Thursday 23 May 2024

The Secret Daughter of Venice by Juliet Greenwood BLOG TOUR #TheSecretDaughterofVenice @julietgreenwood @Stormbooks_co @rararesources #AuthorGuestPost


The paper is stiff and brittle with age as Kate unfolds it with trembling hands. She gasps at the pencil sketch of a rippling waterway, lined by tall buildings, curving towards the dome of a cathedral. She feels a connection deep in her heart. Venice.

England, 1941. When Kate Arden discovers a secret stash of drawings hidden in the pages of an old volume of poetry given to her as a baby, her breath catches. All her life, she has felt like an outsider in her aristocratic adoptive family, who refuse to answer any questions about her past. But the drawings spark a forgotten memory: a long journey by boat… warm arms that held her tight, and then let go.

Could these pictures unlock the secret of who she is? Why her mother left her? With war raging around the continent, she will brave everything to find out…

A gripping, emotional historical novel of love and art that will captivate fans of The Venice Sketchbook, The Woman on the Bridge and The Nightingale.

The Secret Daughter of Venice by Juliet Greenwood was published on 22 April 2024 by Storm Publishing. As part of this Blog Tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources I am delighted to share a guest post written by the author. 

Guest Post from Juliet Greenwood, author of The Secret Daughter of Venice

The motivation of characters – for good and ill! 

One of the characters I most loved to hate while I was writing The Secret Daughter of Venice, was that of the contessa, the heroine’s grandmother and owner of a faded Renaissance palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. As Kate gradually uncovers, it’s the contessa’s machinations that lie behind the central events of the story, driven by a ruthless bid for power. 

Pure evil is fun to write, but it’s even more satisfying when it’s not, like Lady Macbeth, who sticks in the mind, like so many of Shakespeare’s characters, exactly because she isn’t simply a carboard cut-out of a murderess. After all the ruthless dispatching of all who stand in her way, it’s the sleepwalking scene at the end that brings Lady Macbeth alive. For the audience, having just seen the murder of a woman and her children, the line ‘the than of Fife had a wife: where is she now?’ is chilling, as that of woman waking up to the reality of what she has set in motion, and which can never be lived with, let alone undone. 

While it’s Lady Macbeth’s humanity that drives her mad, the contessa remains horribly sane, unable to face the consequences of her actions on her many innocent victims. All the same, I could see where she was coming from, as a woman who had survived being born into destitution, destined for a short and nasty life as a sex worker, who has clawed her way up into a position of wealth and power. I could see exactly why she would sell her soul to Mussolini’s fascist regime to keep herself from falling back into the gutter. It’s no excuse, but it does give the motivation for what she does. 

That’s also where I found the character of Magdalena, the contessa’s maid, becoming increasingly interesting as she began to take on a life of her own (as characters tend to do, however hard the author tries to corral them!). When I was planning the story, Magdalena appeared in a single line. A vital part of the plot, but no more. But as the story grew, so did Magdalena, with her irascibility and her pride, along with her own barely suppressed guilt for her own part in the contessa’s cruelty. Magdalena is from a similar background to the contessa, and with the same terror of finding herself back on the streets to face a life of prostitution and a violent and undignified end, but the choices she makes are not always the same. 

Writing the story of The Secret Daughter of Venice made me more than ever aware of the complex dilemmas ordinary citizens faced under fascism in Italy, as well as in Germany and lands occupied by the Nazi regime. How do you protect your children, your family, your community, and all those you love under such circumstances? Particularly and when whatever you do may have the power to hurt others – even if it is something as simple as no longer using the Jewish grocer’s where you have shopped all your life, forcing them out of business. Getting to know the contessa, and in particular Magdalena, has made me understand the horrors of such choices. When I was younger, it felt so much simpler, far more black and white. Good was good, and evil was evil. I was struck recently by a friend explaining that she had tried to gently explain to her teenage granddaughter that at that age you have no real of idea of how much about life you don’t know. That comes with age, and experience, and having had the responsibility for babies, the old, and all those vulnerable you’d do anything to keep alive. Unlike my own youthful certainty, I’m no longer certain what I would do in such circumstances. I hope I would do what was right. Most of all, cowardly as it may seem, I hope I never need to find out. 

Juliet Greenwood is the author of eight historical novels, published by Orion and Storm Publishing. Her first book was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize, and her previous book with Storm Publishing, The Last Train from Paris, reached the top 100 kindle chart in the USA and #19 in the UK kindle store. She has long been inspired by the histories of the women in her family, and in particular with how strong-minded and independent women have overcome the limitations imposed on them by the constraints of their time, and the way generations of women hold families and communities together in times of crisis, including during WW2. 

Juliet now lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage in Snowdonia, North Wales, set between the mountains and the sea, with an overgrown garden (good for insects!) and a surprisingly successful grapevine. She can be found dog walking in all weathers working on the plot for her next novel, camera to hand. 

The Secret Daughter of Venice

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