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Excerpt from An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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An Appetite for Violets

A Novel

by Martine Bailey

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey X
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
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  • Published:
    Jan 2015, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

An Appetite For Violets

As Kitt tramped on alone towards the villa, unease clung to him like the rancid sweat that soaked his shirt. He was weak-headed, sure enough, after five days of throwing up across the heaving boat rail. At Leghorn, his port of arrival in Italy, he had disdained the other English disembarking from the boat. They had jostled and jawed in gaudy Paris costumes, their ruddy faces peering into Mr Nugent's Grand Tour. While they dawdled over vast portmanteaus he had sauntered onwards with only a saddlebag slapping his hips. He was a hunter, not a tourist, Kitt told himself. He was here to find Carinna, not follow some vulgar Itinerary.

He had hired the first unshaven ruffian who grasped his sleeve and offered himself as a guide. Later, he regretted his impulse: at Lucca the rogue had urged him to enter a squalid inn to meet his purported bellisima sister. By then Kitt understood he was very far from his usual Covent Garden haunts. No doubt a gang of sharpers or even cutthroats waited inside. The coin of dismissal he had tossed at the scoundrel lost him use of the horse, but later he blessed Lady Fortune for that.

There had been no news from Carinna since her last letter, the letter he now kept tucked against his ribs. He knew the words by heart and worried them afresh, squinting at the bleached ribbon of the road she had ridden more than six weeks before him:

7th March 1773
Villa Ombrosa

At first he had been delayed by the usual lack of funds. Then, when his agitation had heightened to a sort of madness, he had pawned his best coat and set off without a word to another soul. And finally, that damned boat had first been delayed at Marseilles and then blown about like a cork on the heaving ocean. All had been against him. Yet – how had it taken him six weeks? And each day had brought no further word from Carinna.

The iron gates of the villa yielded with a rusty squawk and Kitt glimpsed the white bulk of the building through the avenue of lime trees. The sun was sinking and bands of honeyed light fell between the trees as his boots crunched overloud across the gravel. A sudden gust rose and lifted the branches with a hiss like a hidden torrent. Even the evening breeze was as warm as an animal's breath.

It was a decent property, this retreat of their uncle's. Though the devil only knew what vice Uncle Quentin had purchased it for, so far from English eyes. He would certainly stay awhile, Kitt mused, as the broad house with its leprous statues, terrace and lawns came into view. Whatever Carinna was running from, this was a comfortable bolthole. Of course she had expected him a week past, on Easter Sunday. Yet his sister would be all sympathy once she heard the account of his devilish journey. They must still be at siesta, he thought. A clever notion that, however foreign. After greeting Carinna he would find a cool pillow to ease his throbbing head. Before supper he would bathe, get the servants to clean his clothes, and drift away from all his burden of cares in luxurious sleep.

'Carinna?' He called her name into the stillness but only a shower of paper-dry leaves sighed in reply. Mounting the terrace he found inviting chairs and cushions bleached by many seasons of sunshine. The door stood ajar. How trusting was his dear Sis!

Excerpted from An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey. Copyright © 2015 by Martine Bailey. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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