Set in 1879 Venice, this story is hard to categorize, but impossible to put down. Twins Joseph and Sophie Hannigan leave behind a mysterious, unhappy past in New York City to join Venice’s expatriate artists’ community. Handsome, gifted Joseph has great talent and lovely Sophie is his muse. Their close relationship and strong attraction for each other make some people uncomfortable. Readers learn later in the story what disturbing events brought the brother and sister to guard and care for each other as they do. The twins are short of money. They must find a wealthy patron to help support them financially and promote Joseph’s work.
Also figuring in this atmospheric, intricate story are failed English poet Nicholas Dane and the beautiful French courtesan Odilé Léon. These former lovers are now implacable enemies. Odilé has irrevocably damaged Nicholas, and he is determined to destroy her and prevent her dark secrets from ruining more lives. She is driven by her obsessive need to win renown through the great artists she sponsors, but her price is higher than most would want to pay.
Troubling threads of forbidden love, artistic obsession, and evil-tainted beauty wind through this page-turner. While hard to summarize without giving away too much plot detail, this mysterious, dangerous, haunting novel will keep readers spellbound. Venice is a character in itself—dark, romantic, and decadent. Readers may wish to travel there to see the beauty that Chance describes. The ancient city in all its moods provides an enchanting backdrop for the storyline. The plot will keep readers wondering and guessing until the very end, when this conundrum of love, death, art, and obsession finally comes to its bittersweet resolution. Recommended.