For lovers of art, fashion, travel, Italy, history and love itself.

Mary Adams continues her journey through Victorian society – now as the much-admired Persephone Lavelle. From lavish Venetian balls to luxurious Mayfair townhouses, she gets a glimpse into the most glamorous lives of the age. When she meets a mysterious Harlequin she gets the chance to rise to the very top, but to do so she must betray someone close …

Like Following Ophelia, Unveiling Venus is for older readers of  Hetty Feather and A Little Princess, The Ruby in the Smoke, Luxe and the dark stories of Edgar Allen Poe. I am a big Henry James fan and though these books are set a little earlier than his, he has inspired them too.

1857 is about to become 1858. Mary Adams has become Persephone Lavelle, the darling of the Pre-Raphaelite art world, but she is barred from seeing the one man she truly loves. She’s tired of London and longs for a new adventure. So when her rich friend Kitty invites her to stay in a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, there is nowhere she would rather go. Kitty is in love, but dark forces are at work, strong feeling are in play, and when Persephone meets a masked man on a gondola one dusky afternoon, she steps into a world of danger and betrayal.

Venice in Winter #10, credit Robert Mertens

I lived and fell in love in Venice when I was a student there. I love the watery city in the winter, when it is cold and empty and easy to imagine you are a girl on her way to an assignation with an aristocrat, 150 years ago.

This book was one of my favourites to research. It’s a Victorian melodrama, with Venetian balls, dark villains and stark contrasts between the lives of the rich and poor. It’s about art (check out my love for Titian and Whistler this time around), and love, loyalty and friendship. It’s about making your way in a world where anything is possible … if you’re a man, but most ways are barred to you if you are not.

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne Blue and Gold, St Mark’s Venice
James McNeill Wistler, Nocturne in Blue and Silver, the Lagoon, Venice

Persephone refuses to be defined and contained by her society. She has the option, this time, to rise to the very top and become a part of Queen Victoria’s court. I wanted to see if she would sell her soul and bear the cost.

Will she?

Unveiling Venus is out in February 2018.

Meanwhile, check out the Reflections exhibition at the National Gallery in London, featuring the famous Van Eyck Arnolfini potrait and the Pre-Raphaelites.

 

And check out my mood board for both books on my Pinterest Ophelia page.

What they said about Following Ophelia:

“there is a richness, a patience, a stylistic satisfaction to Following Ophelia … A particularly interesting look at the relationship between artist and model makes for a book which has its themes woven superlatively between escapades”
Arianne at The Paper Alchemist

A vivid portrait of Pre-Raphaelite glamour and the perils of beauty, desire and independence.
Anna McKerrow, author and children’s book review editor for Booktrust

Sophia has conjured up a world as alive with colour and texture and beauty and rebellion as the paintings that she references … I was utterly engrossed from first page to last.
Perdita Cargill, author of Waiting for Callback

Winter sun, Venice, credit Jeremy Barlow Fine Art

 

 

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