Familiar Acts

June Barraclough, Author
June Barraclough, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-10980-6
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-7838-1125-3
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-7451-2946-4
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In this convincing late-Victorian romance, Barraclough ( Time Will Tell ) paints the rich inner world and coming-of-age of well-born Hetty Coppen, whose first-person narration, while not energetic, is psychologically intimate and engaging. Rebuffed by cold parents, cultivated by an admired but distrusted aunt, beset by a sinister ``cousin'' and mystified by memories so amorphous that they seem dreams, Hetty blossoms under the tutelage of a gifted governess and deals with the increasingly curious family secrets slowly uncovered by her beloved barrister brother, Greg. At age 18, a trip to Italy exposes Hetty to the ease and grace of continental life and the glories of art and opera, encouraging her internal development and opening her to the possibility of love. The lucky man is Orso Orsini, a divinely talented tenor whose career, and possibly life, Hetty saves, and who returns the favor when someone she knows well threatens her with ``a fate worse than death.'' Well-turned prose and appropriate period language add to the effectiveness of the story, which, though sufficiently deep and dark to put off romance fans who like their reading extralight, should please the more discriminating. (July)
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