Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Pages: 446
Date: 23/04/2013
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 2 Valentina
            Received from Headline
            Through the author

“When you climax, it has been called the “little death”, and thus eroticism can actually be a celebration of life within the knowledge of our mortality.”

The first Valentina book ended with our heroine losing the man who loves her because she is unable to admit to her feelings for him. When this book starts, several months have passed and Valentina has had no contact whatsoever with Theo and no idea where he is. That doesn’t stop her from thinking about him and mourning the fact that she allowed herself to chase him away though. An opportunity to participate in a show of erotic photography in London could be just what she needs to distract herself from obsessing about the man she misses more than she could ever have expected.

Back in 1948 Maria Brzezinska leaves Venice and her two mothers for post-war London where she is to study contemporary dance. It isn’t long after arriving that Maria falls for the charming but significantly older Felix, a French filmmaker. When Felix has to return to his native Paris shortly after a rather disastrous dance performance by Maria, she begs him to take her with him. It is in Paris that Maria will discover love and passion like she never imagined, unleashing a side of her that she never knew existed.

London in 2012 will be a place filled with revelations for Valentina. Not only does she discover that the father she hasn’t seen since she was a young girl lives there, she also finds herself face to face with Theo once again. But although all the signals he sends out seem to indicate that he still has feelings for her, the fact that he is going out with Anita, a burlesque dancer, point in a totally different direction. When Theo asks Valentina to trust him, she knows that this is her opportunity to prove to him that she does love him. Putting her trust in a man who appears to be dating somebody else may well be a demand too far for Valentina and her huge issues with commitment though. But while Anita may appear to be her adversary when it comes to Theo’s affections, she is also the means through which Valentina discovers a side to her maternal grandmother she was completely unaware of.

This is a very good sequel to the first book. Often a second book in a trilogy can feel a bit like filler material; a means for getting from the start of the story to the ending without any real value of its own. Not so in this case. This book really does further the story. Through the events in this book, both in the present and in the past, the reader gets a far better understanding of Valentina and her commitment issues. Mind you, Valentina is still a hard character to like and very insecure when it comes to men and commitment, especially for a woman who is supposed to be 30-ish. But, after what we learned about her great-grandmother (in the first book) and her grand-mother (in this book) and their passionate but doomed encounters with love, it becomes easier to understand why Valentina would be distrustful of lasting love. I’ve got a feeling that the third book will give both the reader and Valentina a closer look at Valentina’s mother. Hints in this book indicate that there is a lot Valentina doesn’t know about her mother’s life as well as her own past. I’m looking forward to finding out what exactly happened to make Valentina’s mother such a distant character and if discovering the truth will be enough to bring the two women back together and help Valentina trust her own feelings.

This book is filled with clever references. There is a tenuous link between the movies Felix makes and “The Story of O”. Also Evie Blake pays a nice tribute to the original creator of her main character when Anita dresses up to look just like Valentina:

“The angular perfection of her black wig and her heavily made-up eyes make her look like a graphic novel character more than a real woman.”

The Valentina as described in these books is, of course, based on an iconic Italian graphic novel character created by Guido Crepax.

And then there are the names. Theo’s surname is Steen and we discover that Valentina’s father is called Rembrandt. Both names create a wonderful and inspired link between Valentina’s story and the important role art plays in these books. I am sure there are more clever references and links, but these are a few that stood out for me.

While this is still a very sensual and at times sexy story, sex plays a different role in this second book. Valentina is no longer trying to discover her boundaries, no longer driven to see how far she is willing to go. In this book it is Maria who is constantly pushing her sexual boundaries but although she does get adventurous, her experiences are beautiful and enticing rather than shocking. In fact, as much as sexual freedom was the theme for the first book, this second instalment seems to reverse direction. Relationships without boundaries may have been fun, but they are not without their problems as various characters discover.

I said it in my review of Valentina, and I’ll say it again here: Noelle Harrison, the author behind the name Evie Blake, is a wonderful writer. She weaves her stories rather than tell them. Her words are at times almost poetic, creating a tangible atmosphere which allows the reader to not just observe events as they take place but also experience them. In fact, I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have felt as strongly as I did about Valentina’s character if it hadn’t been for the life-like fashion in which she is portrayed on these pages.

It breaks my heart that I now have to wait until November before I find out how this story ends. Between the hints about Valentina’s mother and the cliff-hanger this book ends on, it is going to be hard to contain my curiosity. The title of the third book, “Valentina Unblocked”, makes me hopeful that it will all end on a positive note though.

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