Wednesday 22 March 2023

The Venice Secret by Anita Chapman BLOG TOUR #TheVeniceSecret @neetschapman @RandomTTours #BookReview


One hidden painting. Two women born centuries apart. A secret uncovered.

In 2019, Rachel is stuck in a rut when she discovers what appears to be a Canaletto painting in her grandmother's loft along with a note addressed to Philippa in 1782. With help from Jake at the local art gallery, Rachel endeavours to find out if the painting is an original and uncovers a secret from the past.

In 1780, governess at Chipford Hall, Philippa is offered the role of mistress by Earl Rupert. She escapes to Venice as companion to bluestocking, Lady Cordelia who reveals a secret that changes both their lives. They do their best to keep the secret from Lady Cordelia's social circle, but their nemesis is determined to reveal all and ruin them.

The Venice Secret by Anita Chapman was published on 1 March 2023. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

The Venice Secret is Anita Chapman's debut novel, and what a wonderful wonderful read it is. Expertly crafted and beautifully written, this has shot straight into my top books of the year list. 

I do love a dual-time narrative, and this author has done this so very well. It is perfectly paced, with alternate chapters moving between the modern day and then whisking the reader back to 1780. Sometimes, when reading a novel of this structure, it can be easy to become more involved with one of the time lines.  Not this this one!  Both narratives are compelling and thrilling, featuring female lead characters that are so well crafted, so likeable and strong. It's fascinating to look at how their lives differed in the two eras, yet for the male characters, not so much has changed! 

In 2019, Rachel is at something of a crossroads in her life. She's been made redundant, has split from her partner and has found herself living with her mother in the house that they inherited from her grandmother. She has very little money and desperately needs a job.  When she discovers an old painting, wrapped in brown paper, in the loft of the house, she's intrigued. There's also a handwritten note alongside it and it's clear that both the painting and the letter date back hundreds of years. Determined to discover if she's stumbled upon an original painting by Venetian artist Caneletto, she visits a nearby gallery and she and the gallery owner, Jake, embark on a journey to discover the truth.

In 1780, Philippa, the daughter of a local vicar must also find employment. Her father died leaving many debts and she and her mother must now earn their keep. Philippa is taken on as a Governess at Chipley Hall. The master of the house agrees to pay off the debts and give her a reduced income in return. When young Lord Rupert returns from his european Grand Tour, Philippa is more than a little dazzled by him. He's a smooth talker, with lots of experience and naive Philippa appears to be no match for him. 
Caneletto and his paintings form a big part of Philippa and Rupert's story. He brought them back from Venice recently and Philippa finds them to be delightful. 

It becomes clear however, that Philippa cannot stay at Chipley Hall, and accepts an offer from wealthy Lady Cordelia who intends to take her own Grand Tour, to research her latest novel. Philippa will be her companion. With mixed feelings, they set off on the tour, yet once again, it appears that Philippa has been misled, and the rich and wealthy believe that she's a woman who can be manipulated. 

Anita Chapman weaves a magical story, full of colour and life. The descriptions of the journey to Europe is at times quite terrifying,  yet the beauty and splendour of the countryside and sights are joyful. 

The modern day tale is also expertly executed. Dealing with relevant social issues that affect women, and the burgeoning relationship between Rachel and Jake, it's both compelling and intriguing. 

A story to relish and to treasure. I was totally captivated by both the plot and the writing style and can only look forward to seeing what this talented author writes next. Highly recommended. 

Praise for The Venice Secret 

'A beautifully-crafted story of love, loyalty and self-discovery, drawing together past and present in an irresistible romantic mystery.' Nicola Cornick

'Past and present intertwine in this fabulously intriguing mix of history, mystery and romance.' Celia Rees

'An intriguing tale of secrets and love.' Liz Fenwick

'Meticulously researched and a brilliant, intriguing plot that had me turning the pages as fast as I could.' Jules Wake aka Julie Caplin

'A fascinating dual time debut with enchanting descriptions of a vibrant eighteenth century Venice. Beautifully researched and interspersed with an engaging present day mystery, this was a charming read.' Jenni Keer

'A well-researched and beautifully told dual timeline story which takes the reader from present day England to 18th century Venice. Combining intrigue, romance and mystery, I was hooked from the very first page.' Clare Marchant

'The Venice Secret is a thoroughly engaging dual time story set partly in the 18th century and partly in the present. Full of romance, secrets and intrigue, it takes the reader on an exhilarating journey to solve a historical mystery - and what a journey it is! Following the chance discovery by the heroine in the present of a painting that could possibly be by the famous artist Canaletto, she sets out to prove its provenance. Along the way, she also finds herself and a new purpose to her life. Meanwhile, the heroine in the past has to navigate a difficult path between what is right and what her heart tells her to do. We follow both of them via sumptuous country mansions in the UK, across Europe and to the stunning city of Venice, the sights and sounds beautifully described by the author. I felt as though I was there, walking down those narrow alleys, visiting the famous piazzas and travelling along the canals. And as someone who loves programmes like Fake or Fortune, this book was right up my street!' Christina Courtenay

'Anita Chapman takes us on a mystery journey, linked by a painting. A strongly contrasted story with a rich mix of Grand Tours, country houses and genteel eighteenth-century behaviour, threaded with a modern-day heroine and her chaotic lifestyle. Travel from your sofa with this intriguing romance.' Angela Petch

'Anita Chapman sweeps the reader backward and forward in time in this well-researched story. Each character plays her or his part in bringing the dual timelines together beautifully. I recommend you read it!' Sue Moorcroft

'A delightful dual timeline debut. Impeccably researched and perfectly plotted with sumptuous descriptions, fascinating characters, plenty of romance and a captivating mystery. It's got everything I love in a story.' Donna Ashcroft

Anita Chapman enjoyed writing stories from a young age, and won a local writing competition when she was nine years old. Encouraged by this, she typed up a series of stories about a mouse on her mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. She received a polite rejection letter, her first.

Many of Anita’s summers growing up were spent with her family driving to Italy, and she went on to study French and Italian at university. As part of her degree, Anita lived in Siena for several months where she studied and au paired, and she spent a lot of time travelling around Italy in her twenties.
Anita likes to read journals and diaries from the past, and one of her favourite pastimes is visiting art galleries and country houses. 

Her first published novel, The Venice Secret is inspired by her mother taking her to see the Canalettos at The National Gallery in London as a child. 

Since 2015, Anita has worked as a social media manager, training authors on social media, and helping to promote their books. She’s run several courses in London and York, and has worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.


Facebook Page: Anita Chapman Author 
Instagram: @neetschapman

TikTok: @neetschapman

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