Friday, July 10, 2015

Aloha to Susanna Kearsley and SEASON OF STORMS - Book Review


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...

A storm brewing in Lanakai, Hawaii

Storms make trees take deeper roots. - Dolly Parton

SEASON OF STORMS was first published in 2001.   Sourcebooks rereleased this title with the following note from Susanna:

This book was first published when emails were rare and nobody I knew owned a cell phone.  to update the story's technology would have unraveled the story itself, so I've left the things the way I first wrote them, and hope you'll indulge me.

I won this book last summer during a Sourcebooks promotion. Although I enjoyed other books from Susanna, the book's thickness - 504 pages - intimidated me.  Last week, I cracked open the book and I could not put it down.  Told from the heroine's perspective, Celia Sands (known as Celia Sullivan in the theater world) is a struggling actress with a dwindling bank account and a roommate moving out.   Her roommate gives Celia one last reading from the tarot cards, predicting an adventure  wrapped in a mystery.  The adventure comes as the leading role in Il Prezzo - The Price.  Written by eccentric poet Galeazzo D'Ascanio, the play will be staged on the same theater he built for the play's muse, English actress Celia Sands.  

Alessandro D'Ascanio, the poet's grandson, hires Celia on the condition she uses her given name.  The fact that the two actresses share the same name will a marketing ploy to spotlight D'Ascanio's restored estate on Lake Garda, Il Piacere del Vecchio, The Pleasures of an Old Man.  Celia enjoys a love/hate relationship with the infamous actress.  Her feckless mother gave her the actress' name on a whim.  As such, modern Celia refers to her namesake as Celia the First. 

Modern Celia arrives in Venice with acclaimed director and surrogate father Rupert.  They soak up the local sights which influenced D'Ascanio during the Great War.  Venice is also where D'Ascanio met Celia the First.  As Celia considers how their romance blossomed along the canals, Kearsley plants the seeds of the coming mystery. 

The story moves to Lake Garda, where cast and crew meet their host, Alessandro.  Half Italian, half English, he asks them to call him Alex but remains distant from his guests.  The cast begin rehearsals in the estate's ballroom while Alex overseas the theater's renovations.  As storms roll in, Gothic elements seep into the story with missing servants, ghost sightings, and clandestine meetings. The mysterious events only intrigue the merry band of actors.  Like true thespians, they immerse themselves in the poet's life by admiring his objects de art, including a chalice stolen by the Fourth Crusade's sacking of Constantinople.  They discover secrets about the celebrated poet, his muse,  and even themselves.

The absence of today's technology enabled the characters to engage in the lost art of innocent pleasures, such as an afternoon drink on the terrace, lively debate at the dinner table, and reading classics found in the poet's library. Kearsley weaves the stories of Sophocles, the Fourth Crusade, and the Great War into the plot as conversations topics, inspiring the actors to reflect on their own lives. 

Recommended read for fans of historical fiction, modern Gothic romance, and Italian culture. 

Conquest Of Constantinople By The Crusaders In 1204
Public Domain (link

I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  What do you know about Venice, Lake Garda, and/or Italia?  

As I learned from SEASON OF STORMS, the Fourth Crusade to Jerusalem stopped in Venice for provisions.  After a series of political manipulation, the Crusaders joined the Venetians in sacking Constantinople, creating the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eight hundred years later, Pope John Paul II apologized, 

"It is tragic that the assailants, who set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret."  

Yes, I love history!

2.  Comments are open through Saturday, July 18, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, July 19.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Check out my review of Susanna's other modern Gothic novels, THE SPLENDOR FALLS (link) and THE SHADOWY HORSES (link).



  1. I visited Venice in 2000 - enjoyed it very much -would love to get more time there - maybe someday I'll get back - wish it wasn't such a long flight!

    1. Back in 1991, I visited Army friends in Germany ... and we drove to Venice. I'll try to find the picture of us on the canal. Venice is a magical city!

  2. Venice is a popular tourist destination, noted for its fine art and architecture. Because of the many canals, transportation in Venice is primarily by gondola. I would love to visit Venice some day.

    1. This book will take you away in my mind to Italy ... worth the read!

  3. I read The Shadowy Horses and enjoyed it. As for Venice, I have learned it is actually much smaller in size than I thought. Would be a fun place to visit.

  4. I saw some show a few years back that said that Venice is sinking faster than previously thought.

  5. I've never been to Italy but would love to go. When I do I definitely want to visit Venice!!

  6. Venice is slowly going under water!

  7. I have never been to Venice myself. But a while ago I watched a documentary about it. Beautiful houses and canals it showed :)

  8. I do know something of the history of Venice through my reading.

  9. I visited Venice when I toured Italy between semesters when I studied abroad.

  10. I know Venice only through my reading.....

  11. I know more about Sicily since that's where all my ancestors came from. I would love to visit Italy.

  12. I've visited a few places in Italy. Rome and Assissi were my favorites. I did love Northern Italy.........breath taking.

  13. The only thing I know about Venice re the gondola rides you can take and the only reasons I know about those is because we have a hotel here called The Venetian that's supposed to be kinda Venice like and they have gondola rides around the little river they have.

  14. I don't kow anything about them. Thanks for the review.

  15. there are canals in Venice

  16. I know that Venice is very popular for their canals.

  17. This book hits many of my like buttons: historical fiction, modern Gothic romance, mystery. I buy some of the old gothics I find at thrift stores since not many new ones are coming out. Susanna Kearsley's books sound like they will fill that void. Thank you for the reviews and giveaway.

  18. I know nothing about the places you mentioned - Italy would be a lovely place to visit.

  19. Nothing really; I hear Italy is wonderful. And I am Italian, but born here.
    Helen L.