Sea of Lost Love

Written by Santa Montefiore
Review by Cathy Kemp

The choice of two picturesque coastal situations—the Cornish ancestral home of the Montague family and a former Italian convent turned guest house—provide the enviable background to mystery and romance. Celestria Montague has led a privileged life thus far until a summer holiday at Pendrift Hall, the home of the Montagues for 300 years, is ripped asunder by the sudden disappearance of Celestria’s father on the night of her Uncle Archie’s 50th birthday. Surrounded by a family who are accepting this tragedy with typical English reserve, Celestria is determined to discover the truth behind what appears to be an unfortunate incident.

With an offer of marriage from a safe lover recently accepted, Celestria follows a lead to Puglia in Southern Italy in pursuit of the facts. Whilst staying in the delightful ex-convent, surrounded by the cloisters and some interesting fellow residents, Celestria delves into the recent history of her father’s business. Her interest is arrested by Hamish, son-in-law of Federica and Gaitaino Gancia, who own the Convento di Santa Maria del Mare, and whose initial hostility and rudeness are almost enough to make her abandon her quest. Despite his best efforts, however, Hamish and Celestria learn to love and discover their differences are only misunderstandings.

Montefiore portrays the characters of the privileged classes of the 1950s in typecast, but the variations in the storyline provide the reader with interest also. There is an unusual linkage between this novel and Santa Montefiore’s previous book, The Gypsy Madonna, whereby Daphne Halifax, one of the minor characters, makes a re-appearance and provides some unexpected continuity of theme.