Two interconnected tales of a love affair that began amid the timeless beauty of Venice from the author of In the Country of the Great King.
Romance naturally emanates from Venice, a city of passion and eroticism. This was the case for Mara, a Nebraskan writer who had emigrated from the United States fourteen years previously. One of her newly-published novels brings passion to her, when the son of an ex-lover comes looking for resolution. Having read the book, which Mara based on her and her lover’s real-life interlude, James finds Mara and they are instantly enamored with each other. As the story unfolds, they encounter sensuality, love, and danger.
This work explores the ways life influences art and vice versa, but there is no life in these pages and more artifice than art. Each of the two related novels that comprise the work has a title page identifying the author as ``Bess Arden.'' The first story is related by Arden's protagonist, Mara, an author whose specialty is ``dark, slightly twisted, angry romances.'' One of those romances draws on Mara's own affair with a man named Aidan. Seven years after Aidan's death, his son James appears at Mara's home in Venice, hoping to learn about her and the father he hardly knew. James is obsessed with Mara's novel and with Mara; when a relationship develops between them, Mara decides to flee, going ``just far enough out of the novel so that James would not know where to look for her.'' The second ``Arden'' novel is the tale by Mara that captivated James; it recounts, in Aidan's voice, his affair with Mara. Unfortunately, like Aidan's observation that ``today would be yesterday's news tomorrow,'' this work as a whole demonstrates that though a statement is convoluted, it can still be banal. Ashley is the author, under a pseudonym, of Practice to Deceive.