Seduction, passion and the chance for new love. A terrible truth that will change two lives forever.
Venetia Aston-Montagu has escaped to Italy’s most captivating city to work in her godmother’s architectural practice, putting a lost love behind her. For the past ten years she has built a fortress around her heart, only to find the walls tumbling down one night of the carnival when she is rescued from masked assailants by an enigmatic stranger, Paolo Barone.
Drawn to the powerfully seductive Paolo, despite warnings of his Don Juan reputation and rumours that he keeps a mistress, Venetia can’t help being caught up in the smouldering passion that ignites between them.
When she finds herself assigned to a project at his magnificent home deep in the Tuscan countryside, Venetia must not only contend with a beautiful young rival, but also come face to face with the dark shadows of Paolo’s past that threaten to come between them.
Can Venetia trust that love will triumph, even over her own demons? Or will Paolo’s carefully guarded, devastating secret tear them apart forever?
The clock struck midnight just as Venetia went past the grand eighteenth-century mirror hanging over the mantelpiece in the hall. Instinctively she looked into it and her heart skipped a beat. In the firelight she noticed that he was there again, an almost illusory figure, leaning against the wall at the far end of the shadowy room, steady eyes intense, watching her from behind his black mask. An illusory figure indeed, because when Venetia turned around he was gone.
Venetia shivered. Nanny Horren’s voice resounded through her head, reminding her of the strange Celtic superstitions that the Scottish governess used to tell her. One in particular came to mind. ‘Turn off the light and look into the mirror by firelight at midnight on Shrove Tuesday,’ the old woman would whisper to the impressionable and imaginative teenage Venetia, ‘and if you see a face reflected behind your own, it’ll be the face of the love of your life, the man you will marry someday.’
Was this what had just happened to Venetia? Was this stranger the love of her life?
Rubbish, she remonstrated, laughing uneasily into her own eyes, you’re mad! Haven’t you learnt your lesson? Venetia had indulged in such fantasies several years ago and had only managed to get hurt. Now, she knew better. Still, she did not move away. Venetia leant closer to the mirror that reflected her pale, startled face in the flickering light, as tremors of the warm feelings of yester love suddenly flooded her being. For a few moments she seemed to lose all sense of where she was and felt as though she stood inside a globe, watching the wheel of time turning back ten years.
Gareth Jordan Carter. ‘Judd’. It was a diminutive of Jordan, chosen by Venetia who hated the name Gareth and didn’t care much for the name Jordan either. Judd had been her first love, and as far as Venetia was concerned, her last. She had been young and innocent then; only eighteen. Today, at twenty-eight, she liked to think she was a woman of the world, who would not allow herself to be trapped by the treacherous illusions of passion, however appealing they might seem. She had paid a high price for her naivety and impetuosity.
Venetia tried to shake herself clear of those haunting phantasms and her thoughts ambled back to the masked stranger – well, almost a stranger.
Their brief encounter had occurred the evening of the first night of Il Carnevale di Venezia, ten days before Shrove Tuesday …
Beauty and the Beast:
For the love of legends
For me, researching a book is just as enjoyable as writing it. I set each of my novels in a passionate, romantic country, and so that I can really transport my readers there, I immerse myself in the setting: its history, its scenery, its cuisine, its culture. Top of my research list are local legends – I love colourful, age-old stories; the more fantastical, the better!
Since I was a young girl, tucked up in bed and listening avidly to my governess weaving bedtime tales, I have loved legends. Fairytales too, of course – they sowed the seeds for my romantic nature – but legends fascinated me most: those that have stood the test of time, that offer intriguing explanations for the modern world, that are at once fantastical and yet, somehow, believable.
My novel The Echoes of Love, set in Venice, Tuscany and Sardinia, incorporates various Italian legends – told by the hero, Paolo, who is a raconteur extraordinaire, to my heroine, Venetia – and in my research files I collected many more. What better way to share some of these most romantic, magical and atmospheric tales but in this Echoes of Love ‘Legendary’ Blog Tour!
Today I’m exploring a very famous legend, which has its origins in Italy.
Beauty and the Beast
No doubt you don’t need me to tell you the classic story of Beauty and the Beast: the story abounds in popular culture, from the Disney version to the likes of King Kong. But the original story of Beauty and the Beast is quite different to that commonly drawn upon. It was published in 1550 by writer Giovanni Francesco Straparola of Caravaggio, who was the first European to collect together such folklore and is recognised as the father of the literary fairytale as we know it.
His story was entitled The Pig King:
Once upon a time a barren queen begged a fairy for a child. The fairy worked her magic, but told her that the son would be a pig until he had married thrice. In due course, the queen gave birth to her son – a pig. The king was appalled, and initially planned to cast the pig into the sea. But his paternal instinct won out, and the pig was raised as a child.
When he reached adulthood the prince asked his mother to find him a wife. This she did, but the girl she found, one of three sisters, was revolted by the pig prince and resolved to kill him. The pig got there first, however, and trampled her to death on their wedding night. One wife down!
Next, the prince asked for the hand of his first wife’s sister. History repeated itself. Two wives down!
Finally, the prince married the third sister. She was different to her siblings: gentler, responsive to his affection. The night of their marriage, the prince shed his pig skin, and the two were united as humans. Still, come morning he put on the skin again: he did not know how to be a man out in the world.
So it continued, pig by day, man by night, until his wife told the king and queen of their son’s secret. The king came to the prince’s bedchamber at night, and he destroyed the pig skin. The prince was freed of the curse, the king stepped down and ‘King Pig’ as he was known was crowned. He and his queen lived happily ever after.
The Beauty and the Beast legend – and this original version, in which the Beast struggles to allow himself to let go of his ‘beastliness’ – has particular resonance in The Echoes of Love, because since a terrible accident, Paolo has viewed himself as a Beast: ‘Ever since I woke up in that hospital bed with no memory and a battered body and face,’ he tells Venetia, ‘I’ve regarded myself as an abomination, an abhorrent creature.’ Also like the Beast, he has a rose garden, which is his sanctuary. He explains:
‘Like the Beast I guarded my roses jealously, maybe in the hope that one day a beautiful and kind-hearted lady would enter my garden, close her eyes to my defects and release me from my pain.’
Is Venetia Paolo’s Beauty, with the power to break the spell under which he is living? Will she turn Beast into man? I’m itching to tell you, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending of the book…
Hannah Fielding is a novelist, a dreamer, a traveller, a mother, a wife and an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Her first novel, Burning Embers, is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. Her new novel, The Echoes of Love, is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany. It was picked by The Sun newspaper as one of the most romantic books ever written.
Social media links
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-echoes-of-love-hannah-fielding/1117405658?ean=9780992671839
Follow the tour
If you’d like to read more Italian legends like this, and keep up with the accompanying Very Venetian giveaway in which lots of romantic goodies are up for grabs, follow the Echoes of Love ‘Legendary’ Blog Tour this month:
1 May: Oh My Books!
3 May: Maldivian Book Reviewer
4 May: Krystal Clear Book Reviews
5 May: Romance Junkies
7 May: Book Briefs
8 May: Words I Write Crazy
9 May: Luxury Reading
10 May: The Little Reader Library
11 May: Kristy Centeno
13 May: Love Romance Passion
14 May: MamaKitty Reviews
15 May: Books & Other Spells
16 May: Pages of Comfort
19 May: The Flashlight Reader
20 May: The Window Seat on a Rainy Day
21 May: Simply Ali
22 May: Reviews by Molly
25 May: Reese's Reviews
26 May: Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem
29 May: Tiffany Talks Books
30 May: Reading Between the Wines
31 May: Rites of Romance
WIN in the Very Venetian giveaway
At least one reader commenting on this post will WIN in the Very Venetian giveaway, with prizes totalling more than $600:
· 5 signed hardback copies of The Echoes of Love
· 10 signed paperback copies of The Echoes of Love
· 3 romantic Venetian masks
· Lots of fabulously colourful Murano glass goodies: 16 pendants, 2 bracelets, 2 paperweights and a vase
Anyone who comments on a blog tour stop post will be entered in the giveaway. Simply comment below, including your email address so that Hannah can contact the winners. Good luck! Ends June 1st.