A legendary ruin. An ancient mystery. Will unveiling the past transform the future?
San Francisco, 2007. Madeline Moretti is grieving for her fiancé. Nothing brings her joy any more, and Maddie’s grandmother, a fiery Italian, sends her to Tuscany to heal. Here, Maddie is immersed in the mystery of a ruined villa. Destroyed centuries ago in a legendary storm on the Eve of St Agnes, it has been known ever since as the Casa al Vento – the House of the Wind.
Tuscany, 1347. Mia hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death, and lives in silence with her beloved aunt. One dark night, a couple seek refuge in their villa. Used to welcoming passing pilgrims, Mia is entranced by the young bride’s radiance and compassion, but mystified by her reluctance to reveal even her name. Where has she come from, and why must her presence be a secret?
Centuries apart, each searching for a way to step into her future, Mia and Maddie will be haunted by the myth of the woman who walked unscathed from the ruins of the House of the Wind.
I really wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did. I adore historical fiction and I love the cleverness of concurrent storylines, centuries apart, having bearing on each other, but this just didn’t work for me.
The problem for me was that it was just too darned slow. Hardy uses achingly beautiful prose that absolutely sings off the page, but the plot unfolds at a maddeningly sedate pace, not just in one timeline, but in both. As a result, I grew bored with the characters, their loss, their pain, their motivation, and their relationships, and grew tired of waiting for everything to happen.
The fact is, that the same writing device has been used before to better effect (if you’ve read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, you’ll know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t read it, I can heartily recommend it!) and I found myself forever waiting for something other than the writing to excite me. Truly, the writing often verges on the sublime and I give it a higher rating as a result, but it was let down by pedestrian plot and plodding pace.
I will be interested in reading more by Titania Hardy if only to see if the tale is worthy of the writer’s obvious talent with words.
Reviewed by kell Smurthwaite