Publisher: Corvus Books
Published: March 4th 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook
Many thanks to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and the publisher for my gorgeous hardback gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour today.
When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.
In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.
But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…
I was initially drawn to this book, not just by the gorgeous cover (Yes, I am that person), but also by the story’s description of art, Italy and a suspicious death. Well for me it was a no brainer and I couldn’t wait to get hold of a copy and get stuck in! The story I found however goes much deeper, looking at youth, privilege money and status, friendship and identity. All this and more, wrapped in a wonderfully evocative mix of the beauty of Venice, Florence and Rome, the historical opulence of Italian Art and Architecture and the highly charged dynamics of a set of wealthy young things and their fickle and selfish nature.
Ever since Ada’s life changed at 13 years old and was forced to leave her beloved home, Garreg Las, in remote Wales, to live with her mother in Brockly London, she has had a constant feeling that ‘This was not my life’. A step father she misses, a status she believes was her natural right, coupled with a mother that has moved on and just wants to put the past behind her, Ada has always been looking for a way ‘back in’. At the offer from her eccentric and well off Aunt she books onto a modern day ‘Grand Tour’ of Italy. A chance she sees to mix with and befriend ‘the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged.’ Introducing herself to them, with a slightly varnished persona, she is desperate to become a part of their group. An event occurs at the end of the trip which, in a split second, Ada seizes the opportunity to provide some of them with ‘A Favour’. A secret that will have them grateful and indebted to her forever. However, secrets can often be discovered.
This was a super read, which I enjoyed very much. I was drawn in instantly and remained that way throughout the whole book. The settings were a joy to read, the slow burning tension builds wonderfully and the ever present sinister and sometimes ruthlessness of this group was delicious! Full of lies, secrets, twists and red herrings, with everyone looking over their shoulder or trying to cover their own back, are any of them really friends? Or is it just a question of who’s allowed inside and who isn’t?
Complex, insightful and engaging, I found this a well written novel and as the first novel for adults by this author, I look forward to her writing more.