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Posted May 20, 2004
Layer upon layer upon layer: characterization, plot, setting. Some books one reads (or attempts to, at least) seem always to be missing one or more of these rather important elements. When you add in writing (and/or sometimes editing) skills¿or the lack of them¿finding a great book to read can be a task filled with mytery. Not so with the books of Sandra Heath, and in particular, her latest, Winter Dreams. The story begins in Lisbon, Portugal during the Napoleonic wars, then travels to London and then to Cornwall. In addition to French spies and English espionage, there is a prima donna who could give Maria Callas lessons in the art of being one; brother/sister twins with a psychic connection; a ghost; an old love gone awry but come to life again¿and a hero to die for. This book has everything. Everything! It has mystery and atmosphere and adventure and a romance that transcends years and distances to reunite Judith Nicholls Callard with her first love, Daniel, Lord Penventon. Although marriage between the two had been long planned, the younger Judith had fallen for the practiced charm of another man, Robert Callard, only to be widowed when he fought a duel not quite a year before the opening of the story. She¿d had no plans whatever to meet up with Daniel again, but had accompanied her twin, Jamie, on his government assignment to Lisbon. Daniel is known to have been consorting with the celebrated opera star, Madame Bella Barnardi, who has also caught the eye of Napoleon, along with those of seemingly every other man on the face of the earth! She is as volatile as dynamite, whether on- or off-stage, and she wants, she will have. Currently, she wants Daniel, and lures him to her side (with the help of the British government) by offering secret information of a very personal nature about and from Bonaparte.. Bella blackmails the British government, which then blackmails Daniel into cooperating with the singer, entirely against his wishes. Finally, he is able to convince the new Foreign Secretary to assist in a plot to trick the diva into divulging her secrets, rendering her threats useless, and freeing Daniel to pursue his love, Judith. Except for one small detail. Fearful of Bella¿s vengeful nature and several previous attempts on her life (both in Lisbon, onboard ship sailing back to England, and then again in London) Judith has taken herself off to Cornwall, and Daniel is unable to find her for several weeks. The resolution is fast and furious¿and eminently satisfactory¿as Bella gets her comeuppance, leaving Daniel and Judith to live happily ever after in mysterious Cornwall. This is a book to be read and re-read, over and over again. Purely marvelous!
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