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REVIEW:  Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

REVIEW: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

A-Season-of-Storms

A mystery trapped in time…

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…

Dear Ms. Kearsley,

I know you’re hard at work on your newest book so I’ll happily dive into this reissue while waiting. Patiently…. Okay, not so patiently. Before getting started with my thoughts, I’d like to give a shout out to the fine Sourcebook people at Netgalley who worked so hard to make sure the e-arc was ready to read.

Even after reading the blurb I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect here but then that often happens to me when reading one of your books. In fact, that’s one of the things I look forward to – figuring out just what the heck is going on. Usually it takes a while for all the carefully laid pieces to fall into place but once they do, it all makes sense and I see – ah, that’s why this character or that bit of scenery or the whole sequence was so important. I will admit that sometimes patience isn’t my strong point but when I can hold onto my horses and just wait, good things come to me.

There’s a lot of information that must be presented here and I like the authorial use of the one knowledgeable friend up against the know-it-all as a neat way to convey important information rather than the dreaded info-dump or “as you know, Bob” method. After all, I’m sure we’ve all endured a friend or acquaintance who just can’t keep from slipping into lecture mode or one-ups-man-ship. At times during the guided tour of Venice, I had to wonder if it was all necessary but in the end, it is worth the time spent. The visuals of Alex’s country estate, though, are breathtaking. I wanna go there and see that.

Celia is a very Mary Stewart-ish heroine when faced with the handsome, and rich, hero who has a sophisticated woman with her claws in him. Celia is more naïve, innocent and uncalculating which, of course is what draws the hero in. The information at the end when he tells her that he realized all along what the Evil Other Woman was doing and that it had no effect on him was a nice cap to The Smile which told her that he was all hers.

If I ever need to stage a play, I now have a good idea of what I’m in for. I knew there must be a lot of both excitement and tedium that goes into getting a production ready and I think the story conveys it without getting bogged down in the minutia. It’s also an ingenious way to show Celia maturing as an actress, coming to terms with issues in her past then moving beyond them and bonding with two important people in her life. Also yay rah that her two “fathers” are such well rounded characters instead of stereotypes.

The long time setting up the characters, plot and location give a slow acceleration that allowed me the opportunity to get to know everyone and feel the friendships, antagonisms and tensions building. But the feeling of meandering around a bit diluted the menace too. Celia the First’s fate kept getting lost – or rather wasn’t referred to very often, maybe every 100 pages or so. If I didn’t know it was important, I wouldn’t have realized it was important.

The ultimate scheme that’s going on didn’t become clear until nearly the end of the book but when it’s all explained, it makes perfect sense and is totally believable. I like Alex’s view of the treasures of life – there are some things of which we’re merely caretakers during this life and others that would be irreplaceable. We do well to know the difference.

Getting to read “Season of Storms” is a nice way to wait for your next new novel. It’s got the trademark mystery x exotic location x gentle romance. If it takes a little while to finally get to where it’s going, the scenery sure is nice along the way. B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  The Undoing of Daisy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

REVIEW: The Undoing of Daisy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

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Dear Ms. Kaye:

I might not have started this if I’d realized it was part of the Harlequin Historical Undone line, and that would have been my loss. I think of Undones as short, sexy, frivolous stories; this is short and sexy, but far from frivolous.

Five years after the end of World War I, Dominick Harrington is living a half life. His older brother is dead, his mother remarried and moved to America, his younger sister Grace is running wild, and he just struggles to get through each day. When Grace puts him in charge of a beautiful woman who’s stoned out of her mind, Dominick is moved for the first time in years. “There was something — broken, fragile, lost? — in the woman’s face that I recognized.”

Actress Daisy Edwards hoped that a shot of cocaine would make the world brighter on her 30th birthday — a birth date she had shared with her dead husband. Instead she just blacked out, to wake up in a strange bed with a strange man. Her first dreamy sensation of safety turns to terror about what might have happened, until she realizes she’s still fully dressed.

So he hadn’t even tried. I felt curiously insulted, which was strange, because that was the last thing I wanted. Though as I leaned over just the tiniest fraction to take a look at him, I was taken aback to discover my body and my mind didn’t quite agree.

It doesn’t take long for them to act on their newly awakened feelings:

There was a split-second, as her lips touched mine, when I thought This is a mistake, and I almost drew back. And then I didn’t. Her lips were soft, her skin cold. Her hands were icy through my shirt-sleeves, I remember. She kissed as if she wasn’t used to kissing, and I probably did the same, because I wasn’t.

Then something shifted. I don’t know if it was just me. It felt like both of us. We–we found it. Our mouths matched.

There’s very little plot to this short story. It’s all about the setting and the voice — or perhaps I should say voices, since both Dominick and Daisy narrate. Despite how depressed they are, their voices are vivid and alive: both are interesting, mature narrators, who are introspective without seeming like naval gazers. (The short length probably helps.) There are descriptions of clothes and objects that put us in the 1920s, but the setting mostly comes to life though their feelings and conversations, rather than via mention of fads or incongruous jolts of slang; the upheaval and trauma of the war has affected every part of their world and ever fiber of their being, in an almost tangible way. (I was reminded of visiting New York, and seeing the emotional impact of 9/11 everywhere.)

In this atmosphere of loss and upheaval and guilt, it’s hard for Dominick and Daisy to accept feeling emotions around anything else; as if to deny them, both compare their intense longings to addiction:

Dominick:

She was too much, but I hadn’t had enough. In the trenches, there were boys who were addicted to the morphine we were supposed to save for emergencies. In the trenches, it got to be impossible to tell to the difference between what was normal and what was an emergency.

Daisy:

He was my drug, that was all. I’d found my drug, and I was going to keep taking it until I didn’t need it any longer… Dominic was my drug, and I was Dominick’s drug, and we’d use each other, and then when we’d had enough of each other, we’d be–better? I didn’t think that far ahead. Looking back, my capacity for self-delusion astonishes me.

Nonetheless, their passion evolves into an actual relationship, and Dominick begins to realize that life is too short to wish away.

I’m sick and tired of not raising my eyes beyond the horizon of the next twenty-four hours, of not expecting or planing or anticipating. Of not hoping. Of never taking more than a tiny piece of life at a time. Of not allowing myself to want more. I want more, Daisy. I want you.

The book ends with a tentative Happy-For-Now, which seems absolutely right for the characters and the type of story. B

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