Some time ago, I discovered The Royal Spyness, a series by Rhys Bowen. Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. She can perform “a perfect curtsey,” but she is flat broke. Unfortunately, she cannot work either since she is part of the royal family. The series is delightful and Georgie gets herself int a variety of mysteries.
Bowen also writes another series featuring Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant in NYC around the turn of the century. This series, too, finds Molly in various difficult situations and involved in mysteries.
In addition to her books in a series, Rhys Bowen has also written standalone novels which include The Victory Garden, The Tuscan Child, and In Farleigh Field. Her most recent standalone book is The Venice Sketchbook which offers readers pure delight, a highly readable story that will enthrall readers.
The Venice Sketchbook opens with Juliet, Lettie, in Venice with her great-aunt and follows with Caroline Grant, our modern-day heroine. Later, Caroline receives a difficult assignment from her great-aunt Lettie, an artist. When Lettie dies, Caroline receives her aunt’s sketchbook, three unusual keys, and the whispered word, Venice.
Caroline faces difficulties at home because her husband has left her for a rock star who is now in the US. When Teddy, Caroline’s son goes to NY to visit his dad, the father tries to keep Teddy. Caroline knows she cannot get Teddy home right away because he and his dad and the rock star were all in NYC when the airplanes flew into the twin towers. Josh, Teddy’s dad, claims Teddy is terrified of flying after hearing about the airplanes.
Caroline takes a leave from her job and goes to Venice to see what she can discover about her great-aunt’s past. Instead of a letter with some kind of instructions, Lettie has left Caroline with only the sketchbook and the unusual keys. With those items, Caroline must put together her aunt’s past and perhaps discover a new future for herself.
The Venice Sketchbook moves smoothly between Lettie’s story of her early trip to Venice in 1928 and her later art scholarship which allows her to return in 1938 and Caroline’s modern-day visit to Venice. Luckily, Caroline is inquisitive and refuses to take no for an answer once she has made a discovery of what the keys fit: a safety deposit box and an apartment in a building currently under renovation and owned by a wealthy family, the Da Rossi family.
Rather than describe the events that Lettie and Caroline experience in their separate journeys, I will say, instead, that readers must read the book to discover for themselves what happens. Suffice it to say, readers will encounter mystery, intrigue, spying during the war, and love. And as Caroline unravels her aunt’s past, she finds a future for herself as well.
Book clubs will find both Lettie’s and Caroline’s stories compelling. Topics for discussion can include star-crossed lovers, the horror of war and what it does to separate people, and family secrets. In addition, other subjects such as Caroline’s divorce and Josh’s attempts to keep their son away from Caroline will provide book club members with additional fodder.