The Venice Sketchbook

Lake Union: Amazon. Apr. 2021. 412p. ISBN 9781542027120. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781542027113. $14.95. F
A clever prologue referring to Romeo and Juliet sets the stage for Bowen’s (“Royal Spyness” and “Molly Murphy” series) diverting romantic adventure in Venice, complete with intrigue, mystery, and, woe. On her first trip to Venice in 1928, 18-year-old Juliet “Lettie” Browning falls in love with both the city and Leo, the handsome heir of Conte Da Rossi. The trip sets in motion events that result in Lettie’s unexpected life in World War II Venice. In 2001, Caroline, Juliet’s grand-niece, retreats to the family home when her marriage disintegrates. Aunt Lettie dies during Caroline’s visit and leaves her a box containing two sketchbooks, three keys, a diamond ring, and glass beads. Caroline travels to Venice to scatter Lettie’s ashes, where she unravels the mystery of the items in the box and learns that Aunt Lettie was far from the proper English art teacher she seemed. What fun it is to follow the clues with Caroline as the significance of each object is revealed in Juliet’s diary, leading Caroline to a surprise inheritance.
VERDICT This novel’s engaging entertainment is enhanced by its dual time line that uncovers Juliet’s secrets, and a plot enlivened by coincidences and romance. A must-read for Bowen fans and historical fiction enthusiasts.
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