Montefiore, Santa 1970- (Santa Palmer-Tomkinson)

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Montefiore, Santa 1970- (Santa Palmer-Tomkinson)

PERSONAL:

Born February 2, 1970, in England; daughter of Charles (a farmer and former ski instructor) and Patricia Palmer-Tomkinson; married Simon Sebag Montefiore (a writer and historian); children: Lily and Sasha. Education: Attended Exeter University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Taught English for a year on an estancia in Argentina.

MEMBER:

Ribble Valley Ladies' Luncheon Club (president, c. 2006); White Rose Ladies' Club (president, c. 2006).

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Meet Me under the Ombu Tree, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2001.

The Butterfly Box, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2002.

The Forget-Me-Not Sonata, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2003.

The Swallow and the Hummingbird, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2004.

Last Voyage of the Valentina, Touchstone Books (New York, NY), 2006.

The Gypsy Madonna, Touchstone Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Sea of Lost Love, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2007, Center Point Pub (Thorndike, ME), 2008.

The French Gardener, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2008.

Contributor to anthologies, including Ladies' Night, edited by Jessica Adams.

SIDELIGHTS:

Santa Montefiore is a well-known novelist in England. Many of her books are set in Argentina, where the author previously worked for a year. For example, in her first novel, Meet Me under the Ombu Tree, Montefiore tells the story of Sofia Solanas, who grows up on a well-to-do ranch in Argentina and embarks on a love affair that shames her family. Consequently, she is exiled to Europe and separated from her lover for two decades until she returns home to Argentina. The Butterfly Box tells the story of Federica Campione, who is separated from her beloved father when her parents' marriage falls apart. As a result of the separation, she eventually seeks the comfort of suave Torquil Jensen, which leads to a less-than-perfect marriage. The Forget-Me-Not Sonata takes place in Argentina and in Dorset, England, as the author follows the life of Audrey Garnet. Audrey marries an Englishman who comes to Argentina seeking his fortune, but she is really in love with the man's younger brother.

The Swallow and the Hummingbird tells the tale of George Bolton, who returns to England in 1945 following World War II. Intending to marry his childhood sweetheart, Rita Fairweather, George is restless and emotionally scarred and cannot commit. As a result, he decides to go to his family ranch in Argentina for a year, promising to return and marry Rita. However, while in Argentina, Bolton meets and falls in love with Susan, a physically scarred woman. Lizzie Guilfoyle, in a review for the IndieLondon Web site, commented: "The Swallow and the Hummingbird is beautifully written and, in an uncomplicated and wonderfully descriptive text, captures the essence of two completely contrasting worlds." Guilfoyle also referred to the novel as "the sort of book that's hard to put down."

Montefiore presents a historical romance combined with a modern story in her book Last Voyage of the Valentina. The story revolves around Alba Arbuckle, a twenty-six-year-old woman whose Italian mother, Valentina, died while giving birth to her. Although brought up by her English father, Alba decides to investigate her mother's heritage in hopes of establishing more stability in her life, which has been marked by promiscuity and a lack of purpose. A visit to the village where her mother grew up leads to Alba uncovering the secret of her mother's death and establishing her true identity. A subplot in Last Voyage of the Valentina focuses on Alba's father, Thomas, as he recalls meeting and falling in love with Valentina during World War II. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book an "old-fashioned, sentimental melodrama, written with finesse and page-turning energy." Emily Melton, in a review for Booklist, referred to the story as "a sweeping saga of wartime romance, family secrets, lost loves, and murder."

Drawing again on the theme of a World War II romance, The Gypsy Madonna focuses on the German Nazi collaboration in France, stolen art, and a family mystery. Its protagonist, Mischa, is the French-born son of a German officer and a French woman. Mischa and his mother are ostracized after the war, and eventually move to the United States with an American stranger named Coyote, who soon abandons them. Although he grew up poor, Mischa discovers thirty years later at his mother's deathbed that she is trying to donate a priceless Titian painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Mischa tries to find out how his mother came into possession of this painting, he must confront other painful truths about his past in a story that a contributor to Kirkus Reviews found clumsy and unconvincing. Booklist contributor Emily Melton, however, considered the novel "surprisingly nuanced" and admired its skillful blend of "all the right ingredients: love, hate, sentiment, magic, and mystery."

Sea of Lost Love takes place in 1958 and features Celestria Montague, who comes from a wealthy family with an estate in Cornwall, England. The vain Celestria has been taught by her family that she is the best of the best. She spends her days having a good time and looking for a suitable mate—until her father, the charming Robert "Monty" Montague, drowns at sea. Her father's death is supposedly a suicide, but Celestria does not believe it. To make matters worse, he left behind a considerable amount of debt. Going through her father's papers, Celestria begins to follow a money trail that leads her to a lawyer in Italy and the uncovering of her father's secret, dark side. In the process, she meets a brooding widower named Hamish, who dislikes her. Nevertheless, Celestria has undergone a dramatic change as she is forced to face the real world, and Hamish may now be the right man for her. Kristine Huntley, in a review for Booklist, commented that those "who enjoy family drama, romance, and mystery will find it … in this lush and absorbing novel." Commenting that the novel "includes notes of knowing humor as well as occasional farcical touches," a Kirkus Reviews contributor called Sea of Lost Love "an old-fashioned romance tidily delivered."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of Last Voyage of the Valentina, p. 19; December 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of The Gypsy Madonna, p. 23; March 1, 2008, Kristine Huntley, review of Sea of Lost Love, p. 49.

Bookseller, March 14, 2008, review of The French Gardener, p. 10.

Independent (London, England), February 7, 2005, "The World According to … Santa Montefiore," author interview.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of Last Voyage of the Valentina, p. 433; December 1, 2006, review of The Gypsy Madonna, p. 1193; March 1, 2008, review of Sea of Lost Love.

Kliatt, July 1, 2007, Nola Theiss, review of The Gypsy Madonna, p. 52.

Library Journal, April 15, 2006, Laurie A. Cavanaugh, review of Last Voyage of the Valentina, p. 67; March 1, 2007, Loralyn Whitney, review of The Gypsy Madonna, p. 76; April 15, 2008, Jane Jorgenson, review of Sea of Lost Love, p. 74.

Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2006, review of Last Voyage of the Valentina, p. 167; November 27, 2006, review of The Gypsy Madonna, p. 29.

ONLINE

Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (November 26, 2006), brief author profile.

IndieLondon,http://www.indielondon.co.uk/ (November 26, 2006), Lizzie Guilfoyle, review of The Swallow and the Hummingbird.

Santa Montefiore Home Page,http://www.santamontefiore.co.uk (August 21, 2007).

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