The Florence Letter – Anita Chapman | Book Review | #TheFlorenceLetter | #HistoricalFiction | #BooksOnTour @neetschapman @bookouture

Looking out over the twinkling city lights of Florence, Claire thinks of the letter that has brought her here. Written by a woman who escaped the Blitz, it holds a secret kept for a lifetime… but can Claire make the woman’s dying wish come true?

Claire arrives at her new job as researcher at a grand English country house, nursing a broken heart. But tucked into the back of a long-forgotten drawer she finds a letter written in an elegant hand. It tells of a wartime secret about the beautiful Lady Violet – whose passionate affair scandalised the village and ended in tragedy.

Captivated, Claire promises to find Violet’s daughter, Tabitha, and reunite her with a priceless piece of her mother’s jewellery. With only the name of an Italian bakery, to guide her, and the help of her handsome neighbour Jim, Claire travels to Tabitha’s last known location – Florence.

Winding through the colourful streets, the sun warm on her bare shoulders, a tantalising scent of freshly baked bread floats on the air and Claire’s heart leaps at the sight of an ageing bakery sign: Mancini. Although she learns that Tabitha hasn’t been there for many years, Claire refuses to give up. And as she and Jim talk late into the night over glasses of local chianti, Claire looks into his piercing blue eyes and finds herself growing closer to him…

But when they finally track Tabitha down, it isn’t the happy reunion she expected and Claire is left reeling in the wake of discovering a devastating family secret.

Violet’s story has an ending – but will the truth lead to forgiveness, or will it only bring more pain? And will Claire be forced to walk away from a chance of happiness with Jim at last?

Escape to Italy in this gorgeous story of past and present colliding. Readers of Lucinda Riley and Fiona Valpy will be utterly enchanted by this sweeping, romantic page-turner.

Having read and enjoyed Anita’s debut historical fiction novel The Venice Secret last year, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review The Florence Letter for the blog tour. Published by Bookouture it is available in ebook (including free with Kindle Unlimited), audio and paperback (24 June 2024).


Set over two timelines with two main characters, Margaret (Mags) during WW2 and Claire in 2015 the story has the backdrop of a Surrey landscape with the majestic Gatley Hall at its heart. I’m going to show my age here in referencing a UK 1970s TV programme but with the ‘Upstairs Downstairs‘ vibe during Mags’s part of the story of her life as a lady’s maid to Lady Violet at Gatley Hall, there is drama, secrets, scandal and tragedy including a promise that Mags, now 91, is desperately hoping to fulfill.

As sometimes happens with dual timelines, there is one era in particular that I am drawn to and here it was Mags – I was entranced by her life in service and indeed, what happened afterwards. In taking the maid’s role under sufferance when losing her much loved job following the bombing of her London department store, Mags showed a surprising adaptability and loyalty, sometimes misplaced, to those she was fond of.

Thirty year old Claire’s involvement came via a letter. Tasked with arranging an exhibition which focuses on life ‘Below Stairs’ at Gatley Hall, no longer in private ownership but which is now under the auspices of the Association of Treasured Properties, she comes across a letter which intrigues her and which pulls the two timelines together. With a complicated backstory- and an awful ex-boyfriend, Claire seemed, at least initially, the more fragile character and I was hoping that she would find the confidence to put a stop to her questionable decisions. Well drawn characters complete both parts of the story with even the minor supporting ones making an impact, whether for good or bad.

I loved the part set in Florence, a favourite city. Evocative and atmospheric, this was delightful armchair travelling. In fact all locations including the Surrey countryside were vividly described giving that all important sense of place. There was also a nod to ‘A Room with a View‘ – a book by E M Forster that I have never read but am now tempted by as it features several times in the story.

Background research which educates but does not overwhelm the story is always a welcome addition for me. Historical detail is included which has relevance to the story, including mentions of the wartime Mass Observation project, where volunteers from all over Britain took part by writing about their day to day experiences which were later published in the form of diaries. There was so much to like about Anita Chapman’s second historical novel. There is romance – a will/they won’t they situation, much drama and long held secrets with devastating consequences. A captivating read which I very much enjoyed.

Anita Chapman’s first novel, The Venice Secret was published in March 2023 and spent six weeks in the overall Amazon UK Kindle Top 100, reaching number thirty-eight. The Venice Secret has had over five million Kindle Unlimited pages read and received more than 4000 Amazon reviews since publication. Anita’s next novel, The Florence Letter will be published by Bookouture on 24 June 2024 as ebook, paperback and audiobook.

Anita enjoyed writing stories from a young age, and won a local writing competition when she was nine years old. Encouraged by this, she typed up a series of stories about a mouse on her mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. She received a polite rejection letter, her first.

Many of Anita’s summers growing up were spent with her family driving to Italy, and she went on to study French and Italian at university. As part of her degree, Anita lived in Siena for several months where she studied and au paired, and she spent a lot of time travelling around Italy in her twenties.

Anita likes to read journals and diaries from the past, and one of her favourite pastimes is visiting art galleries and country houses. Her first published novel, The Venice Secret is inspired by her mother taking her to see the Canalettos at The National Gallery in London as a child.

Since 2015, Anita has worked as a social media manager, training authors on social media, and helping to promote their books. She’s run several courses in London and York, and has worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.

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