'The Mermaid Garden' enchants

Author Santa Montefiore offers a spellbinding tale of regret, resolve and resolution, and how all is tied together by love, with her enchanting novel “The Mermaid Garden.”

The story begins in the past. Floriana, a lovely little girl from Tuscany, is left with her drunken father after her mother runs off with another man. Floriana is a wild child and has unlimited freedom to explore.

While on one of her adventures, she is caught looking over the wall of a villa that she likes to visit by a boy named Dante, whose family owns the villa. He invites her in to explore the gorgeous Mermaid Garden, and they become fast friends. Floriana even falls in love with Dante, despite the fact that she is only 10 and he is a teenager going off to school at the end of the summer — she somehow knows their lives were meant to be connected.

Floriana is loved and adored by Dante’s family, and she and her friend Contanza, a local count’s daughter, are allowed to play and visit as much as they like. But as the girls grow older, it becomes evident that Floriana is not of the same class of people as Dante and Contanza, and as much as Dante loves the little waif, he knows a life with Floriana is impossible.

Moving into the present, the story turns to Marina and Grey Turner, who own and run the beautiful Polzanze Hotel. One of Marina's great sorrows is that she has no children of her own, and her stepchildren, especially 23-year-old Clementine, only tolerate her existence, even though she has been in their lives since they were very young.

When the hotel becomes in danger of closing, Marina fights as hard as she can to save her dreams. She advertises for an artist to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she hires, Rafa Santoro, is charismatic and wise and soon begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes of the hotel. However, he has his own agenda.

Montefiore, a consummate storyteller, has a magical way of pulling her readers into her beautiful worlds where love triumphs and a little heartache is necessary to make dreams come true. “The Mermaid Garden” is a fine example of the talent of this writer, showcasing her ability to weave two distinct storylines into one intriguing and uplifting tale.