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The Curtain Rises by Mary Burchell

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The problem with this book, although a very enjoyable read, is that a month after reading it, I couldn’t even remember the name of the heroine (Nicola, as it turns out) or the hero (Julian).

The character I did remember is the wonderfully vivacious and temperamental operatic primadonna aunt, Gina Torelli, one of the best-drawn of all Mary Burchell’s characters. She is a living, breathing entity who leaps right out of the page. Her own relationship with her husband, Nicola’s Uncle Peter, is far more romantic and poignant and vivid than the rather colourless, more-rocky-than-romantic situation between Nicola and Julian.

Nicola moved towards the door, but then she was held there for a moment by the sheer fascination of the varied expressions which chased each other across her aunt’s face. She was everything by turns, from a romantically excited girl to a fretfully complaining middle-aged woman, and if she had been projecting it all to the last row of the gallery she could not have been more telling.

“She loves him,” Nicola thought, as she slipped away out of the room. “She really loves him very much.” And the discovery both touched and surprised her.

Gina is also wonderfully generous and sensitive to other people’s affairs, and gloriously puts Oscar Warrender firmly in his place. She also sorts out the conflict between Nicola and conductor Julian: Julian forced Nicola’s fiancé Brian to do a performance in Canada, Brian had pneumonia and later died, so Nicola blames Julian for his death.

However as it turns out, Brian was actually having an affair with bitchy soprano Michele Laraut. Who (annoyingly typical in a Mary Burchell novel) never really gets her comeuppance.

Anyway I highly recommend reading this book for Gina alone, as she is such a hugely enjoyable character. She also pops up in later instalments in the Warrender series.