Fiction Book Reviews

The House by the Sea by Santa Montefiore

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An irresistibly compelling novel from the internationally bestselling author.

Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa that overlooks the sea just outside her small village. She likes to spy from the crumbling wall into the gardens, and imagine that one day she’ll escape her meagre existence and live there. One day, Dante, the son of the villa’s powerful industrialist owner, invites her inside. From that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is there, with him. But as they grow up they cross an unseen line, jeopardising the very thing they hold most dear.

Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Marina, advertises for an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. Rafael Santoro is charismatic and wise, and soon begins to pacify the discord in her family. However, Rafa is not who he seems. He has his own agenda. Whether to destroy, to seduce, or to heal, it is certain to affect them all.

Spanning four decades and sweeping from the Italian countryside to the English coast, this new story by Santa Montefiore is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.
The House by the Sea is a love story that is beautifully written.  I was able to imagine myself in Tuscany and in Devon, living alongside the characters as I watched the story unfold.
The prologue sets the scene.  In Tuscany, Floriana and Dante meet. Floriana is a 10 year old whose mother has run away with her younger brother and left her with her alcoholic father.  Dante is a few years older, the son of a high profile industrialist who may have connections with the Mafia.
We’re then taken to Devon in 2009 where hotel owner Marina and husband Grey are trying desperately to bring in money to save the hotel from being taken over.  Grey’s twenty-three year old daughter from his previous marriage, Clementine, has never accepted Marina.  His son Jake is the Manager of the hotel.    
From the moment Rafa (artist-in-residence) arrives, changes start to happen.  Rafa is a very intense and intuitive man.  I think he is the hero we would all like to have in our lives!
In Tuscany we find out how class distinctions rule the characters lives and in Devon we find out more about Marina and her emotional outbursts. Eventually the two worlds come together and all the lose ends are tied up beautifully.
Until near the end, we never know for sure the link between Tuscany and Devon.  At times I was sure I had the correct connection but then a hint would be dropped that would take me away from that.  Very clever.
In Devon, there are references in the story of a burglar, nicknamed Baffles, who leaves a thank you note in place of the possessions that are taken.  At one point there is a mistaken identity and the police interrupt a scene that was hilarious – I’m still laughing as I type.  I have to admit to being surprised when we eventually do find out the burglars identity, although in retrospect it fits perfectly!
At one point in the story we leave Tuscany with stray dog Dead-Night as the last ‘picture’ we see and we are brought back to Devon with the stray dog Biscuit jumping on Rafa to wake him up.  I loved that.
The writing is beautiful.  My poetic heart loved lines like ‘The stars were clearer than ever before, twinkling like shiny new memories ……………’.
This is a fabulous story of family relationships, friendships and love on many levels that kept me gripped until the end.  I’ve laughed and I’ve cried.  
The House by the Sea is published by Simon & Schuster and is available to purchase in digital, paperback, hardcover and audiobook formats.
You can read about Santa Montefiore at her website and follower her on Twitter @SantaMontefiore.

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I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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