I received a complimentary copy of this book (on request) in exchange for my honest review.
Fern is hiding out near the town of Asolo in Italy at the home of her Aunt Susan, an endearing, scatty romance writer. She’s trying to escape the tragedy of losing her fiancé Harry in a devastating fire and blames herself for his death, so she just wants to be somewhere quiet where she can focus on her favourite pastime: painting.
But all too soon, the tranquillity of her refuge is interrupted by strange occurrences. Fern can smell burning and keeps finding a mysterious piece of burnt wood. She keeps hearing someone whispering the name ‘Lorenza’.
She then visits the nearby Asolo Castle and has a strange ‘turn’. It seems that she is experiencing life as it was in the early 1500’s in the guise of Cecelia, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Caterina Cornaro. And from then on, whenever she visits any of the places associated with Cecelia, she quite literally slips back in time and becomes her, experiencing life as it was in the Queen’s court!
Initially we meet Cecelia as a young, chaste lady’s maid, but all that changes when she meets flamboyant artist Zorzo and falls passionately in love with him. They secretly start a relationship and this daringly continues, even after Cecelia becomes betrothed to a loathsome, jealous individual.
As Fern tries to reconcile her present-day life with all that she continues to learn about Cecilia’s life, she becomes more and more intrigued to find out about her. With the help of the magnetic Luca and his mother the Contessa Goredon, she manages to research the era into which she keeps slipping and is able to discover how Cecilia’s life unfolded.
As much as she believes that she is no longer worthy of a loving, stable relationship, she finds herself falling for Luca. His sensitivity to her situation, as well as his constant strength and support are exactly what she needs and yet she still tries to convince herself that she is not allowed to be loved for who she is. She gains a better understanding of herself, and what it means to be loved, despite one’s faults, through Cecelia’s journey, which she identifies strongly with.
Daiko’s writing is beautifully evocative and one is easily able to vividly picture Italy, both now and then. In fact, I went back and re-read certain descriptions, as I was so busy racing through the book to find out what happened that I felt I had missed certain details!
I can’t wait to read her new book, The Orchid Tree, coming out in February, 2015.
Siobhan Daiko’s books are published by Fragrant Publishing.