In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio 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’Ascanio 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’Ascanio’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…
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.
Excerpt from Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Bryan was waiting for us now beside the bar, with his back to the elegant windows whose curtains had not yet been drawn against the waning evening light. From the level of Scotch in his glass I could tell that he’d been here a while, which meant that we were late, since Bryan was always dead on time.
The Scotch had strengthened his Aussie drawl. “We did say seven,” he reminded Rupert, leaning round to kiss my cheek. “Happy birthday, Angel.”
“Thanks.” I kissed him back. “It’s my fault, really—”
“We were over to St. Paul’s Church,” said Rupert. Greeting the barman, he ordered a Scotch for himself. “And what will you have, Celia? Sherry? Right. And a glass of the Amontillado, please.”
“And what were you doing,” asked Bryan, “at St. Paul’s?” But he knew. I could tell from the smile at the edge of his eyes. Bryan had marvelous eyes—they could speak in a silence.
He was older than Rupert by several years, but seemed younger for some reason, maybe because he was more energetic, less languid, more given to moods. His face, too, was sharper in outline, expressive, with that prominent jaw and cleft chin that seemed somehow reserved for Australians. His skin, after twenty-odd years in our pallid weather, still bore the marks of a youth spent in subequatorial sunshine, creased deeply round his eyes and mouth to reveal the way he smiled. He’d looked the same for as long as I could remember—restless activity kept him from ageing. His golden hair had only just started to show at the temples the grey that had long ago sneaked into Rupert’s.
Since childhood I had played a secret game of giving roles from Shakespeare’s plays to the people around me. Bryan I had cast as Romeo and Juliet ’s Mercutio, witty and clever and swaggering around with a sword in his hand, whereas Rupert was more of a Brutus from Julius Caesar, reflective and careful. They balanced each other, like all well-matched couples.
They’d met quite by chance in the year of my birth, on a lazy hot Sunday in St. James’s Park. Bryan had still had his dog then—a lurcher named Oscar—who’d taken a liking to Rupert in passing and bounced him clean over. “And that,” Bryan told me, “was that.”
In the theatrical world, where people changed partners the way they changed socks, Bryan and Roo were a rarity. Bryan and Roo—I always thought of them like that, like bookends, each one incomplete without the other. Theirs was the only truly stable relationship I’d ever observed. It helped, I think, that Bryan was not theatrical. He worked in R and D for a pharmaceuticals firm, probably the furthest thing from Rupert’s world and mine one could imagine. Having lived for years at a microscopic level, he saw things with precision.
“You’ve had your letter, then,” he said, “from Italy.”
“How did you know about that?”
He shrugged. “Roo told me it was coming. And you have that look you get when you’re trying to make up your mind about something. You haven’t decided?”
“Not yet, no.”
Picking up his glass again he nodded understanding. “It’ll be the name thing. If you want my opinion—”
Rupert interrupted. “We’ll just let her make her own decision, shall we?” Passing me my sherry, he said, “Now then, do you want your presents now, or after dinner?”