Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Beneath the surface lies a terrible secret…
Hollywood, 1975: Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti, and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister, and learns that dark shadows haunt her new husband’s past…
Tuscany, Present day: Everyone in London is searching for Lucy Whittaker – so Lucy needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed.
Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa.
And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…
Victoria Fox is perhaps best known for writing sizzling bonkbusters with a hint of mystery that always provide such an escapist read. But now she is back with something slightly different and almost sinister in tone which is evident from the cover of The Silent Fountain as it has such dark, foreboding colours compared to the usual brash, bright colours normally a book by this author would have. It's nice to see authors veering out of their comfort zone and taking things in a new direction. I was even more delighted to see this book featured a dual storyline between the past and the present which is just my kind of read.
By the time I was a few chapters in I was kicking myself that I had let this book languish on my Kindle just that little bit too long. Victoria Fox may have ventured down new avenues with this book but she certainly hasn't lost her talent for writing an insanely good story that keeps you turning the pages eager to know more. OK it doesn't feature racy sex scenes and the intrigue and glamour that her readers may have come to expect but that didn't bother me in the slightest as the feelings of menace, hate, evil and dominance intensified with every turn of the page and held me in their thrall. Before I knew it I found myself halfway through this compulsive story whose main characters Lucy Whittaker and Vivien Lockheart had really got inside my head and I really didn't want to leave the book down until I had gotten the answers to so many questions.
The story moves back and forth between Italy in the present and also the past life of Vivien Lockheart beginning in America. It soon becomes apparent the power of love is a strong theme throughout the story. As the story progresses similarities emerge between our female characters yet at the same time there are numerous hidden depths to both that are waiting to be uncovered. Lucy lives in London but even from the first chapter it's evident there has been a recent trauma in her life and everything is about to change. She is attempting to come to terms with what has happened and how both her head and heart have been messed with yet at the same time she needs to keep things under wraps. I enjoyed how we weren't privy to all of Lucy's story in one fell swoop instead we are drip fed bits of tantalising information at the end of every chapter that left you open mouthed more than once. There were such cliffhangers at the end of each chapter I found myself torn in two, wanting to read about whoever was next or else I found myself want to skip it to get back to the cliffhanger part. This story really was that absorbing and just as one question resolved itself another more major plot line would reveal itself. As Lucy battles with her emotions it's clear she needs to make a decision, hide or face the world and accept what has happened. So when an opportunity presents itself in Italy to look after the house of a reclusive woman Lucy jumps at the chance, little does she know instead of finding peace and solitude in order to reach acceptance instead waiting for her are mystery and secrets galore.
In the earlier half of the book in the chapters from Vivien's viewpoint we get to know a little bit more about her back story. Slowly piece by piece the author builds a picture of a woman who has had a rough childhood at the hands of her father, zealous minister Gilbert, and how she ran away to seek her fame and fortune in order to bury painful memories of a cruel and spiteful man. I did initially think this will be the usual Hollywood starlet storyline of making it big against all the odds and meeting and dumping plenty of men along the way. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm glad Vivien's career wasn't the sole focus as it really allowed the author to spread her wings and run riot with the crazy, foreboding feelings that pervaded for the majority of the book. Vivien is a woman who takes control of her life but the one thing she lacks and deeply longs for is love and through an accident she meets charming Doctor Gio Moretti and falls head over heels. I totally got what Vivien saw in Gio. He was the polar opposite to everything she had experienced when it came to male figures in her life and she wanted to be protected and loved unconditionally. So much so that she would do whatever he wanted even if it meant a third person enters their relationship. That is in the form of his sister Isabella who had been rendered mute by a traumatic incident in her childhood. I could see Vivien desperately wanted comfort, love and security and was delighted when that came in the form of marriage but similar to Lucy little did she know the path that awaited her.
Isabella was a complex character for whom communication was an issue but thanks to the brilliant writing of Victoria Fox she came alive on the page and none more so than when Gio and Vivien move to Italy so he can engage in research. The book really got going then and as connections are established between the castillo Lucy finds herself working in and the story of Vivien's life in Italy. In both story lines the castillo becomes like a character all of its own and is witness to many strange and evil things. Lucy soon forgot what was going back at home (to be honest I felt she got herself into a hole of her own making and should have been wiser) as she tried to understand and uncover the castillo's secrets and the mysterious signora whom she never meets as the maid keeps her away.
I think I preferred Vivien to Lucy, not that I hated Lucy, it's just her story was slightly stronger and made for real edge of your seat stuff. As Vivien settles down to what she hopes will be a blissful life in Italy it soon becomes apparent the villa is not all that idyllic and although one character may present a certain front to the outside world beneath it all there is a lot more going on. There are so many adjectives that could be used to describe said character – manipulative, cruel, evil, crazy, creepy and hateful are just a few. At times I couldn't believe what I was reading and wanted just to shake someone and say come on open your eyes, see what is in front of you. How can you doubt one person over another? As the chapters flew by and my impatience for the big reveal grew the overwhelming sense of mystery, darkness and menace just grew and grew and I couldn't help thinking this really is very different to anything I have read by this author before but my god I'm loving the rising tension and the crafty twists and turns.
My only hope the further I read and as certain things were revealed was that when the big outcome came would it all prove to be a big let down? Where could the story possibly go as Lucy herself feels the sense of sadness and horror emanating from the castle? I would have been bitterly disappointed given how brilliantly the characters had been drawn and how the setting and back story created only to not have that gasp out loud moment of shock when the ultimate reveal came. Thankfully I wasn't one bit disappointed. I had grasped at the hints dropped throughout the story but was never fully able to bring them all together and was pleased with the overall outcome.
Victoria Fox has written a brilliant story that takes you on a journey that is at times very sinister yet at others there are moments of tenderness. As soon as you start reading you will become oblivious to everything around you and find your heart in your mouth more than once as the intrigue and suspicion levels ramp themselves up a gear. To discover does Lucy unearth the secrets so long hidden in the castillo I suggest you get this book as soon as possible. It's a real page turner and definitely one for the keeper shelf.
Many thanks to HQ publishers for my copy of The Silent Fountain to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.