the true history of a major natural disaster, a love story and a violent (but somehow underwhelming) crime mystery.

This is a fictionalized novel set in Florida during the summer of 1935 as one of the most
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy of Under a Dark Summer Sky. 3 1/2 stars. Based on real historical events, this book tells the story of a small community in the Florida keys in the mid 1930s that was hit by a devastating hurricane. It also tells the story of a group of WWI veterans who were in a work camp in the area at the time. The first two thirds of the book set out the social structure of the community and the relationships between the diff ...more
You'd never believe this is written by a 1st time author! Based on actual events in 1935, involving racial tensions, a woman beaten nearly to death, veterans forced to live and work in deplorable conditions, a childhood romance rekindled, and a horrific, deadly hurricane off the Florida coast. Talk about a page turner, filled with great characters, and plenty of suspense!
Highly, highly recommend for a great summer read!!!
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye was a well written novel that opened up my eyes set in Florida keys in 1935 the locals are preparing for a bbq unaware that the world is about to change forever.

Missy the Kincaid's maid feels that she has wasted her life pining for Henry whom she hasn't seen before the war, now he has returned with a group of other destitute veterans he is unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.

When a white woman is found brutally beaten suspicions fall straight to Henry, tensions
Judy D Collins
A special thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Top 50 Books of 2015 Best Southern Historical Fiction Debut (Florida Keys) racial & social tensions

UNDER A DARK SUMMER SKY by Vanessa Lafaye is a powerful, poignant southern fiction debut, crossing several genres—from history, literary, romance, crime, suspense, and thriller, of secrets and lies, capturing the essence of time and history, racial unrest, social issues, and misplaced war vet
Margaret Madden
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Set in the fictional town of Heron Key, Florida in 1935, this debut novel mixes up fact and fiction to bring the reader through one of the worst hurricanes in history. Not only is the sea rising to dangerous levels and the ever-changing winds confusing the weather forecasters, but the tension in the town has reached its own boiling point. Racial prejudice is rampant and veteran soldiers have arrived in the area to help build a major bridge. The soldiers are a mixture of black and white but are a ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-ebook
This is a début novel - it is good. The story is unique, believable, well-researched, and captures the racial tensions of the 30’s. This is better than a 3 star book, but I can’t quite give it 4 stars – mainly because it’s slow at times and there are too many characters to monitor. Wish the book focused on a few. I did it enjoy it and you might too if you want to read something different that includes second chances and the devastation a hurricane can bring.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Based on a horrific hurricane hitting the town of Islamorada on Labor Day in 1935 and, more specifically, on a video on the Florida Keys historical society website (, Vanessa Lafaye has written a memorable story about the residents of the mythical town of Heron Key. Tensions are running high in the town: white versus black and local residents versus displaced, disgruntled WWI veterans hired to build the highway across the Keys. When a local beauty queen g ...more
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was sad and frustrating at times, reading this book. The era was the 1930s, just after WWI during the Depression. Racism was rampant, especially in the small town of Heron Key in the Florida Keys.

It was hard for me to read, but the courage and determination of the black people kept me interested. I so admired them, and came to like them all. The whites of Heron Key, not so much. Many of them were, quite simply, despicable.

The historic storm that swept through Heron Key was amazing in its' pow
Gini Grossenbacher
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Compelling narrative, exceptional style that brings the characters to life. I love the way the author uses the southern dialect to capture the south in the 1920's.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This fictional book is based on two true events in the Florida Keys, a work camp made up of displaced and disgruntled WW1 veterans, and one of the most devastating hurricanes in history. What was great about the story is how as the barometer drops, the racial tension ratchets up until you just know things are going to explode. I really liked Lafaye's terrifying description of what it might be like to experience a hurricane of that magnitude. I love the Keys, but only to visit!
“The coral beneath their feet was soaked in these old hatreds; it needed to be scraped clean, and then maybe they could make a fresh start.” This is an enjoyable historical novel based on several true-life elements: a work camp of army veterans based at the Florida Keys, segregation and lynching, and a massive hurricane that hit in 1935. Main characters Missy and Henry are well drawn, but beyond them I thought Lafaye splits the perspective too far: I didn’t need to see through the eyes of lots o ...more
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the fictional Florida town of Heron Key in the 1930s, Summertime is a wonderful novel that encompasses the power of nature, the horrors of both war and segregation and the resilience of a small community.

Heron Key is the host town to a group of World War One veterans. These men are hardened, sometimes cruel and badly let down. They returned from the battlefields of France, having fought hard for their country to find nothing for them. The compensation that they were promised by the Govern
A storm is brewing, not only in the ocean, but also on Heron Key, Florida. A group of veterans of WWI, volatile and shelk-shocked, there as part of the public works project to build a road. It is 1935 and the Great Depression has left many hungry and desparate for work. The men are housed in flimsy quarters and conditions are poor. A July Fourth celebration separates the whites from the colored, the country club set from those who serve them. Added to this tension is the arrival of the veterans, ...more
Emma Crowley
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summertime is the powerful, emotive, tension filled début from Vanessa Lafaye. Like the hurricane that is almost a character itself in this book, the story picks you up, holds you in its grip and spits you back out only after it has put you through one hell of a ride. Right from the gator incident in the opening chapter you know you are in for a frightfully good read. This book is different to anything I have read before as the author was brave to take on so many issues for her first book and ha ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-set-in-usa
Novel set in the Florida Keys (A storm is coming...)

A mesmerising story set in the Florida Keys of the 1930s, when America was in the vice-like grip of the Great Depression.

Daily life was easier in this area of the U.S. than for many other states, nevertheless it had its own set of problems. The East Coast Railway stretched down to Key West, bringing tourists to feast upon the still plentiful food and enjoy the luscious beaches. It was also a time of high racial tension. A group of WW1 veterans
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
It is summer 1935. America has come out of the other side of the first world war and is in the midst of the depression. The brave men who fought in the great War have been abandoned by the government who have failed to keep their promises of pensions and other financial support. A large number of them placed in a camp near the tiny Florida community of Heron Key. This was the time of segregation and the tension in the town with so many soldiers nearby is raised further again.

After the July the 4
JaVone Bentley
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading Under a Dark Summer Sky, I was immediately intrigued by the storytelling and was sucked into the novel. The author opens the novel and I could already tell that there was something stirring up. I got an instant sense of uneasiness which compelled me to continue reading as I wanted to know what was making me so uneasy and also whether or not it would ever be settled. The novel moved at a fast pace and started right in the middle of the action.
As far as the characters, ther
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book was very eye opening. I had no idea that Florida was still that backwards. When you hear about lynchings and things it's usually Mississippi or Alabama.
Anyways, this was a very good book I believe a debut. I really felt something for the characters mostly the black ones and as usual, despised the country club folks (the wealthy ones who took advantage).
And to find out the servicemen camped in in humane ways was a true story seriously pissed me off. It's too bad Trent wasn't around
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books-read
Heron Key, Florida 1935. A small town full of prejudices and grievances, the rich the poor, the black the white, there is a lot of tension in this tiny town. And when a horrendous crime is committed against a rich, white woman it doesn't take long for accusations to fly and rumours to start. But over the sea another storm is brewing, the greatest storm to ever hit North America and Heron Key is in its sights.

Based on real events 'Summertime' is a fictional and stunning account of one of the most
Clair Sharpe
Set in the small town of Heron Key, Florida in 1935 everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans.
After the barbeque, a white woman is found badly beaten and suspicion falls on Henry. Tensions rise, just a gigantic storm heads their way.
I loved this read – it was very evocative. The descr
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's 1935 , The war is over, but there is a different ongoing war raging on back at Florida. This book looks at the different treatment between white and coloured people... It is hard for me to fathom this but I know it was all too real. I loved the strong characters in Missy, her Aunt Selma and Mama.... a band of strong women. I felt the day looming when a Hurricane would sweep all away, the massive destruction is unlike what we get in Australia. I cried for all the people who died, such mass l ...more
Dinah Jefferies
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book that will have you reeling by the end when the drama is ramped up. I loved the location, the characters and a story that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. In addition I learnt something new about destitute veterans that I had no previous knowledge of. If you want something a little bit different this it. It would also make a great film.
Tara - Running 'n' Reading
As a native of the Gulf coast (Southeast Texas), I was totally drawn in by this tale of an impending hurricane disaster (historically accurate) and the author's buildup, metaphorically similar to that of the storm, is captivating. Full review to come!
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set during 1935 on the fictional Heron Key, Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye is part social history, part poignant love story, sharing the hopes and dreams of Missy, who is maid and nanny to the wealthy Kincaid family. Having spent most of the years of her prime pinning for Henry, a war veteran who fails to return home from France, imagine Missy’s delight when he reappears amongst a group of veterans working on a nearby Government project. However, Missy’s dreams of finally being with her beloved He ...more
A book read during the season it is set in ✔
4.5 stars
Ellie M
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. Really appreciated - as soon as I saw the book and read the blurb I was keen to read it.

The backdrop of the story is a devastating hurricane (I'd never heard of it but the 'real' story is told by the author in the final pages), and as you read references are made to the barometer changing, which indicates a storm is brewing. This also reflects the general mood of the time. Set in 1930s Florida at the time of racial tensions, this books tells the story
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Vanessa LaFaye was an American born author living in England. A thirst for adventure brought her to Europe in 1987, first to France and then England. She spent many years in academic publishing, including the Oxford University Press. She wrote two acclaimed historical novels set in Florida, Summertime published in 2015 followed by First Light. Her final novel will be published posthumously. LaFaye ...more

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“Where’s it heading?” “Can’t tell yet. It’s playing games with us. Ships are reporting that it moves, then stops, then moves again in a different direction. Like it can’t make up its mind… Reminds me of my first wife.” A dry chuckle. “We expect it to hit the Straits next, unless, of course, it blows itself out.” Jenson had seen many a big storm do exactly that. They were highly temperamental creatures. Even small changes in pressure could eviscerate them. Often in the past, the town had been put on high alert only for the roaring lion to come ashore as a fussy kitten.” 0 likes
“Jenson is a better storm tracker than any of those fancy scientists down in Key West. He can feel a big one coming, just by the wind and the waves and his barometer. If he’s worried, you should be too. For that matter, all of us should.” 0 likes
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