What are the ingredients of a perfect romance novel? According to Hannah Fielding, author of The Echoes of Love, “escapism with a plausible plot, a little suspense, magnificent surroundings and characters that are real and compelling” is the answer. Her novel is certainly full of sumptuous surroundings in Venice, Tuscany, Sardinia, and a little bit takes place in a grand home in England. She builds a plausible life for her main character, Venetia, as an architect/mosaic restorer in a firm owned by her godmother and her husband in that enchanted, romantic city of Venice where she meets many of the wealthy and aristocratic owners of historic mansions slowly sinking into the famous canals. She has Venetia reveal new and innovative ways of restoring and rescuing them.
The sights and sounds of Venice come alive in the carnival atmosphere of Martedi Grasso, in the grand piazze (public squares) of Venice, in the cafés and night clubs, and in the beautiful marble ballrooms. Venetia is a believable character and a great foil for the mysterious Paolo who shows up at the most fortuitous times, rescuing her from assailants in a dark and misty narrow street of Venice, but also at the most infuriating times when she would prefer to be alone or resents his assumptions that his presence will be welcome. While Venetia is drawn to him, her past has made her guard her emotions closely and she is reluctant to allow herself to become involved; she prefers to be aloof and independent.
Fielding’s descriptions are evidence of her status as a wordsmith:
The moonlight glistened down on the lagoon that surrounded the city, so bright and clear in the velvety blue night, and music came floating over the sea from every corner. The heart of Venice was still throbbing with merriment. The revelry promised to go on until dawn, which was still some time away.
There is magic in the air tonight, Venetia told herself as she watched the rows of stately marble palazzi pass by before her eyes, their almost Moorish facades bathed in floods of silver light. She had never found the scenery so enchanting, even though she had been taking this journey twice a day for the past three years.
The suspense is created by Venetia’s unwanted suitor, Il Conte Umberto Palermi di Orellana, clearly not a person to be trifled with or underestimated, and Paolo’s fatherly interest in his groundskeeper’s niece, a wild, unpredictable girl who has no genuinely tender feelings for anyone, has been misunderstood by the girl who boldly declares, “if I can’t have you, no-one will”. Add to this a secret Paolo keeps to himself that makes him often sad and melancholy and you have a recipe for a tragic ending. Possibly.
I didn’t find it a terribly suspenseful plot but it definitely held a great romance. I thought Paolo’s mysterious secret required a “willing suspension of disbelief” but it made for an out-of-the-ordinary twist and the descriptions of the various places in Italy were wonderful; at times you could almost taste the food. I hope all the places were real because I want to eat at all the places Venetia and Paolo ate at, in all the different cities and towns they travelled through. It’s a long book and it took me almost a week to read but, for the most part, I enjoyed it very much. * * *