Sea of Lost Love
Dutch edition of 'Sea of Lost Love'
USA edition of 'Sea of Lost Love'
UK Edition of 'Sea of Lost Love'
An idyllic Cornish holiday in the summer of 1958. A happy aristocratic family blessed with wealth and promise. But unbeknown to all of them, death stalks paradise. When catastrophe strikes in the most unexpected way, the tragedy first breaks Celestria Montague’s young heart – then shatters her every illusion. With the backing of her grandfather, a flamboyant American robber baron, Celestria sets out to unravel the deadly yet bizarre riddle. Amongst the orange groves of Italy’s ruggedly beautiful southern coast, she finds a grotesque, bewildering mist of masquerades and mirrors. In this labyrinth of deception that threatens to destroy all her faith in family and affection, she meets a man who teaches her that truth is the heart of all love.
Epic romance and dark mystery, exotic places and glamorous epochs – such are Santa Montefiore’s unique trademarks. Allow yourself to be swept away by her superlative storytelling as you enter a world of love and lies.
I have a confession to make: I couldn’t think of a title for this book. Every idea I had seemed ridiculous or gave the plot away. I came up with Sea of Lost Love but wasn’t, and still am not, happy with it. It says nothing about the book. But there it is. I should have just called it Monty.
Writing a book once a year means the turn around is very quick. No sooner have I handed one book in than I start the next. I had just written about France and was deliberating where to set the next book when I went to stay with an old school friend in Puglia, southern Italy. I was immediately captivated by the old monastery she has converted into a hotel with her husband. It’s delightful, charming and magical. So, I found my location, pulled out my notebook and started to write down ideas. It’s easy to be inspired in Italy. Everything inspires: the sounds, the smells, the feelings such beauty arouses in the very depth of one’s soul.
I based Sea of Lost Love in Cornwall in 1951. I adore the sea and love to relive my childhood on those windy, rugged beaches. I made up both towns. This novel takes place over a few weeks. I had written so many books spread over decades that it was quite refreshing to limit it to such a short time frame. Again, I had to plan the novel very carefully not to give away the mystery. My parents-in-law were very helpful with small details about the 1950s and having been to Puglia, there wasn’t much research required.
I think the most enjoyable aspect of writing novels for me is thinking up new characters. Every day I see someone who inspires me, either because they’re outrageously ghastly, or wonderfully eccentric. I’m always on the look out.
Cornwall, August 1958
As Father Miles Dalgliesh cycled up the drive towards the Montague family home, Pendrift Hall, he took pleasure from the golden sun that filtered through the lime trees, casting luminous spots of shimmering light on to the gravel and surrounding ferns, and swept his bespectacled eyes over lush fields of soft brown cows. A fresh breeze swept in off the sea and gulls wheeled beneath a cerulean sky. Father Dalgliesh was new in town. Old Father William Hancock had recently passed away to continue his work on the Other Side, leaving his young prodigy in the hot seat rather sooner than anticipated. Still, God had given him a challenge and he would rise to it with gladness in his heart.
Today he would meet the Montagues, the first family of Pendrift.
Pendrift Hall was a pale stone mansion adorned with wisteria, tall sash windows and frothy gardens that tumbled down to the sea. Pigeons cooed from the chimney-pots and every year a family of swallows made its nest in the porch. The house was large and somewhat shabby, like a child’s favourite toy worn out by love. It had an air of contentment and Father Dalgliesh’s spirits rose even higher when he saw it. He knew he’d like the family and he anticipated an enjoyable afternoon ahead.
Secrets and sunny passion – it’s a joy!
“I realised I couldn’t put it down…Santa Montefiore knows her stuff and has done well. Not only was I gripped by the ending but I got a real thrill up my spine on the last page. And I’m glad Santa gave Celestria a happy ending. She doesn’t have to choose between love and money. She gets…well, read it yourself, and see.”
Daily Express, 2007
You’re a Londoner. How do you think American audiences will react differently to The Sea of Lost Love than English readers have? Do you think Americans will more easily relate to Celestria? Did you change the story at all for publication in the states?
I didn’t change the story for the USA although I did consciously make the decision at the start to have an American character – I love the Americans and am aware of my American market that is very important to me. I like to think that everyone can identify with my characters whatever country they live in. I’m translated into 25 different languages. I write about love and loss – we’re all human beings and those conditions are universal. Besides, Italy is a beautiful country to escape to. I can’t imagine anyone not being seduced by it!
In the acknowledgments you thank your friend John Stewart, a psychologist, for helping you, “delve into the minds of [your] characters.” How did you go about this? How did Mr. Stewart assist you? Have you used this method to help you develop the characters in all of your books?
This was the first time I researched my characters psychological state with a professional. I felt I needed to understand Monty – what drives a person to such extreme behavior. John is a friend of mine and we enjoyed a couple of lunches together, discussing the characters. He was very helpful. Sometimes, though, there is no rational explanation for a person’s frailty, they are simply that way by nature.
In each of your books readers are transported to beautiful, awe-inspiring locales. Do you travel much? Or are some of your descriptions based on research alone?
I have spent time in every location I have written about. I have to, in order to experience the place with all my senses! I rely, though, on places I have spent a lot of time in, hence my return to Italy and France. I would love to write about other places, but as I write a book a year, and have small children, I don’t have the time to jet off to new countries. I will one day, but for now I rely on the places I know and love. I will add that I invent all my locations, I don’t like history to interfere with my stories, especially as I write about the war where every French and Italian town has its own very memorable history and readers are very quick to write to me if I get something wrong.
The Sea of Lost Love is at once a romance and a mystery. How did you manage to balance the love stories with Celestria’s unromantic quest to uncover the truth about Monty?
Sea of Lost Love is my 7th title. The first four weren’t mysteries. When I began my 5th, Last Voyage of The Valentina, I wanted to try something new but within my capability, so I added a thread of mystery. I so enjoyed it that I did the same for the Gypsy Madonna and Sea of Lost Love. I think it adds another level to my stories and gives me something to get my teeth into. I’m not a mystery writer, I like to think I write about love, however, a little mystery gives me pleasure as I hope it does for my readers!
You leave the reader with little doubt about Monty’s true nature, but never directly pass judgment on him. How do you hope readers will react to his deception? Is there any way to interpret his actions compassionately?
I leave it to the readers to make up their own minds about Monty. Personally, he’s weak and weak people are very dangerous. I found him rather compelling as a character – as a father I’d find him devastating!
You include passages that detail the temptation Father Dalgliesh felt. Was it important to you to humanize a religious figure? How do you hope readers will respond to a religious character with a layered personality, complete with flaws?
I was very conscious of not going down the Thornbirds rout with my priest, so I made him human but strong. Everyone is multi dimensional and no one is perfect. He fought with his feelings and overcame them, which is a wonderful thing. I loved my priest and I hope that comes across in the book. I like to think everyone evolves in my novels. They grow wiser through experience, life moulds and changes them as it does in reality. I have a soft spot for Father Dagliesh!
Why did you choose to set so much of the book on the coast? Do you feel tied to the sea in any way?
I adore the sea. It mirrors the way we feel inside, always changing, one minute benign the next formidable and menacing! It’s a wonderfully expressive backdrop to a romantic novel.
Pamela does not believe in a spirit world until she sees her father’s ghost. What are your personal beliefs concerning life after death?
I have seen spirits all my life. I firmly believe death is but a moving into another dimension, a return to where we all come from and those we love, who have died, are around us all the time, sending us love and guidance.
Whose writing has inspired you? Do you find inspiration for your work in other art forms as well?
I’m inspired by other writers all the time. I admire so many creative people. Namely, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Laura Esquival, Fanny Flagg, Philippa Gregory, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Sebastian Faulks and the great classics: Tolstoy, Austen, Dumas, Edith Wharton. Naturally, I’m inspired by nature, life and the colourful, eccentric people I’m fortunate enough to meet. I am also very moved by films: The Notebook, Bridges of Madison County, An Affair to Remember to name but a few.
What can readers expect next from you? Are you working on anything currently?
I’ve just finished my next book, The French Gardener, and am currently writing my 9th, based again in Italy, a continuation of Last Voyage of The Valentina. I hope to continue to write one a year – while there is life there are stories….!