Seasons of Storms
I have read a number of Ms. Kearsley’s books and always enjoyed them. While I did ultimately enjoy this book, the pacing and defiance of a firm categorization kept this one from my keeper shelf. It was SLOW going for the first third of the book.
Celia Sands/Sullivan is the child of a famous theater actress who has also chosen acting as a profession. She works under the name Celia Sullivan so as not to take advantage of her mother’s fame. Not only does she want to make it on her own merits, but she also does not want to be associated with a woman who did not really raise her and has the reputation as a home wrecker. So when a part comes her way that requires her to use her real name of Celia Sands, she is hesitant to take it even though the part is a lead that could be the breakout performance for her career. It is only when Rupert, a famous play director who actually raised her (along with his partner Bryan) encourages her to take the part that she seriously considers using the name Celia Sands.
The reason Celia has been chosen for this part is mostly because of her name. Galeazzo D’Ascanio was a famous poet and playwright in the early part of the twentieth century. While married to his wife Francesca, he falls in love with an ingénue named Celia Sands. He writes what many consider his finest play for her to star in and builds a theater in the round at his Italian estate (Il Piacere) to debut her performance. But before the play can go on, Celia runs off with her lover and is never heard from again and Galeazzo never puts on his play. Now, his grandson, Alex D’Ascanio is turning over Il Piacere to the Forlani Trust and before that happens he wants a performance of the play with Celia Sands the present as a draw. Celia finally agrees to please Rupert, but more is in store for her than just a play.
Alex D’Ascanio is the grandson of the famous Italian writer, but with an English mother and Italian father, he has never quite fit in with either culture. The book suggests that Alex is giving the estate to the public as a way to ingratiate himself with his Italian heritage, but we never do get that answer straight from the horse’s mouth. He is very enigmatic and standoffish and when the narrative finally makes it to Italy, he is involved with the Forlani widow who will manage the estate for the Trust. Celia is very attracted to Alex, but is always mindful of her mother’s scandalous behavior and refuses to act on her feelings for Alex as long as he is involved with someone else. Alex has different ideas however and finds ways to put himself in Celia’s path. It soon becomes evident that things are not as they should be at Il Piacere. Two of the servants disappear without a trace and the housekeeper, as well as Alex’s grandmother are convinced that the original Celia Sands haunts the estate. Add into the mix that Celia’s co-star is Madeline Hedrick, the woman that lost her husband to Celia’s mother, and the stage manager is a last minute replacement – the tension becomes thick enough to cut with a knife.
Celia’s background and development as a character are very thorough. Alex is slowly revealed throughout the narrative and the reader finally has a handle on him at the end. The secondary characters are almost as important as the main characters and are also well developed. I believed in all of the characters, even the villains. The descriptions were lush, which is very characteristic of Ms. Kearsley’s writing and even though I do not prefer first person narrative stories, this author carries that burden well with Season of Storms. The problems I had with this book had more to do with the pacing and with categorization. It took way too long to get to the meat of the story; so much so that I actually put this book down around 150 pages in and did not pick it up again for months. It did pick up in the second half of the book and that is what saved the grade for me.
This novel also defied categorization. It was a little mystery/suspense, a little paranormal and a little romance, but the emphasis should be on “little.” There was not enough mystery/suspense, paranormal or romance for the book to feel completely fleshed out. All three of these sub-stories were a little too subtle for my liking. I felt like the author should have stuck with one genre or even two and delved deeper. At 512 pages, there was plenty of opportunity to do so. I was entertained eventually though and Ms. Kearsley has such a rich writing voice that I am glad I finished the book. Fans of Susanna Kearsley will probably enjoy this book as long as they give it enough time to get to the meat of the story.