I am thrilled today to be joining the blog tour for The Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B Halton, published by Harper Impulse on 21st July. Linn – until this momentous day – has had the great distinction of being one of my favourite authors that I’ve never actually read. I’ve featured her books several times here on Being Anne, and she’s been a wonderful supporter of my blog, shouting particularly loudly on my behalf for votes in the Bloggers’ Bash this year (thanks again, Linn!). So when I saw this book was on its way, I wrote it in capital letters in my diary and made sure nothing could stand in the way of my reading – and then kept my fingers crossed (well, you do, don’t you?!) that I would be able to say something nice about her writing.
And I really had only to read the description to know that all would be well…
Escape to Italy for a summer romance to remember…
When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Johnson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.
It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?
What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.
If I made a list of all the elements in a book that would have me saying “I really enjoyed that one”, this lovely book would have a full row of enthusiastic ticks. Those of you who read my reviews regularly will know I have a bit of a “thing” about settings, and the author’s descriptions of the Villa Rosso nestled among the Calabrian olive groves was really exceptional and had me thinking about another holiday. Linn’s interior design background shines through too – from the spectacular light in the villa’s entrance hall to the smaller artisan-produced items so lovingly described. The whole background story of Max supporting a community turning their hand to art and craftsmanship as a route out of a struggle to survive was just excellent, and lifted the whole book to another level.
I really liked the main characters. First there was the story of Ellie’s marriage and the deep love underpinning it (must admit though, her husband was a tad too controlling for my liking…), her life with the family, her decision to take up her work as an interior designer again, and her steps into the frightening and unknown with her buying trip to Italy, followed by her inner turmoil after her return. And then there’s Max – there’s a sizzle to his every encounter with Ellie, and a real depth and fascination to his back story, which turns into a mystery to be resolved, and which gives the book a gripping, page-turning quality that I really enjoyed.
And then there’s the central premise of the story, whether it’s possible to have two soulmates, and why that should be. The book opens with a really striking image that made me realise there might be more to this book than its surface story – and I’ll admit it did worry me a tad, as paranormal elements need to be particularly well-handled to win me over. I won’t go into detail – it’s something you need to experience as you read, draw your own conclusions about the elements that might be slightly outside your experience. But I will say that it totally worked for me… very original, very different, and totally convincing.
I really hadn’t expected the writing to be as strong as it was – as well as the glorious scene setting, all the characters (even the ones at the story’s periphery) spring to life on the page, all the emotional content is something you feel rather than simply read, and the dialogue is wonderfully natural. And the story grabbed me to such an extent that I read the whole book in one lovely sitting, totally transported.
I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to read a book by Linn B Halton – I had no idea what I was missing, and I suspect this will be the first of many. I loved it.
I’ve mentioned the wonderful descriptions that bring Calabria to life – let me share an extract…
It isn’t just the sunshine and the electric blue sky, but the musical calls of the countryside that reach out to me. A chorus of low-level sounds play like a soft melody in the background. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I feel like I’m watching a re-run of a favourite film. I could stand here for a long time simply taking in the detail and with each sweep of my eyes noticing something new.
Spinning around I look back at the villa, taking in the rustic beauty of the stonework and the pale orange-red hue of the sun-bleached roof tiles. This is, quite simply, unreal. It’s a little piece of heaven and, so far removed from my daily life that it’s hard to believe this is on the same planet. The sheer scale of the landscape literally steals your breath away. I’m a mere speck, small and insignificant in the grand scheme nature is presenting to me. But rather bizarrely, it doesn’t feel alien in anyway at all. The vastness isn’t overwhelming, but strangely comforting.
I walk back to a cluster of wooden tables surrounding a small fountain and take a seat. As I dive into my bag to extract some sunglasses, I hear a polite cough and look up at the face staring down at me.
‘Mrs Maddison? I’m Max, Max Johnson. Welcome to Villa Rosso.’
I stand, automatically plastering a pleasant smile on my surprised face as recognition kicks in. I know this man, I mean, I’ve met him before. At least I think I have, but there’s nothing similar reflected back at me, only a warm smile. The sort of smile that radiates out from mysteriously deep, hazel eyes. We shake hands. He’s younger than I expected, probably in his early forties and tall. Six foot something that’s for sure, because I feel he’s towering over me.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you. I just wanted you to know that I’m here at your disposal whenever you are ready to begin. Would you like me to fetch you a coffee so you can sit for a while and enjoy the view?’
Although I knew he was British, his tan and elegant demeanour lend an air of cosmopolitan sophistication. I would not have been at all surprised if he had been Italian. He’s hovering politely and I still haven’t answered him…
Are you feeling that sizzle too?! My thanks to Linn Halton and Debbie at Brook Cottage Books for my advance reading e-copy, and for including me on this blog tour.
And as if all that isn’t enough, with thanks to Linn and tour organiser Brook Cottage Books, I can also offer a giveaway – a lovely pamper kit, open to UK readers only.
Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About Linn B Halton
Bristol-born Linn B Halton lives in the Forest of Dean, in the UK.
“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of strong coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, writing … and house renovation! Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache…”
An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Under the Stars and A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love also became best-sellers in 2016 & 2017. Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.
Linn writes chick lit, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Harper Impulse, Choc Lit and Endeavour Press.