The Venice Secret by Anita Chapman is a delightful historical fiction novel that weaves together the lives of two women born centuries apart. Chapman seamlessly jumps between two timelines, 1780 and 2019, and keeps the reader engaged throughout the book.
The story is split into two parallel narratives, one set in present-day England and the other in 18th-century Venice.
Rachel, the protagonist of the contemporary storyline, is a young woman struggling with the ennui of a mundane life when she uncovers a painting in her grandmother’s attic that she believes may be an original Canaletto. As she investigates the origins of the painting with the help of Jake, an art gallery owner, Rachel is drawn into a world of intrigue and deception.
Philippa, the governess at Chipford Hall in 1780, is a strong-willed woman who refuses to be defined by the limited opportunities available to her in society.
She’s faced with a difficult decision when offered the role of mistress by Earl Rupert. Fearing for her reputation, Philippa flees to Venice as a companion to Lady Cordelia, a bluestocking with a penchant for scandal. As Philippa and Lady Cordelia navigate the treacherous waters of Venetian society, they uncover a secret that threatens to destroy them.
The relationship between Philippa and Lady Cordelia is beautifully written, and their journey through Venice is filled with adventure, mystery, and self-discovery.
The novel’s strength lies in its characters. In the present-day timeline, Rachel is a relatable character who is struggling to find her place in the world. Her journey of self-discovery is juxtaposed with Philippa’s journey in the past, highlighting the similarities between the two women despite the centuries that separate them.
Overall, The Venice Secret is a beautifully crafted tale of love, betrayal, and redemption that spans centuries. Anita Chapman has a gift for vivid and atmospheric prose that transports the reader to the heart of both 18th-century Venice and contemporary England. The characters are well-drawn and complex, and the intertwining narratives are expertly executed, building to a breathtaking climax that will leave readers gasping for breath.
Chapman’s impressive debut novel will appeal to fans of historical fiction and mystery. It is a captivating and beautifully written story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.