Happy Tuesday afternoon!
Excited and delighted to share with you today an excerpt from this upcoming release from one of my favorite authors!👀
About the Book
As if he can discern my thoughts, Jack gives me a tight squeeze, then turns me around and starts pointing out landmarks. “See that white building, halfway up the hill? That’s the entrance to the artists’ colony. I can’t wait for you to see all the sculpture. With luck, we’ll have enough time for you to set up a canvas and capture some of the cliffs. The labyrinth is just there, follow my finger, look straight. See the dark spot in between the trees? And above that is part of the original fortress, built by Julius Caesar. Dad says it will be fully restored in an other couple of years, enough for people to visit safely. It takes forever because of all the permits and conservation rules they must follow. But we’ll take a walk through it, naturally. And ahead, on the right, by the old houses? On the second floor of Villa la Scogliera? See the terrace?”
I do. It has the same cheery patina as the Villa’s coral stucco walls. A lemon grove pours over the wall, meeting the gaily striped ochre-and-tan umbrellas by the infinity pool below. On the terrace itself, on either side of the French doors, petunias spill from terra-cotta pots in bursts of aubergine and gold. It’s like a Condé Nast photo shoot for the perfect Italian retreat.
It had been in a Condé Nast spread, but that was years ago. I read the piece when Jack first suggested we have the wedding here. I’d cut it out and used it as the basis for a painting I’d called Scylla, it inspired me so. It sold for $40,000 to a couple in Nashville with an obsession with mythology.
Hidden away on the western edge of Italy in the southwest of the Tyrrhenian Sea, out of sight from the mainland and the more popular islands of Capri and Anicapri to its north, lies the isolated Isle Isola. Originally a remote, hard-to-reach private armory of Julius Caesar, it is sometimes thought to be the island from which Homer’s Scylla perched in the cliffs, waiting for unsuspecting questing sailors like Odysseus, who had to choose between sailing closer to the six-headed beast or sinking into the gaping maw of Charybdis’s whirlpool. It is also said the island houses an oracle, but no documentation has been found to prove this claim. There have been a disturbing number of shipwrecks in the waters of the bay, surprise waves driving ships against the rocks at the base of the cliffs, and storms are known to arise without warning.
A more speculative fiction surrounds it; like any remote area, rumors abound about the island’s many hauntings over the years, including a famed Gray Lady who lingers about the fortress, supposedly the ghost of the daughter of one of the island’s many generals, who was sacrificed, given to an enemy who brought a mighty navy to attack the island. When he came ashore to parlay, the young woman was given to the man in good faith and disappeared that very night in a terrible storm. The storm raged for weeks, and the invading navy was driven away.
Sea monsters and unverifiable history aside, Isola’s occupation dates to Roman times, and is home to the stunning Villa la Scogliera, the house on the cliff, currently home to famed cinematographer Will Compton. The Villa, a former monastery, perches on the hillside and ties into the abandoned Roman fortress. While the Villa itself is of this century, and has been modernized with electricity and water, the fortress, abandoned for centuries, is undergoing a full renovation, sponsored in part by the Italian antiquities committee and the Compton Foundation.
In addition to grapes and olives, the island is known for its lemon groves. It also houses a natural rookery, home to the many birds who fly off course, find themselves lost in the straights and unable to return to land.
How romantic, how very Gothic and creepy, and how very Compton to choose an island in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sea monsters and exhausted birds to call their own.
“I see it. It’s lovely. Say the name again?”
“Villa la Scogliera.”
I try to mimic the way the R rolls off his tongue and bungle it massively, which makes Jack laugh.
“I’ve been studying the tapes and everything. I swear it.”
“Say it slowly, like this. Sko-lee-AIR-a. It means cliffside.”
“Close. Emphasis on the third syllable, and roll your R,” he says, planting a soft kiss on my cheek. “Chef Boy-ARRR-dee. Sko-lee-AIRRR-a. You can just call it the Villa, you know. No one will mind.”
“I need to learn Italian properly.”
“And you will. But let’s focus on one thing at a time, shall we? We have our whole lives ahead for me to teach you.”
Our whole lives. Lives that can be changed in an instant.
Stop it, Claire.
“The terrace is lovely. Is it special? Historically important? Did Medusa stand there or something?”
He rolls his eyes. “Not Medusa. Venus, maybe. The whole island is loaded with odes to Venus. No, my dear, it’s special because that’s where you will spend your first night as Mrs. Compton. Just you, and me—”
“And thirty of our nearest and dearest.”
He laughs. “Well, they won’t be watching what we get up to in there. Besides, I’ve been told the bed is magic.”