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Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels. Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels. Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years. It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever. Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.


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Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels. Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels. Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years. It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever. Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.

30 review for The Venice Sketchbook

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen The descriptions of Venice in both the 1928-44 and 2001 timelines are beautiful. Englishwoman Juliet Browning visits Venice with her aunt in 1928 and then she visits again in 1938 and 1939. Each time, she meets and spends time with wealthy nobleman Leonardo Da Rossi. Leo's path in life has been set since he was young, so there can never be a permanent relationship between Juliet and Leo but they will always be connected because of their actions in 1939. Much la The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen The descriptions of Venice in both the 1928-44 and 2001 timelines are beautiful. Englishwoman Juliet Browning visits Venice with her aunt in 1928 and then she visits again in 1938 and 1939. Each time, she meets and spends time with wealthy nobleman Leonardo Da Rossi. Leo's path in life has been set since he was young, so there can never be a permanent relationship between Juliet and Leo but they will always be connected because of their actions in 1939. Much later, in 2001, on her deathbed, Juliet utters the word Venice to her great niece, Caroline. In a box, left to her by her aunt, Caroline finds a sketchbook and three keys. Off Caroline goes to Venice, in search of what her great aunt was trying to tell her.  Juliet's "voice" seems so melancholy throughout her story and she has reason to feel that way. After her 1928 visit to Venice, Juliet's plans to attend art college are cut short by her father's financial losses and she must take a teaching job to support herself and her mom, after her father's death. In 1938 and then 1939, Juliet is able to travel to Venice and each time she runs into Leo. It's on what should be her year long visit to Venice in 1939 that Juliet knows she is in love with the married Leo. War is coming closer and closer but Juliet refuses to return to her home where she would be safer.  It is through Caroline's timeline and visit to Venice, in search of where she can use the keys, that we learn more of what happened to Juliet, all those years ago. There are so many improbable coincidences, in both timelines, that push this story forward. Between the descriptions of Venice, that sound like they come from a tourist brochure, including the description of the fine cuisine, it is hard for me to feel connected to the women in either timeline. For Juliet, danger is approaching quickly and then it's upon her and those around her but her telling of the events are related in such a monotone voice that there is a lack of tension during events that are devastating and that should be very emotional. This is not a time in history that should have felt so flat but that's the way that it felt to me, in this story.  Publication April 13, 2021 Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    This is the story of Juliet ‘Lettie’ Browning from 1928 through the Second World War years and her great-niece Caroline Grant at the turn of the 21st Century. When Aunt Lettie dies in 2001 at a low point in Caroline’s life, she sets off to Venice to unlock the mysteries of Juliet’s well kept secrets. The story is told in dual timelines. First of all the setting principally in Venice is very good though I do feel like I’m reading from my trusty DK guide as we take many a stroll or ride in a vapor This is the story of Juliet ‘Lettie’ Browning from 1928 through the Second World War years and her great-niece Caroline Grant at the turn of the 21st Century. When Aunt Lettie dies in 2001 at a low point in Caroline’s life, she sets off to Venice to unlock the mysteries of Juliet’s well kept secrets. The story is told in dual timelines. First of all the setting principally in Venice is very good though I do feel like I’m reading from my trusty DK guide as we take many a stroll or ride in a vaporetto. There are some good descriptions of this unique and stunning city which does transport me back there and captures its atmosphere through the narrow streets, many canals, food, festivals, churches and art. The art element is particularly interesting through the Biennale modern art exhibition and the discussions in the 1920/30’s sections on the ‘new style’ of art of artists like Picasso versus the old masters. The puzzle and intrigue is Juliet’s past is an interesting one but it doesn’t quite deliver on its promise. There are some good characters such as Juliet and although Juliet’s imperious Aunt Hortense is not in the book for long I find her rather delicious in her very definite views and the Contessa Fiorito who befriends Juliet is another interesting character. Other than that many of the characters are rather bland and colourless and we only get a superficial glimpse of any personality. Caroline’s story is not especially interesting and I find it detracts from Juliet’s which has much more meat on the bones. However, the pace of the book is that of a snail as we take a sllloooowww plod around Venice rather than whisking along at a brisk pace and there’s little excitement. There’s too much Venice, too much sustenance (is the author obsessed with food? On a diet and torturing herself? 😁) and not enough substance. We get a whiff of war, a scent of a love story but there’s not much depth to either. There’s little sense of danger during the German occupation of Italy and the ending should have been dynamite and instead is a briefly ignited Roman Candle. There’s a lot of coincidence, contrivance and plot convenience especially at the end. Talking of which, what an abrupt end - what are we meant to make of it? It’s like the storytelling ran out of steam. Overall, it’s a really mixed bag. The premise is good, parts of Juliet’s story are interesting but on the whole story is thin. I had the feeling the author wants to transport herself from her Covid bubble and grabbed a much thumbed Baedeker guide to Venice and bobs your aunt Hortense or Lettie. I don’t dislike the book by any means though I don’t think I’ll remember it and so my rating is in Switzerland with Lettie. With thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the arc for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Time changes everything. We can never fully revisit those people and places we've kept frozen in still life hovering in chambers within our memories. Rhys Bowen presents The Venice Sketchbook which travels in a time-spanning arc from 1928, then to 1938 and then to 2001. The points of destination leap from England and to Venice and back again. The cast of characters adapt to the years, the changing of locations, and the deep impact of historical events. Juliet "Lettie" Browning first sets foot upon Time changes everything. We can never fully revisit those people and places we've kept frozen in still life hovering in chambers within our memories. Rhys Bowen presents The Venice Sketchbook which travels in a time-spanning arc from 1928, then to 1938 and then to 2001. The points of destination leap from England and to Venice and back again. The cast of characters adapt to the years, the changing of locations, and the deep impact of historical events. Juliet "Lettie" Browning first sets foot upon the beauty of Venice in 1928. She's being accompanied by her strict aunt, Hortensia. Both are hardly seasoned travelers. When Hortensia takes ill from an upset stomach, Juliet decides to tour the city alone. It's here that she encounters the handsome Leonardo Da Rossi from a noble shipping family. Although she and Leonardo are taken with one another, Leonardo is promised to marry another. They eventually part company. The story fastforwards to 1938 when Juliet returns to Venice as an art teacher in charge of a group of students. Wonderously, she comes upon the dashing Leonardo once again. But the current times in Italy are lined with Mussolini's thugs and the seeping in of the Italian fascists. The flames of their affection have never quite gone out. But Leonardo is married and the thought of it dulls the spark and fills Juliet with deep regret. Bowen ushers in 2001 with Juliet's great niece, Caroline Grant. Caroline faces the end of her marriage and the bitter fight over custody of their young son, Teddy. Fate will place Teddy living in New York with his American father after the Twin Towers have been attacked. The tremors of the time force Teddy to remain in America for the time being. Caroline will travel to Venice on behalf of her great aunt Lettie who has passed away. Caroline wishes to honor her with dispersing her ashes in the lovely city. It's here that we will come upon secrets in the lives of these women. I am an avid fan of Rhys Bowen and have read tons of her books. The Venice Sketchbook seemed formulaic to me with a predictable plot and characters that we have run into time and time again. Lost loves and all that. World War II stories have almost taken over most readers' reading lists as of late. Don't get me wrong. The Venice Sketchbook is still a fine offering from the highly talented Rhys Bowen. Perhaps there is a certain weariness nowadays during these times that have suppressed our mobility and put a damper on our usual desire and zest for life. Perhaps we're searching for something more that catapults us into a different dimension.....far from the pain of the past and far from the shadows of today. I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Lake Union Publishers and to the talented Rhys Bowen for the opportunity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pat (not getting friend updates currently)

    This is not a genre I read very often (historical/WWII fiction) or even enjoy very much but there are exceptions, and the fact that it was largely set in Venice called to me. The story is told from the point of view of Juliet (Lottie) Browning before and after the start of WWII and in 2001 from the POV of her great niece Caroline Grant. In 1928, when Lettie was 18 she visited Venice briefly with her Aunt Hortensia (that is some name). Naturally she met a handsome young Italian man, Leo da Rossi, This is not a genre I read very often (historical/WWII fiction) or even enjoy very much but there are exceptions, and the fact that it was largely set in Venice called to me. The story is told from the point of view of Juliet (Lottie) Browning before and after the start of WWII and in 2001 from the POV of her great niece Caroline Grant. In 1928, when Lettie was 18 she visited Venice briefly with her Aunt Hortensia (that is some name). Naturally she met a handsome young Italian man, Leo da Rossi, son of a Count. They share a kiss. In 1938 Lottie is back in Venice, she is now an art teacher and is chaperoning a group of schoolgirls on a trip to the continent. Who should she run into - you guessed it. She sees Leo again. In 1939 she is granted a year’s bursary (is that the right word?) to spend a year in Venice at the Art Accademie. No prizes for guessing how it goes from there. But it is not all roses for these guys, there are dark clouds on the horizon. In 2001 Caroline’s husband has taken their 6 year old son to New York to spend the summer with him and his new girlfriend. Then the twin towers terrorist hit happened and suddenly the boy is traumatised and cannot travel. Meanwhile Great Aunt Lettie is ailing and calls for Caroline who takes leave from her job and races to her aunt’s side. Aunt Lettie is on her deathbed but manages to give Caroline a garbled message and three odd keys and tells her to go to Venice. So Caroline thinks to hell with her ex and jets off to Venice to solve the puzzle that Great Aunt Lettie set her. While the story was pleasant enough and it certainly evoked Venice really well, I thought the plot was a bit predictable and contrived. The war stuff was quite lightweight and the characters seemed a little cliched and one dimensional. If you like a quick, undemanding ‘feel good’ romance with a twist of mystery this one is for you. For me, I actually really enjoyed reading it but will probably forget it very quickly. My thanks to Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing and Rhys Bowen for providing a copy for me to review. My opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    Rhys Bowen brings Venice to vibrant life in this dual-timeline historical fiction gem. We follow art teacher Lettie to the “Floating City” just before WWII, and her great niece Caroline, who visits in 2001 to scatter Lettie’s ashes and unravel the mystery of a sketchbook and three keys given as Lettie was dying. Romance, secrets, brutal war, astounding courage, and Bowen’s elegant writing make this a tale to savor. 5 of 5 Stars Mille grazie to the author, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for Rhys Bowen brings Venice to vibrant life in this dual-timeline historical fiction gem. We follow art teacher Lettie to the “Floating City” just before WWII, and her great niece Caroline, who visits in 2001 to scatter Lettie’s ashes and unravel the mystery of a sketchbook and three keys given as Lettie was dying. Romance, secrets, brutal war, astounding courage, and Bowen’s elegant writing make this a tale to savor. 5 of 5 Stars Mille grazie to the author, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for the Arc in exchange for my honest review. Pub Date 13 Apr 2021 #TheVeniceSketchbook #NetGalley

  6. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    Another dual time line story. This one is easy to follow as each chapter is headed up with the person, date and place. The book description is sufficient so I don’t have to repeat the entire story line here. What I will say is: This is not a spectacular WWII story nor is it a hot romance story. It is, however, a story about forbidden love and heartbreak aplenty. I enjoyed it for the most part, however it seemed to take forever to get to the point. There are never ending passages that read like a tra Another dual time line story. This one is easy to follow as each chapter is headed up with the person, date and place. The book description is sufficient so I don’t have to repeat the entire story line here. What I will say is: This is not a spectacular WWII story nor is it a hot romance story. It is, however, a story about forbidden love and heartbreak aplenty. I enjoyed it for the most part, however it seemed to take forever to get to the point. There are never ending passages that read like a travelogue of Venice which may be of interest to someone who has been to Venice. I have not. Caroline’s story (2001), to me, was superfluous and just took up space and I did not care for the idea of cousins getting together. I feel sure that I would have liked the book more had it been Juliet’s (1938) story alone. Juliet certainly had enough oomph in her life to warrant a good read all on her own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vickie

    I can’t believe it…this is the first book I have read by prolific writer Rhys Bowen. Although I thought it somewhat fairytailish, after the last few years, maybe it was just nice to escape into a fairy tale, albeit bittersweet. Although somewhat formulaic, I found the story gripping; I couldn’t put it down. I liked how the plot unfolded by moving forward and backward in time. As a bonus, the beautiful city of Venice is also one of the main characters….and I enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite I can’t believe it…this is the first book I have read by prolific writer Rhys Bowen. Although I thought it somewhat fairytailish, after the last few years, maybe it was just nice to escape into a fairy tale, albeit bittersweet. Although somewhat formulaic, I found the story gripping; I couldn’t put it down. I liked how the plot unfolded by moving forward and backward in time. As a bonus, the beautiful city of Venice is also one of the main characters….and I enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite experiences, locations, and foods.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    In 2019 I had the good fortune to visit Venice and absolutely loved it. So, just the fact that this book was set there had me interested. This tells the story of Julietta Browning who is an English citizen and ends up in Venice during WW 2. I have to be honest: I'm kind of getting sick of WW 2 books. It seems the literary world is obsessed with them and I appreciate authors who find other times and places to write about. That being said, I did enjoy this story. There are parts that are predictabl In 2019 I had the good fortune to visit Venice and absolutely loved it. So, just the fact that this book was set there had me interested. This tells the story of Julietta Browning who is an English citizen and ends up in Venice during WW 2. I have to be honest: I'm kind of getting sick of WW 2 books. It seems the literary world is obsessed with them and I appreciate authors who find other times and places to write about. That being said, I did enjoy this story. There are parts that are predictable and parts that are not. There are parts that are possibly unreal and others that are more likely to have occurred. There were times I felt it was going into too much detail and other times when I was nervous for the characters. There is sadness, but it does end on a bright note so you're not horribly depressed. Of Rhys Bowen's recent historical novels, I'd say I like this one the best. And more than anything, I must visit Venice again somehow, some way!

  9. 4 out of 5

    theliterateleprechaun

    Pour a glass of Prosecco, make yourself a plate of tramezzini or some bruschetta, fill a little bowl with olives and let’s pretend we are soaking up the sun on the balcony at Hotel Danieli whilst reading Rhys Bowen’s latest masterpiece, “Venice Sketchbook”. Caroline Grant has shed enough tears for a lifetime. Not only has her husband left her for another woman overseas, he’s proposing that their son should live with him in New York, an act of terrorism has caused the Twin Towers to fall while he Pour a glass of Prosecco, make yourself a plate of tramezzini or some bruschetta, fill a little bowl with olives and let’s pretend we are soaking up the sun on the balcony at Hotel Danieli whilst reading Rhys Bowen’s latest masterpiece, “Venice Sketchbook”. Caroline Grant has shed enough tears for a lifetime. Not only has her husband left her for another woman overseas, he’s proposing that their son should live with him in New York, an act of terrorism has caused the Twin Towers to fall while her son is there, and now she’s received a letter that her ninety-year-old Great Aunt Lettie is dying. Rushing to make it in time, Caroline arrives to hear her aunt’s dying wish and receives a box containing some jewellery, 3 keys and a sketchbook. Why does her aunt want her to go to Venice? What do these keys unlock? Armed with fortitude, she heads off to La Serenissima to scatter her aunt’s ashes and uncover secrets hidden for 60 years. Juliet Browning has made a dream come true! She’s come back to Venice as an art student and hopes to find the boy she kissed beside the Grand Canal. As luck would have it, the star-crossed lovers find each other, but fate has dealt a cruel hand; he’s unavailable. Furthermore, war is looming and foreigners are being asked to return home. That’s not an option for Juliet. You’ll have to pick up this fabulous historical fiction on April 13, 2021, to find out what choices Caroline and Juliet make and how it affects those they love. A perfect read for those who love to travel and who love a great love story! It brought to mind being in Venice during Aqua alta and walking on tables in St. Mark’s Square, experiencing luxury at Café Florian, and pretending we were guests at Hotel Danieli so we could sneak in and wander in awe through the stately palazzo. Bowen will help to make your armchair vacation seem real with her vivid descriptions of food, sights and sounds all the while reminding you about the importance of family and doing what’s right even though it’s painful. I loved reading her blog while she was writing this book; she revealed that her least favourite part of writing was the “copy-edits”. It was worth the pain! Bowen’s characters are endearing and realistic and her plotline transitions are seamless. Her storyline unravels gently like a gondola on a leisurely ride down the Grand Canal…until a speedboat zooms past and you are hit with the wake of twists and turns! It’s everything you’d expect from an accomplished writer. I didn’t want to turn over the last page; it was THAT good. Buona lettura! Thank you Rhys Bowen, Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Betül

    **ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review** Every now and then I pick up a Historical Fiction novel because I enjoy the setting and the emotional punch it delivers. It is not easy for an author to make the reader connect and care for two main characters who live in a different time period. I always enjoy seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together and show a complete picture. I love trying to predict what will happen next and how everything is connected. The Venice Sketchbook **ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review** Every now and then I pick up a Historical Fiction novel because I enjoy the setting and the emotional punch it delivers. It is not easy for an author to make the reader connect and care for two main characters who live in a different time period. I always enjoy seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together and show a complete picture. I love trying to predict what will happen next and how everything is connected. The Venice Sketchbook started really good and I loved the setting of the story. I thought the division between the two timelines was done well. I looked forward to seeing what happened to both Juliet in the past and Caroline in the present time. However, when there are two timelines it can get a bit difficult to tell a complete story in detail. That was my biggest letdown in this book. I just didn't have enough time to fully connect to either main character. The stories felt rushed, and especially that of Caroline was over before it really begun and it felt unfinished. It was lacking depth. I needed more time to build a relationship with the characters and I unfortunately wasn't able to. I also didn't feel like the romances where genuine. I just didn't feel any real love between the main characters and their love interest. I liked the writing style of the author, and it definitely was very easy to read and had a great flow. It was also emotional at times and I appreciate the author being able to make me shed a couple of tears. I am curious about this author's other books, so I'll probably check them out.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Somewhat disappointing. The setting was everything it should be, but I just didn't feel the sympathy for the characters that I should have felt and so I did not care as much as I should have about what happened to them particularly those characters in the time of war. I was especially irritated about a character that seemed to be introduced just to be killed a few pages later. I am rounding up to three stars mostly because of the setting but also because of the few characters who I did like and Somewhat disappointing. The setting was everything it should be, but I just didn't feel the sympathy for the characters that I should have felt and so I did not care as much as I should have about what happened to them particularly those characters in the time of war. I was especially irritated about a character that seemed to be introduced just to be killed a few pages later. I am rounding up to three stars mostly because of the setting but also because of the few characters who I did like and care about. 2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge: A book featuring three generations (grandparent, parent, child)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bskinner

    If this were the first book I had read by Rhys Bowen, it would be my last. I’m not even sure what genre this novel is—it fails as a historical novel. It’s even worse as a romance novel. The only part I enjoyed was the setting of Venice.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan in Perthshire

    This sounded such a fabulous premise - and it was set in Venice in two different time periods! I was so excited, especially as this is a new writer to me so the prospect of a whole set of new books to reead was exciting! It should have been fabulous but I'm afraid I found it predictable, slow paced and lifeless. The events covered in the 1939-1943 segment were undoubtedly the more interesting but not enough for me to actually care about the predictable events which unfolded. The modern day (2001 This sounded such a fabulous premise - and it was set in Venice in two different time periods! I was so excited, especially as this is a new writer to me so the prospect of a whole set of new books to reead was exciting! It should have been fabulous but I'm afraid I found it predictable, slow paced and lifeless. The events covered in the 1939-1943 segment were undoubtedly the more interesting but not enough for me to actually care about the predictable events which unfolded. The modern day (2001) segment was much weaker and the characters were dull and unexciting. I really was very disappointed in this and I think if the author had settled on concentrating on one time period, she might have managed a more riveting story. Sorry this was not my cup of tea.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Toni Osborne

    A sketchbook, three keys and a final whisper...Venice, a dying bequest by Caroline Grant’s beloved great-aunt Lettie, a wish that will bring Caroline to scatter Lettie’s ashes in the city she loved.... What a beautiful love story said with dual time-lines from 1928-44 when Juliet (Lettie) visited Venice with her aunt then when she returned in 1938 to attend Art College and hopefully rekindle her love affair with Leonardo Da Rossi. This sweet story said in a melancholic voice tells us what Lettie A sketchbook, three keys and a final whisper...Venice, a dying bequest by Caroline Grant’s beloved great-aunt Lettie, a wish that will bring Caroline to scatter Lettie’s ashes in the city she loved.... What a beautiful love story said with dual time-lines from 1928-44 when Juliet (Lettie) visited Venice with her aunt then when she returned in 1938 to attend Art College and hopefully rekindle her love affair with Leonardo Da Rossi. This sweet story said in a melancholic voice tells us what Lettie and Leo were up to. In alternate chapter we move forward to 2001 with Caroline reliving the precious moments of her gr-aunt and experiencing similar feelings. These two loveable women narrate their experience as it unfolds. Venice seemed to be well known by the author. Ms. Bowen paints a stunning picture of the city with its vaporetto, narrow streets, many canals, festivals, churches, art exhibitions and of course the food, the colourful people and family ties . Yes, reading this story you need to pour a glass of Pinot Grigio, set aside a plate of prosciutto, some green olive, warm bread with some oil and voilà your taste buds are ready to savour succulent dishes and the Italian life style. yum... As the story moves along at a snail pace just like a romantic gondola ride along the canal and lagoon islands, back and forth in time seamlessly we go to enjoy a story that mostly brings Venice and its people to life. Yes the author also mentions Venice’s Aqua Alta that floods the streets at high tide. What a sweet story this turned out to be even if part of the setting was during WW11. The characters are reasonably well developed even those who mysteriously disappear. I like following Lettie and Caroline in this story of doomed love.... I received this ARC from Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for my thoughts

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I love Rhys Bowen's books so when I saw this, I jumped at the chance to read it. The Venice Sketchbook requires a lot more thought and consideration than previous books I've read from this author. But it is worth it. I loved the dichotomy of Caroline's modern-day story (coinciding with the bombing of the Twin Towers) and Juliet's story (coinciding with the outbreak of World War 2), where neither women is in what you'd call an ideal situation. The stunning descriptions of Venice (from all the feast I love Rhys Bowen's books so when I saw this, I jumped at the chance to read it. The Venice Sketchbook requires a lot more thought and consideration than previous books I've read from this author. But it is worth it. I loved the dichotomy of Caroline's modern-day story (coinciding with the bombing of the Twin Towers) and Juliet's story (coinciding with the outbreak of World War 2), where neither women is in what you'd call an ideal situation. The stunning descriptions of Venice (from all the feast days to the acqua alta) impart a sense of being in the middle of everything as Juliet is going through it. It took me a few chapters to get my head into the flow of the story: I think it was the 2 stories being told in such depth that I struggled to keep up with. At least until I figured out what was happening. And then I couldn't put it down.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Connie Cook

    I liked this book. It was a real fast read, and I was able to keep track of the characters. The setting was Venice during WWII. There was true love, art, hiding Jews, spying, a baby, wonderful descriptions of navigating Venice, deception, loyalty, and a secret kept and discovered after the death of Juliet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Haddock

    The dual timeline seems to have evolved into a staple of historical fiction, and sometimes it can be initially confusing. In this case, I followed along with no problem, and with every delight. The story primarily follows Juliet "Lettie" Browning on her adventures in Venice, first in 1928, then in 1938, 1939 and through the war years. Woven in is Caroline Grant, Lettie's great-niece, who goes to Venice after Lettie leaves clues to a former life. In no time, I was completely caught up in the story The dual timeline seems to have evolved into a staple of historical fiction, and sometimes it can be initially confusing. In this case, I followed along with no problem, and with every delight. The story primarily follows Juliet "Lettie" Browning on her adventures in Venice, first in 1928, then in 1938, 1939 and through the war years. Woven in is Caroline Grant, Lettie's great-niece, who goes to Venice after Lettie leaves clues to a former life. In no time, I was completely caught up in the story and in all the moments from tender to terrifying. Ms. Bowen's Royal Spyness series is still my favorite, but the stand-alones like The Venice Sketchbook are pure treasures.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily Frances

    4.5 Stars: I really enjoyed this book. I love how strong of a woman Lettie was and how strong she made Caroline. The descriptions in the book made me want to visit Venice! The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is I felt like the last few chapters felt rushed to wrap things up.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    Not quite as cosy as her previous novels (that ending!), but I still enjoyed it a lot. I do wish, however, that she wasn't so anti-abortion. Not quite as cosy as her previous novels (that ending!), but I still enjoyed it a lot. I do wish, however, that she wasn't so anti-abortion.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslie's Bookcase

    Loved this! Full post coming soon.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This was a great book. Enjoyed it very much.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yolanda Leàird

    I read this because I enjoyed reading the 'Royal Spyness' series. I found this book a great disappointment and extremely boring. I read this because I enjoyed reading the 'Royal Spyness' series. I found this book a great disappointment and extremely boring.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    The Venice Sketchbook tells the story of Juliet Browning, a young English woman who has a love affair with Venice, Italy during the time of World War II. Juliet is an art student who visits Venice several times as she grows up and continues to encounter Leo Da Rossi, a wealthy young Italian man who completely enamors her. The novel also tells the story of Caroline Grant, a young woman in 2001 whose husband has left her and whose son is stuck in NYC, unable to return due to trauma from 9/11. When The Venice Sketchbook tells the story of Juliet Browning, a young English woman who has a love affair with Venice, Italy during the time of World War II. Juliet is an art student who visits Venice several times as she grows up and continues to encounter Leo Da Rossi, a wealthy young Italian man who completely enamors her. The novel also tells the story of Caroline Grant, a young woman in 2001 whose husband has left her and whose son is stuck in NYC, unable to return due to trauma from 9/11. When her great aunt "Lettie" passes away, Caroline is asked to go to Venice to scatter Juliet's ashes, and while there, she uncovers pieces of Juliet's history in the beautiful city, unveiling a heartbreaking story during the second world war. The good: I love Rhys Bowen's storytelling and I've read the majority of her books, so I was excited to get my hands on her newest historical novel. I love the way she describes Venice--I've never been there, but the most well-rounded "character" in this novel is the actual city of Venice. She brings the culture and people to life throughout this novel. I also found the novel more interesting as Juliet's story progressed. I would have loved to hear more about life in Italy during WWII and learned some interesting information about that time period. The bad: I really didn't like a lot of the characters. I found leo to be selfish and manipulative throughout the story. Though he redeemed himself to some extent at the end, I couldn't really like him. I also found Juliet naive and childish, even when she was older. I also found the story of Caroline distracting even though it did lend to the mystery a little. I would have prefered more time spent on Juliet's life, especially at the end of her story. Also, Caroline's romance grossed me out. Majorly. Almost enough to move this to three stars. But overall, a great book with an interesting storyline and beautiful writing!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    #TheVeniceSketchbook #NetGalley A delightful book that I read straight through, the best WWII so far for me( a genre I enjoy).Thanks Lake Union NetGalley and @Rhysbowen. Venice pre-WWII ( 1938) finds Juliet Browning returning with a group of students and becoming reacquainted with Leonardo Da Rossi. This meeting will bloom into a love story that another generation in 2001 will continue. Juliet's great niece, Caroline Grant inherits from "Aunt Lettie" her ashes, some artwork and 3 keys which will u #TheVeniceSketchbook #NetGalley A delightful book that I read straight through, the best WWII so far for me( a genre I enjoy).Thanks Lake Union NetGalley and @Rhysbowen. Venice pre-WWII ( 1938) finds Juliet Browning returning with a group of students and becoming reacquainted with Leonardo Da Rossi. This meeting will bloom into a love story that another generation in 2001 will continue. Juliet's great niece, Caroline Grant inherits from "Aunt Lettie" her ashes, some artwork and 3 keys which will unlock secrets, some of which will remain. A compelling read with a fine ending. Recommended for WWII historical mystery fans.

  25. 4 out of 5

    michelle gilbert

    Juvenile writing The story line might be quite good but the writing is about as skillful and developed as an 8th grade creative writing project. Painful to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vlada (Vladkabooks)

    I can say with 100%, no with 1000% certainty that I am in love with this book, with every word that I have just read and with author's style! It was my second and I am absolutely sure not the last book by Rhys Bowen that I have read, I would like to discover more books by her. One more time she has proven to me that historical fiction is a great genre and that she is amazing British/American writer. The story is told from two POVs and several different timelines: 1) Juliet (Lettie) Browning (1928; I can say with 100%, no with 1000% certainty that I am in love with this book, with every word that I have just read and with author's style! It was my second and I am absolutely sure not the last book by Rhys Bowen that I have read, I would like to discover more books by her. One more time she has proven to me that historical fiction is a great genre and that she is amazing British/American writer. The story is told from two POVs and several different timelines: 1) Juliet (Lettie) Browning (1928; 1938; 1939-1945), young British girl who came to Venice for her 18th Birthday in 1928, where she met a boy from powerful Italian family Da Rossi , she came back later in 1938 as a school teacher accompanying girls on a trip and in 1939 as a foreign student, just before WWII began; 2) Caroline Grant (2001), young mother, who is trying to accept the end of her marriage and to move forward in her life. When her great-aunt Lettie died she received a task to go to Venice to scatter aunt's ashes and find the truth about Juliet's youth. I am in love with both female characters - Juliet and Caroline. I was shocked how Juliet managed to leave everything she had been through behind and continue peacefully living. This is an example of extremely strong personality! This book is not only heartbreaking and at the same time heartwarming story of eternal love, tragedy and courage, it is also an incredible Venice guide book, which make you feel like a Venetian and a part of this city. Now I want to go to Venice even more in order to walk in the streets where the novel took place. I definitely recommend this book and I know that I have found one more all-time favourite historical fiction novel. I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the review copy!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    When I first read the blurb for The Venice Sketchbook, which features art, star-crossed lovers, and war set in Venice, Italy, it jumped straight to the top of my list of must read 2021 releases. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, Netgalley and Rhys Bowen for the advance copy. The Venice Sketchbook is a historical fiction novel told in dual narratives, set (mostly) in Venice during the pre-war years of WWII and the months following 9/11. Nothing in Caroline Grant's life seems to be going right. When I first read the blurb for The Venice Sketchbook, which features art, star-crossed lovers, and war set in Venice, Italy, it jumped straight to the top of my list of must read 2021 releases. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, Netgalley and Rhys Bowen for the advance copy. The Venice Sketchbook is a historical fiction novel told in dual narratives, set (mostly) in Venice during the pre-war years of WWII and the months following 9/11. Nothing in Caroline Grant's life seems to be going right. Her husband has left her for a pop star. Her son is visiting her husband in the New York when the trade towers are hit. After 9/11, her husband says their son is too traumatized to fly. But is he really or is her husband just saying that? Finally, her beloved Great-Aunt Lettie has just passed away, leaving Caroline with a few half heard words whispered from her death bed and a box containing three keys. She decides to set out for Venice to try to unravel the mystery. In 1928, at the tender age of eighteen, Juliet "Lettie" Browning visits Venice for the first time and falls in love - with the city and a boy she meets named Leo Da Rossi. Eleven years later, she is given a chance to go back to art school in the city she loves and stay for an entire year. During her time there she runs into Leo and they fall in love again, but he's unable to be with her. WWII is approaching and foreigners are being advised to go home. Why does Juliet keep refusing to go home to England? The good: I loved the overall storyline. Juliet and Caroline's stories fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It has mystery, drama, romance all in one. The city of Venice itself. It's the one place in the world I most want to go and in a way I felt as if I was there through Bowen's descriptions of the city, food and culture. This book is a love letter to Venice. As an artist, I loved that the book featured the arts. The not-so-good I didn't enjoy some of the characters as much as I hoped to. Juliet reads as somewhat naive and childish no matter what her age is. Leo comes across as nonchalant or blasé. The characters didn't really act like they were in love. The war part of the book is only about 20٪ at most and it seemed a bit rushed. To be called a WWII historical fiction I would have expected a lot more of the story to relate to that, but that's just me. I would probably rate this a 3.5-4. I look forward to reading more from Rhys Bowen. I would recommend this novel to historical fiction readers. The feeling of the story stayed with me long after I finished the book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    www,layeredpages.com When we hear of Venice, we think of, art, music, festivals, food, religion, beautiful architecture and the Grand Canal. In the late 1930’s there was a war looming but many of the people of Venice thought surely with their rich culture, and Mussolini’s pact with Germany, they wouldn’t be affected Juliet “Lettie” Browning, an English woman, is a woman of strength and courage. The life she experienced and saw during her stay in Venice were during uncertain times. Her will to beh www,layeredpages.com When we hear of Venice, we think of, art, music, festivals, food, religion, beautiful architecture and the Grand Canal. In the late 1930’s there was a war looming but many of the people of Venice thought surely with their rich culture, and Mussolini’s pact with Germany, they wouldn’t be affected Juliet “Lettie” Browning, an English woman, is a woman of strength and courage. The life she experienced and saw during her stay in Venice were during uncertain times. Her will to behave uprightly puts her in many dangers but her resilience is an example to us all. I will say at times I felt that she might be too perfect to be true but those thoughts didn’t take away my admiration of kindness towards others. I enjoyed reading about the people Juliet met and formed relationships with in Venice. They are such extraordinary people in their own unique ways, you begin to feel kinship to them. The author’s character development is superb. As an artist I appreciate the author’s focus on much of the arts in Venice. Reading about the people’s love and their understanding and importance of art brought richness to the story. There was a scene where Juliet was taking an art class and her professor, in so many words, talked about forgetting everything she learned and turn the objects, she was drawing, into one design. Bravo! With dual time-lines, Caroline’s story intertwines perfectly with Juliet’s and find yourself fully immersed in their lives. I know this may sound like a cliché but I truly did not want the story to end. In fact, there are several character’s in the book that I would love to read more about their back story. There were previous comments from me stating that I was burned out on Word War II stories but when I saw this one, I knew that I had to read it. Bowen does a marvelous undertaking in portraying the Venice culture and spirit of the people. I was not disappointed one bit and I highly recommend this story. I’ve rated this book five stars and obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley. My opinions and thoughts of the story are my own. Stephanie Hopkins

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    This is a majorly book clubby book club book. The lazy melodrama of the soft WWII romance tends to piss me off as a genre. The formula typically involves a dippy (er, "plucky") contemporary heroine who is hopelessly-single-at-the-age-of-27/divorced/recently-heartbroken inheriting a mysterious collection-of-letters/unlabelled-key/trunk-in-the-attic and embarking on a tear-jerking journey to discover the poignant story of her dippy (er, "spirited") grandmother/maiden-aunt's tragic romance/orphan-r This is a majorly book clubby book club book. The lazy melodrama of the soft WWII romance tends to piss me off as a genre. The formula typically involves a dippy (er, "plucky") contemporary heroine who is hopelessly-single-at-the-age-of-27/divorced/recently-heartbroken inheriting a mysterious collection-of-letters/unlabelled-key/trunk-in-the-attic and embarking on a tear-jerking journey to discover the poignant story of her dippy (er, "spirited") grandmother/maiden-aunt's tragic romance/orphan-rescue/human-trafficking-scheme while also meeting her True Love, who is coincidentally the grandson of said female ancestor's lost lover. It's basically soft-core genocide porn, and it annoys the shit out of me. This is definitely that! It is! There's even some masturbatory 9/11 trauma thrown in for set decoration. But. I'm in a late-pandemic wanderlust state of mind, and this book has one thing going for it, which is dreamy, opulent, time-spanning depictions of Venice. The lagoon, the vaporetti, the bridges, the bells, the antipasti, the prosecco, the handsome Italian counts (yes, plural) in private boats zipping through the canals for midnight assignations. Let me have my dumb, escapist fun.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Neil Plakcy

    Once again, a beautifully written book by Rhys Bowen. I've been a big fan of her Royal Spyness series, as well as her standalones which often have a World War II background. This is another in that vein. A young British art student is given a chance to visit Venice with a domineering aunt in the time between the wars. A quick meeting with a handsome Venetian sets up the plot. In the present day, her great-niece inherits her sketchbook of Venice, along with several keys. Both stories are engaging an Once again, a beautifully written book by Rhys Bowen. I've been a big fan of her Royal Spyness series, as well as her standalones which often have a World War II background. This is another in that vein. A young British art student is given a chance to visit Venice with a domineering aunt in the time between the wars. A quick meeting with a handsome Venetian sets up the plot. In the present day, her great-niece inherits her sketchbook of Venice, along with several keys. Both stories are engaging and well-told, and I kept turning the pages to find out what will happen in both the past and the present, and how they will tie together. Altogether a great read.

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