Professor Rose Asher is drawn in to a web of deceit when she witnesses the assumed suicide of top student Robin Weiss. Robin had given her information which hinted at the existence of a lost sonnet written by Shakespeare to his Dark Lady. She travels to La Civetta, a Tuscan villa connected with her college, to try to parse what Robin was trying to tell her. If she can figure out the connection between this villa and Shakespeare's Dark Lady, she will also perhaps find the truth behind Robin's death. Full of frantic research, uncertainties about the man she loved as an undergraduate in Italy and about the man she is now in a relationship with, the self-absorption of undergraduates, and murder, this story is a lush visit to Tuscany. Everything comes together in the end; Rose discovers more than she expects. A great read for summer adventure.
In Mira del Garda, Italy, a play is being staged at the villa Il Piacere. It is a play which was written in the early 1900's for an actress named Celia Sands, but was never performed, as she disappeared the night before the grand opening. Now, at Il Piacere, the play is being produced for the first time by the playwright's grandson Alessandro D'Ascanio, starring the actress Celia Sands. She is no relation to the original Sands, but the name is too much for him to resist, so she is given the part. Celia must make sure that she does not end up like her namesake, and with a plot full of romantic tensions with various men, the beautiful Italian countryside, and the requisite thin, rich and gorgeous Italian woman as competition for the man Celia is crazy about, well, it is enticingly Barbara Michaels-like. The text of the play and the historical background of the villa are just as important as the current happenings, and I love that blend of academic and romantic gothic.
The Grey Beginning / Barbara Michaels
Kathy is in Italy to see the Countess Morandini, the aristocratic grandmother of her dead husband Bart. Kathy's just come from a stay in a psychiatric hospital, trying to get over her loss of Bart and her neurotic insistence that he can't really be dead. She is taken in by the Countess under the misapprehension that she is pregnant with Bart's child; while staying with the Countess, Kathy meets David, a graduate student sifting through the contents of the attic for material for him to study and the Countess to sell. She also meets the local doctor and has a dinner or two with him. The other man in the story is 10 yr old Pietro, who is kept locked up due to the fear of hereditary madness. Kathy of course saves the day, the child and their sanity, after quite a nasty surprise.
It's an entertaining trip to Italy; Barbara Michaels always writes with intelligence and humour. Though it is certainly not her best, for an Italian escape, it is a good Gothic to pick up.