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Authors: Santa Montefiore

The Mermaid Garden

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Santa Montefiore

The Mermaid Garden

A Novel

The internationally bestselling author of
The French Gardener
presents a complex and
irresistibly compelling novel that confirms the remarkable power of love to heal and
transform.

en year old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the Tuscan villa that overlooks the sea just outside her village. She likes to spy from the crumbling wall into the gardens and T imagine living there. Then, one day, Dante, the son of the villa’s wealthy owner invites her inside. He shows her the enchanting Mermaid Garden and from that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is in that garden, with him. But as they grow up they cross an unseen line, jeopardising the very thing they hold most dear.

Decades later, a beautiful country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times after the crash of 2008. Its owner, Marina, advertises for an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests to paint. The charismatic and wise man she hires soon begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes of the hotel. However, he is not who he seems. He has his own agenda. Is it to destroy, to seduce, or to heal?

Spanning four decades and sweeping from the Italian countryside to the English coast, this new story by Santa Montefiore is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.

Praise for Santa Montefiore:

“Santa Montefiore is a superb storyteller….Her plots are sensual, sensitive and complex: her characters are unforgettable life forces: her love stories are desperate yet uplifting. One laughs as much as one cries.”—Plum Sykes, author of
The Debutante Divorcee

“Epic in scope and emotion, but also brilliantly observant and truthful…surprising, moving, and skillful.” —Elizabeth Buchan, author of
Separate Beds

“Montefiore is a grand storyteller. All in all, a fine way for American readers to get to know the Montefiore name, which will very soon be cropping up in the same sentences as the name Maeve Binchy.”

Booklist,
starred review

Santa Montefiore
is the author of
The French Gardener
,
The Perfect Happiness
, and many other novels that have been translated into twenty languages and sold more than three million copies worldwide. She lives in London with her husband, historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, and their two children.

The Mermaid Garden

May 3, 2011

Touchstone

Fiction

6 x 9, 432 pages

$24.99/NCR

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2430-4

Contact: Marcia Burch

[email protected]

NONMERCH9781451635638

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Also by Santa Montefiore

The Perfect Happiness

The French Gardener

Sea of Lost Love

The Gypsy Madonna

Last Voyage of the Valentina

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The

Mermaid

Garden

Santa Montefiore

A Touchstone Book

Published by Simon & Schuster

New

York London Toronto Sydney

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Touchstone

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Santa Montefiore

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

First Touchstone hardcover edition May 2011

TOUCHSTONE and colophon are registered trademarks of

Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,

please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949

or [email protected]

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event.

For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

www.simonspeakers.com.

Designed by Renata Di Biase

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

ISBN 978-1-4516-2430-4

ISBN 978-1-4516-2431-1 (ebook)

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To my darling Sebag, with love

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Acknowledgments

I couldn’t have written this book without the help of two very special

people. Firstly, my husband, Sebag. I knew my story, but I couldn’t work out how to fit all the pieces of my plot together. Sebag paced up and

down the kitchen floor of our cottage while I hugged a mug of tea and

wrote notes. We tossed about ideas as the day melted into evening . . .

and then the plot began to take shape. Finally, as the moon settled high in the sky and the owls began to hoot, we put it to bed—exhausted!

However, there was one problem—good though we thought it was, we

couldn’t work out how to pull off the central twist.

For such a technical problem I needed an expert. I called upon the

experience of my old university friend, Charlie Carr—an investigator.

Thank you, Charlie, for slicing through the Gordian knot—it seems

so simple in retrospect, but all the best plots do! I couldn’t have done it without you.

And thank you, Sebag, for once again being my Sherlock Holmes.

A large part of this story takes place in Tuscany. I lived in Italy in

my early twenties, but that doesn’t prevent me from making terrible

errors. So, I sought the help of my trusty Italian friends. I thank them all: Eduardo Teodorani Fabbri, Stefano Bonfiglio and Sofia Barattieri

di san Pietro.

When I was considering where to set my story, I went to stay with

Olga Polizzi at her enchanting country house hotel, Endsleigh. There

is something magical about Endsleigh. Snuggled deep in the Devon

countryside, it is built above a winding river and sheltered by ancient trees. Olga has flair and warmth so Endsleigh feels more like a home

than a hotel—and I felt right at home there! It was autumn. Giant log

fires filled the rooms with the cozy smell of woodsmoke and clusters of tea lights in purple glass tumblers glowed on every surface. The atmosphere was soft and embracing, and I didn’t want to leave.

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viii
Acknowledgments

So, I have based my hotel, the Polzanze, on Endsleigh, and hope

that I have channeled some of its spirit. I thank Olga for inspiring me because with two small children it’s hard for me to travel, so inspiration is in short supply—I have to rely on memories. But there is nothing as

invigorating as discovering new and wonderful places.

Everything I write comes out of the great big cauldron that contains

all my life’s experiences. If it is rich, it is thanks to my parents, Charles and Patty Palmer-Tomkinson. I couldn’t have written a single word

without their wisdom, guidance, and love.

I want to give special thanks to my agent, Sheila Crowley. Tireless in

her support and always positive, she’s a valuable ally and a good friend.

The team at Curtis Brown are buzzing with energy and enthusiasm,

and I thank them all for the work they do on my behalf.

I am fortunate enough to be published by Simon & Schuster both

sides of the Atlantic. I have two dynamic editors, Suzanne Baboneau

in the U.K. and Trish Todd in the United States. Both steer me in the

right direction and bring out the best that I can give. I’m so grateful for their belief in my writing and their astute and sensitive editing.

I would also like to thank Libby Yevtushenko for working so hard on

the manuscript and improving it with intelligence and tact.

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The

Mermaid

Garden

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Prologue

Tuscany, 1966

The little girl stood outside the imposing black gates of Villa La Mag-

dalena and peered up the drive. A long avenue of cypresses cut straight through the grounds, climaxing at the end in a tantalizing glimpse of a primrose-yellow palazzo. La Magdalena sat with the dignity and poise

of a grand empress. Her tall, shuttered windows were an elegant teal

green, her crown a decorative balustrade built along the top of the fa-

cade, her walls as resplendent as silk; she belonged to a world as en-

chanting and inaccessible as fairy tales.

The bright Tuscan sun threw inky shadows across the drive, and

the little girl could smell the sweet scents of the garden that rose in the midday heat and saturated the air. She stood in her sandals and

grubby sundress, her long brown hair matted with dust and seawater,

hanging down her back and over her eyes, were dark and troubled and

full of craving. Around her neck she wore a Virgin Mary pendant her

mother had given her before running off with a man she had met over

the tomato stall in Piazza Laconda, taking her younger brother with

them.

The little girl came to La Magdalena often. She liked to climb the

wall where a part of it had crumbled, leaving it low enough for her to

scale. She’d sit on the top and survey the beautiful gardens of stone

fountains, graceful umbrella pines, and marble statues of elegant ladies and seminaked men twisted into theatrical poses of love and longing.

She liked to imagine that
she
lived there surrounded by such heavenly splendor—a young lady with expensive dresses and sparkly shoes,

cherished by a mother who threaded her hair with ribbons, and a fa-

ther who indulged her with presents and tossed her into the air before

catching her in his strong, protective arms; she came to La Magdalena

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2

Santa Montefiore

to forget her own drunken father and the little apartment on Via Roma

that she struggled to keep clean.

Her small hands gripped the bars and she squeezed her face between

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