Review – Lady Of Asolo by Siobhan Daiko

By | June 7, 2015

We can’t change the past, but the past can change us…

Grappling her own demons and the after-effects of a disaster, Fern battles to keep hold of her sanity as she’s snatched back in time and lives the life of Cecilia, a young woman at the court of Queen Caterina Cornaro, near Venice, in the early 16th Century. Luca, a local architect, comes to Fern’s aid when Cecilia embarks on a passionate affair with the artist Zorzo.

Echoes of the past manifest themselves increasingly in the present through a series of startling coincidences until past and present collide, throwing Fern and Cecilia into mortal peril. Can Luca keep Fern out of danger and help her come to terms with her own past?

Lady of Asolo by Siobhan Daiko was published for kindle in November 2014, and in paperback in February this year. I was thoroughly delighted when author offered a copy for review via THE Book Club on Facebook – it just looked so perfectly “me”. I always love timeslip novels – dual time stories, but where characters move between two periods, historical and modern. Not only that, but I’m also a total pushover for anything with a historical Venice connection. If I’d provided a specification, the author really couldn’t have done better.  

With dual time or timeslip stories, what can let them down is when one story grabs you more than the other – the shifts can become more of a wrench. That never happens here, both stories being equally strong and appealing. In the modern story – set in 1989 – Fern has undergone a recent traumatic experience, and is recovering on holiday with her eccentric aunt. I know some readers didn’t particularly take to her, but I thought her slight coldness was wholly realistic given all she’d experienced. Luca too, I thought was perfect – a full-on Italian romantic hero wouldn’t have worked anything like as well. I really liked his understated approach, the care he took not to frighten Fern off – overall, a perfectly handled love story. 

The historical story, set in early 16th century Italy has plainly been meticulously researched. Based on some real characters, some introduced by the author, the court of Catherine Cornaro is vividly recreated, with wonderful bits of detail about the food, the clothing and the entertainment. The author’s descriptive powers are quite excellent – together with Fern/Cecilia, we move in a world that we can see, feel and touch. I really liked the detail about the art – Fern is an artist, and Cecilia is learning from her lover. I actually went on to read more about Giorgione and to look at his painting The Tempest – and was quite fascinated to learn about the female figure that x-rays have revealed has been painted out.

I really liked the way the time transitions were handled – images in mirrors, the whispered cries of “Lorenza”, the hint of a smell of burning, the piece of charred wood. I guess you either accept that this moving between times is able to happen or you don’t – but this was so well done that I signed up to it completely. I did particularly like the matter-of-fact acceptance of Luca’s mother – after all, she was used to falling asleep to the sound of a medieval lute player at her own villa.

The shifts in time are quite seamless, the stories complementing each other perfectly, both with strong heroines and strong romantic leading men. I did wonder if I might be uncomfortable with the erotic content that touches and affects both the heroines – but not at all, I thought is was very tastefully done and really nothing you wouldn’t allow your mother to read.

I really enjoyed this book – a lovely escape from everyday reality, well written, meticulously researched, wonderfully romantic with strong characters and a page-turning and dramatic story. On Amazon it says that those who enjoy the work of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorn and Susanna Kearsley should also like Lady of Asolo. I’d add two more of my timeslip writing favourites, Christina Courtenay and Rachel Hore, and also beef up that comment that you “should also like” it – you’ll most definitely love it, as I did.

Siobhan Daiko was born in Hong Kong, educated in Perth, Western Australia, and moved to the UK in 1981. She has worked in the City of London, once ran a post office/B&B in Herefordshire, and, more recently, taught Modern Foreign Languages in a Welsh high school. Siobhan now lives with her husband in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita. “Lady of Asolo“, previously known as “In My Lady’s Shadow”, was her first book to be published. She is an author of romantic historical fiction and a new series of erotic novellas featuring famous courtesans – strong women who held their own in a man’s world. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.