Title: Meet Me in Venice
Author: Barbara Hannay
Published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
The new romantic drama by multi-award-winning author Barbara Hannay.
A year after her husband Leo’s death, widow Daisy invites her three adult children to join her for a holiday in beautiful Venice. It will be wonderful, her chicks under one roof again in their father’s birthplace. But is it possible to recapture the past?
Marc’s marriage is in jeopardy, but for his mother’s sake, he convinces his wife to keep up appearances. Anna’s trying to hide the truth about the dismal state of her London acting career; and Ellie, enjoying a gap year and uncertain about her future choices, wants to avoid family pressure to conform.
Despite the magic of Venice, family ties are tested to the limit, especially when a shocking secret from Leo’s past is revealed. Now everything they value about love, family, commitment and trust must be re-examined.
How can one family holiday require so much courage? Will Daisy’s sentimental journey make or break them?
From multi-award-winning author Barbara Hannay comes a moving and heartfelt family drama about difficult choices and finding happiness in the most unexpected places.
‘A story comes together from so many different sources. I’m grateful to a writer friend who told me about a widow she knew who dipped into her husband’s investments to bring her scattered family together for a gathering in Europe. Immediately my imagination was set spinning.’
Barbara Hannay, Acknowledgments, Meet Me in Venice
Barbaba Hannay is well known for her Mills & Boon romance titles, which she has over forty to her name. Hannay has also published eight full length novels of the rural and historical fiction genres for Penguin. Hannay has set her sights further afield with her latest contemporary fiction family drama novel. The unique setting of Venice is the backdrop for the revelation and fallout of a family mystery in, Meet Me in Venice.
The Benettos are an ordinary family, a year ago they lost the patriarch of their fold, Leo. Daisy, Leo’s widow, believes that a year on from her husband’s death is the ideal time to call on her dispersed family and gather them together in Venice for a holiday. This beautiful European locale holds meaning for the family, as it was Leo’s birthplace. However, the Benetto clan has more than their fair share of personal dramas. One son is experiencing marriage difficulties, and he chooses to put on a veneer of happiness to protect his grieving mother. Meanwhile, Daisy’s daughter Anna is experiencing a career crisis. Finally, young Ellie is lost, torn between what she wants to do and what she should do in relation to her future. All these personal issues compound in the picturesque locale. When a devastating secret that Leo has withheld from the family surfaces during their holiday, it will force all members of this family unit to consider their views on marriage, love, personal sacrifice, loyalty and honour. What began as a laid back family vacation and an opportunity to regroup, morphs into something much more emotionally pressing in the floating city.
Like many of us who have travelled to Venice, a one of kind cosmopolitan city in Europe, this breathtaking locale stole author Barbara Hannay’s heart. The romance, the history, the architecture, the culture, cuisine and the people enchanted the author of Meet Me in Venice. With an idea for a story percolating for a few years now, Barbara Hannay took the bold move and penned a tale based in this romantic locale, which is quite a shift away from her usual Australian novels. I appreciated the sea change and I could see Hannay’s passion for this location shine through her novel. I raced through Meet Me in Venice in two close sittings, as I was completely engaged by the personal dramas of the Benetto clan.
Grief and loss defines the earlier stages of Meet Me in Venice, as Daisy, the matriarch of this tale, expresses her feelings about being left rather unexpectedly by her husband Leo. Daisy remarks on the missed opportunities for them to celebrate their retirement together and her frustration in not being able to catch his health crisis earlier. However, Daisy is determined to bring all of her children back to her nest and she sets about planning a beautiful holiday in Venice, her husband’s birthplace. In these opening sequences of the book we get a really good feel for Daisy – who she is, her qualities, her desires and her emotions. I developed a soft spot for Daisy very quickly and I enjoyed her life defining trip to Venice.
Daisy’s children – Marc, Anna and Ellie, along with their partners provide another layer to this story, reminding us that this is not just Daisy’s journey. Hannay employs some solid characterisation to the Benetto clan, so we develop a relationship with each of the family members of this unit. We also begin to understand more about their personal frustrations and the baggage each brings to the Venice trip. We watch on as the dynamics and tensions of this family bubbles to the surface, which is further complicated by the explosive secret surrounding their late father. Hannay works hard at weaving this life changing secret through the threads of this novel. It sent me in a flurry of excitement and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to get to the crux of this mystery. Once I discovered the truth, along with the Benetto family, I was a little surprised. I will remain hush, hush on the rest!
The best thing about Meet Me in Venice was definitely the setting base. I visited Venice for two days as part of an organised European tour, over a decade ago now. The memories came flooding back while I read Meet Me in Venice. I appreciated being immersed in the stunning buildings, historic locales, the local cuisine and of course, that strong feeling that you could get lost at any time in this maze like city! Hannay’s vivid descriptions transported me right back to one of the world’s most sought after destinations.
A rich tapestry of romance, family secrets and complicated personal dilemmas forms Meet Me in Venice. The opportunity to be whisked away to such an inviting European destination, in the protection of the Benetto family fold, worked wonders for me. I have not hesitation in recommending Meet Me in Venice.
Meet Me in Venice by Barbara Hannay was published on 6th August 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Meet Me in Venice, Barbara Hannay, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Meet Me in Venice is book #123 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge