Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic,
In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Asconio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed. Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Asconio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands–at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Asconio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance–and to the compelling enigmatic Alessandro. But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back… (from book cover)
This is not the first book that I’ve read by Susanna Kearsley, but upon inspection of my files, I’ve realized that it is the first I’ve reviewed. That is a problem, and one I intend to remedy with a quickness because I adore Susanna Kearsley’s work. She has written several other great books in the same style as Season of Storms, and frankly, I think the others I’ve read were better.
There was plenty to like about this book. It’s set in Italy, in a beautiful villa, and there are maps in the front of the book so you can get the truest sense of the place. The elements of intrigue that draw parallels between past and present are sewn cleverly into the fabric of the story–you almost don’t sense yourself falling into the story, until you look back and realize that you’re in. I’m pretty sure I’ve dreamed Italian villas for two nights in a row now. So there’s that. 😉
I liked the characters well enough, although sometimes I felt like the main Celia (modern day Celia) was either not entirely fleshed out, or just a pansy. SPOILER ALERT: Okay, so there’s this one situation that presents itself several times… Celia finds herself both attracted to and receiving attention from a main character, but according to something Celia’s seen/heard/whatever, he’s in a relationship. Celia isn’t comfortable with her own interactions with him, in light of that. Even though she despises the other woman, she just can’t come to grips with being the OTHER woman. That’s fine–I admire that in a character–I just don’t understand why she didn’t just call him out on it. It would have been a really quick conversation.
“Yo, dude, don’t you have a girlfriend?”
“Why of course not? Whatever gave you that idea?”
Then it would be out of the way and she could stop being wishy-washy.
I suppose that wouldn’t be convoluted and dramatic enough though.
Throughout the course of the book, Celia does seem to be attempting to “find herself” and adjust to the tumult of a big career advancement, so I would guess that the indecision is meant to correlate back to that somehow. I just don’t think that the specific situation with her man fit very well with her character. If she were real, she would have called him on it immediately, and found out from him if he actually did have a girlfriend.
I guess that’s a positive for the book–I feel like I know the main character and what she would do, better than she actually did.
Beyond that, my main complaint with the book was that it seemed to drag a bit through the historical details. I love my history, but in historical fiction at least, I tend to think you should not feel like you’re slogging through details.
I should also mention that, regardless of my fangirl nonsense over Celia’s love life, it is a remarkably light romance. The romance is presented with generalities, and more is implied than is actually said, making this appropriate for most readers.
If you enjoy historical fiction, or these Gothic mysteries, by all means, walk don’t run to the nearest library (or bookstore) and check this one out.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars