The Secret Daughter of Venice – Juliet Greenwood | Blog Tour Extract | #TheSecretDaughterOfVenice #HistoricalFiction @julietgreenwood @Stormbooks_co @rararesources

The paper is stiff and brittle with age as Kate unfolds it with trembling hands. She gasps at the pencil sketch of a rippling waterway, lined by tall buildings, curving towards the dome of a cathedral. She feels a connection deep in her heart. Venice.

England, 1941. When Kate Arden discovers a secret stash of drawings hidden in the pages of an old volume of poetry given to her as a baby, her breath catches. All her life, she has felt like an outsider in her wealthy adoptive family, who refuse to answer any questions about her past. But the drawings spark a forgotten memory: a long journey by boat… warm arms that held her tight, and then let go.

Could these pictures unlock the secret of who she is? Why her mother left her? With war raging around the continent, she will brave everything to find out…

A gripping, emotional historical novel of love and art that will captivate fans of The Venice Sketchbook, The Woman on the Bridge and The Nightingale.

My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invite. The Secret Daughter of Venice is published by Storm Publishing and available in ebook, audio and paperback formats (14 May 2024). I have bought a copy of this to read another time as it does look like one for me but to start off the blog tour today I’m delighted to host an extract.


This extract is the opening of the book, when Sofia, one of the main characters, returns from America to Venice, the city of her birth, and the scene of her deepest grief….

August 1939

On the Rialto Bridge a wind stirred. It set the paintings and prints outside the little gallery flapping, as they waited for the few tourists still defying the rumours of war, and eager to take home a memento of Venice and its timeless allure. Some portrayed Renaissance palaces lit by rays of sun, along with delicately arched bridges over the shadows of narrower canals. Others showed an open door at the water’s edge, revealing a courtyard hung with washing, or balconies on higher floors over‐flowing with greenery so precious in the floating city.

The woman in the blue silk coat barely registered the disturbance to the fragile peace of the summer’s afternoon. She stood on the bridge, gazing down to the waterbus, the vaporetto, chugging its customary way along the Grand Canal, past the fading palazzos, towards the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and out into the wide expanse of the bay. Her dark hair, with just the #rst touch of white at the temples, was covered by a long chiffon scarf of deep magenta, crossed under her neck, its ends thrown carelessly over each shoulder, tugging gently in the breeze.

‘Can I help you, signora?’ A young woman in loose-fitting slacks, topped by a brightly patterned yellow blouse, emerged from the gallery to straighten the pictures. ‘Did you decide which one you’d like?’ she asked, speaking Italian with fluency, but with a distinctly American twang.

The woman in the blue coat turned, as if waking from a dream. ‘Not yet,’ she replied in the same language, in a cultured accent that was neither here nor there. ‘You’ve so many different versions of Venice, I’d like to consider a little longer.’

‘That’s okay,’ replied the young woman. ‘Just come inside and let me know when you are ready.’

Sofia Armstrong turned back to gaze over the Grand Canal, and tried to imagine planes overhead or bombs falling on these historic buildings. It was unthinkable that the war could be allowed to disturb the timeless calm of this place.

A gondola slid from beneath the arches of the Rialto, the gondolier wielding his single oar in an unhurried rhythm, his passengers sitting close together on the crimson seat, watching the faded Renaissance splendour pass by.

The slender craft sailed onwards towards the sea, buffeted by the wake of the vaporetto, followed by a barge laden high with building materials. A small motor launch swerved recklessly in between, almost skimming the gondola’s sides, setting it rocking wildly. The young man at the wheel exchanged pithy insults with the gondolier, who steadied his charge before turning to vanish into the network of waterways leading off the Grand Canal.

Sofia sighed. This was the Venice of her childhood. The duck-egg blue of a cloudless sky reflected in the waters of the Grand Canal, lending a faintly mournful air to the buildings, their bases lapped by the wash rising higher with the passing of each vessel. Back then, the rush of lives, lived between watery thoroughfares resounding with laughter and fury, had stirred her blood. The sight of water taxis heading towards the lagoon had fed her girlish determination to explore the world beyond.

She pulled her coat closer around her. The light was now moving towards evening, gaining the magical luminosity she had since sought in vain elsewhere, bathing the city in slithers of golden reflection that danced across its crumbling facades. Her heart was breaking with the old grief, as vivid now as the last time she had stood here, over twenty years before. How long ago that youth seemed; an innocent time before the world was torn apart by the war to end all wars. Then, consumed with the agony of loss, she could never have imagined she would one day return to the Rialto, changed inwardly even more profoundly than she had outwardly, and with another war gathering.

Now, her return ticket to New York was booked. Every instinct told her to get out of Europe while she still could, with tanks already rolling across great swathes of landscape, crushing the lives in their way with a cruel inevitability, as Hitler and Mussolini pursued their vainglorious dreams.

But first, there was one thing she had to do. One answer she had to find. The question that had, in the midst of all her riches and success, eaten away at her, leaving her hollow inside.

She took a last look at the little painting that had caught her eye. Not the grand views that enchanted visitors, but an intimate scene of a woman washing clothes at the side of a water‐way, in front of a great wall overhung with purple bougainvillea, while children played around. That was the vision of Venice she wished to take back with her as a reminder of the everyday lives lived between the remains of its historic past, and the perils of an uncertain future. The rest remained as vivid in her memory as the day she had first left.

Decision made, she strode inside to make her purchase.

Juliet Greenwood is the author of eight historical novels, published by Orion and Storm Publishing. Her first book was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize, and her previous book with Storm Publishing, The Last Train from Paris, reached the top 100 kindle chart in the USA and #19 in the UK kindle store. She has long been inspired by the histories of the women in her family, and in particular with how strong-minded and independent women have overcome the limitations imposed on them by the constraints of their time, and the way generations of women hold families and communities together in times of crisis, including during WW2.

Juliet now lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage in Snowdonia, North Wales, set between the mountains and the sea, with an overgrown garden (good for insects!) and a surprisingly successful grapevine. She can be found dog walking in all weathers working on the plot for her next novel, camera to hand.

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