Leo . .
. how could you live such an ordinary, respectable life and then leave me with
such a mystery?
after her husband Leo’s death, widow Daisy invites her three adult children to
join her for a holiday in beautiful Venice. It will be wonderful, her chicks
under one roof again in their father’s birthplace. But is it possible to
recapture the past?
Marc’s marriage is in
jeopardy, but for his mother’s sake, he convinces his wife to keep up
appearances. Anna’s trying to hide the truth about the dismal state of her
London acting career; and Ellie, enjoying a gap year and uncertain about her
future choices, wants to avoid family pressure to conform.
Despite the magic of
Venice, family ties are tested to the limit, especially when a shocking secret
from Leo’s past is revealed. Now everything they value about love, family,
commitment and trust must be re-examined.
How can one family
holiday require so much courage? Will Daisy’s sentimental journey make or break
author Barbara Hannay comes a moving and heartfelt family drama about difficult
choices and finding happiness in the most unexpected places.
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from Chapter One...
Daisy Benetto blurted out her big idea before it was quite ready.
For days, the plan had circled harmlessly in the privacy of her
own thoughts, safe yet cheering, a useful distraction as she’d bravely,
finally, begun to sort through Leo’s things. Such a difficult process
that had been, deciding what should go to Vinnies, or into a box in
the garage, and what needed to be binned.
Each sweater, shirt or jacket had been laden with memories.
Daisy could picture Leo at a party, sending her a covert smile, his
eyes bright with secret amusement over some crass remark a slightly
sozzled friend had made. She saw him dressing for a night at the
theatre, lifting his jaw, just so, as he adjusted the knot on his tie. Leo,
coming through the front door, sunburnt but satisfied after coaching
their son’s soccer team.
The images of her husband, so alive and well, had been too
painful, and Daisy had been forced to drag her thoughts elsewhere.
Anywhere. Cautiously, she’d toyed with her bright, shiny idea,
allowing herself to imagine how each of her children would react.
The proposal was still in its infancy, of course. Daisy hadn’t made
any proper plans.
She was confident, though, that Marc in America, in Silicon
Valley, would welcome the chance to visit his father’s birthplace.
Marc’s only problem might be taking time off from his very important
IT work. His wife, Bronte, wasn’t too enamoured of life in
Palo Alto, though, so she would no doubt embrace a European
Daisy’s middle child, Anna, was bound to love the idea too,
but she would also have to juggle time off between her acting gigs
At least, taking time off shouldn’t be a problem for Ellie. Daisy’s
youngest was pretty much at a loose end, enjoying a gap year
before starting uni, working in cafés at night and surfing or sleeping
As for Daisy herself, after long months of feeling as if she’d
fallen through the cracks in life with no one to catch her, this lovely
new scheme helped her to feel ever so slightly more normal. In time
she hoped to be one of those very capable widows she admired in
books. Perhaps planning this holiday could be the first step. And it
would bring her family together again.
For a few precious weeks, the Benetto kids would be under one
roof, laughing, joking, teasing . . . like the old days.
Just the same, Daisy had no intention of mentioning this plan
when she went to lunch with her two best friends. She had tried to
argue that turning fifty-seven wasn’t a milestone worthy of fuss, but
they wouldn’t listen to her protests.
Just a small lunch, Daisy. Just the three of us. You know we
never miss each other’s birthdays.
This was true. Daisy, Freya and Jo had been celebrating each
other’s birthdays now for more than twenty years, ever since they’d
first met in a beachside yoga class and, of course, Daisy appreciated
that her friends truly cared about her happiness. In the end, the day
turned out to be spectacularly beautiful.
The trio dined on a sunny terrace overlooking the Noosa River
where, after a long, hot and gruelling summer, the first hint of
autumn had arrived overnight, creeping into Queensland from the
south. Despite the pleasantly warm sunshine, Daisy could sense
the nip of a cool change in the crisp, dry air. And when she looked
out at the blue and cloudless sky, at the familiar, sleepy river, dotted
with small boats and lined with stately, white-trunked gumtrees, she
felt her shoulders relax.
She took a sip of sparkling wine and, without warning, the
words she hadn’t planned to utter just tumbled out. ‘I’m thinking
about shouting my kids a trip to Italy.’
Freya and Jo stared at her, clearly too surprised, or possibly even
too stunned, to speak.
Panic flared in Daisy’s chest. Why on earth had she spluttered
her crazy scheme out loud? She looked at her friends. Both, like her,
in their late fifties, middle-class, stylishly dressed – Freya in dark
green with a multi-coloured scarf thrown just so, and Jo in smart,
smoky grey, with a touch of gold at her ears and throat.
These well-meaning, sensible women would almost certainly try
to talk her out of her plan, telling her it was too expensive, or too
soon, or even too dangerous to try to hang on to her adult children
after they’d flown the nest.
The problem was that even Daisy’s closest friends could not
really understand how lonely and scared she’d been these past
months. They couldn’t imagine the terror of having the future
she and Leo had so carefully planned – or rather, the future that
Leo had planned and Daisy had happily agreed to – suddenly
Neither Freya nor Jo could be expected to know what it was like
to wake in the middle of the night and to reach out, expecting to
touch a warm shoulder, or to rub your foot against your husband’s
ankle, and to find a cold, empty space beside you. They couldn't
imagine the sickening slam of anguish that came every time you
remembered that space would always be empty.
Daisy had lost her husband and her dreams. She couldn’t bear to
lose her children as well.
Marc and Anna had come home for the funeral, of course,
but they’d been as dazed and shocked as Daisy was. And in no time
they’d left again, flying back to their important jobs, to their new
and exciting lives on the other side of the world. Meanwhile Ellie, to
Daisy’s huge surprise, had hunkered down to study especially hard
for her final Year 12 exams.
The intense loneliness that followed had nearly consumed Daisy.
On a scale of one to ten, she would have put her happiness quotient
at sub-zero. But just lately, this new holiday plan had given her such
a lift, a glimmer of hope.
That was hardly an excuse for giving voice to her half-baked
idea now, though, on her birthday, before it was anywhere near
properly planned. If she’d learned anything from her dear Leo, it
was the importance of looking at a decision from every angle and
carefully calculating the pros and cons before taking any kind of
first step. Leo had always been so clever and steady and reliable.
Possibly, the only careless, unplanned act the poor man had ever
committed was to drop dead of a heart attack six weeks before
he was due to retire.
Daisy stamped down on that gut-wrenching reminder before it
set her crying again. The last thing she needed today was another
bout of tears. She’d wept so much in the past twelve months she’d
probably caused permanent damage to her tear ducts.
Now, here she was instead, all smiles and drinking champagne.
And spilling the beans on this crazy scheme, when she hadn’t even
spoken to her accountant to make sure she could cash in those spare
shares of Leo’s.
‘It’s just a crazy, silly thought,’ she hastily amended, absorbing
her friends’ surprised expressions and charging straight into damage
control. ‘I seem to be having all sorts of weird ideas lately.’
Freya, however, was shaking her head, making her hairdresser enhanced
auburn curls bounce. ‘No, Daisy, I think it’s a fabulous
idea.’ After a beat, Freya added, ‘If you can afford to be so generous.’
But then, almost immediately, she gave a cheeky grin. ‘Actually,
no, I take that back. It’s still a fabulous idea even if you can’t
‘And it’s probably just what you need,’ added Jo, although she
spoke more carefully. Then again, Jo was always careful, just as Leo
Daisy looked from one friend to the other. ‘I was sure you’d both
tell me I was being ridiculous.’
‘Oh, darling,’ laughed Freya. ‘Even if your scheme was totally
harebrained, it’s put a sparkle back in your lovely blue eyes and that
has to be a good thing.’
‘Oh.’ Daisy couldn’t help smiling at Freya’s warmth and
enthusiasm, even though harebrained wasn’t exactly reassuring.
Meet Me in Venice © Barbara Hannay Penguin Random House August 2019
NORTH AMERICA December 2011 -
MILLS AND BOON SWEET
- AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND January 2012
MILLS AND BOON
- UNITED KINGDOM
January 2012 -