Hannah is holding a huge giveaway for readers! She will be giving away 15 x signed hardback copies of The Echoes of Love; 3 romantic Venetian masks; and lots of fabulously colourful Murano glass goodies: 16 pendants, 2 bracelets, 2 paperweights and a vase
Anyone who comments on this post will be entered in the giveaway
For the Love of Legends, by Hannah Fielding
For me, researching a book is just as enjoyable as writing it. I set each of my novels in a passionate, romantic country, and so that I can really transport my readers there, I immerse myself in the setting: its history, its scenery, its cuisine, its culture. Top of my research list are local legends – I love colourful, age-old stories; the more fantastical, the better!
Since I was a young girl, tucked up in bed and listening avidly to my governess weaving bedtime tales, I have loved legends. Fairytales too, of course – they sowed the seeds for my romantic nature – but legends fascinated me most: those that have stood the test of time, that offer intriguing explanations for the modern world, that are at once fantastical and yet, somehow, believable.
My novel The Echoes of Love, set in Venice, Tuscany and Sardinia, incorporates various Italian legends – told by the hero, Paolo, who is a raconteur extraordinaire, to my heroine, Venetia – and in my research files I collected many more. What better way to share some of these most romantic, magical and atmospheric tales but in this The Echoes of Love ‘Legendary’ Blog Tour!
Today, I’m taking you to the edge of Tuscany. There, my character Paolo has made his home in an old, grand, turreted house: Miraggio. Supposedly, it is haunted by a famous opera singer, who had retired there when his fame started to dwindle and then died in a fire set by one of his vengeful mistresses. ‘There was a rumour,’ I explain in the book, ‘that on stormy nights as you approached the turreted house, you could hear the tenor singing the aria Addio, fiorito asil from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.’ Deliciously chilling, don’t you think? I have a real-life Tuscan castle to thank for inspiration in my creation of the haunted Miraggio….
The tortured lovers of Fosdinovo Castle
At the heart of the Tuscan hilltop village of Fosdinovo lies its castle, medieval home of the Malaspina family, rulers of the duchy of Massa, and to the writer Dante when he was exiled from Florence. It’s a beautiful castle, not least for the breathtaking panoramic views it affords of the Apuan Alps, the Tyrrhenian coast, the Gulf of La Spezia, and, on a clear day, distant islands. But while this castle may appear to be straight out of a fairy tale, the legend associated lacks the ‘happy-ever-after’.
Bianca Maria Aloisia was born in the 13th century to the noble Malaspinas. She was expected to marry well, as befitting a woman of her social rank, yet none of the suitors that would please her family pleased Bianca, for she had fallen in love with the castle’s stable hand. Secretly, the two met for romantic liaisons, and with each union their love grew. Imagine, then, Bianca’s horror when one day her father announced that he had promised her hand in marriage to a knight. How she argued, but how that enraged her father. Finally, seeing that he could not persuade her to willingly marry the knight, he banished her to a convent to live a life of chastity.
But Bianca would not be so easily thwarted. Her lover tracked her down, and they resumed their secret rendezvous. The result: scandal, when a pregnant Bianca was ejected from the convent. The Malaspina family were horrified by this dent in their otherwise respectable reputation. And so they took action designed to signal to the people of their duchy their might and their ability to be merciless in the face of treachery: they took the lovers to the dungeons of the castle, separated them and tortured each while the other listened. Bianca’s lover did not survive long; but Bianca’s father tortured his daughter slowly, determined that she would renounce her love. Perhaps if she had, she would have lived – but Bianca stayed true to her heart. Her ultimate punishment was to be buried alive in the underground passageways beneath the castle, along with a dog, symbol of her loyalty to her lover, and a wild boar, symbol of her rebellion.
A tragic legend indeed, at once macabre and romantic. Merely a story? Perhaps. But if you visit the castle, you can see for yourself the torture room, and the underground passageways, and even, in the throne room, what appears to be a picture depicting a woman, a dog and a boar. And then there are the remains found in more recent times at the castle, those of a woman and two animals…
WIN in the Very Venetian giveaway
At least one reader commenting on this post will WIN in the Very Venetian giveaway, with prizes totalling more than $600:
• 5 signed hardback copies of The Echoes of Love
• 10 signed paperback copies of The Echoes of Love
• 3 romantic Venetian masks
• Lots of fabulously colourful Murano glass goodies: 16 pendants, 2 bracelets, 2 paperweights and a vase
Anyone who comments on a blog tour stop post will be entered in the giveaway. Simply comment below, including your email address so that Hannah can contact the winners. Good luck!