The Woman in the Castello: A Gripping Historical Novel Perfect for Book Clubs (Paperback)
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Set in 1960s Italy, this stylish, atmospheric debut spins a bewitching web of ruthless ambition, family secrets, and the consequences of forbidden love, as an ambitious American actress snags the starring role in a mysterious horror movie shooting on location in a crumbling medieval castle outside Rome…
Readers who enjoy the moody gothic allure of Kate Morton and Silvia Moreno-Garcia or the immersive settings of Lucinda Riley and Fiona Davis will be enthralled by Kelsey James’ spellbinding web of intriguing mystery, family secrets, forbidden love, and midcentury Italian flair.
“Like Jess Walters's Beautiful Ruins, the glamour and heady indulgence of the era take center stage in this captivating, multilayered story that will keep you guessing to the end.” —Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author
"You’ll get lost in the pages of this lush, entertaining story.”—Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook
“Enchanting.” —Amanda Skenandore, author of The Nurse’s Secret
Rome, 1965: Aspiring actress Silvia Whitford arrives at Rome’s famed Cinecittà Studios from Los Angeles, ready for her big break and a taste of la dolce vita. Instead, she learns that the movie in which she was cast has been canceled. Desperate for money, Silvia has only one choice: seek out the Italian aunt she has never met.
Gabriella Conti lives in a crumbling castello on the edge of a volcanic lake. Silvia’s mother refuses to explain the rift that drove the sisters apart, but Silvia is fascinated by Gabriella, a once-famous actress who still radiates charisma. And the eerie castle inspires Silvia’s second chance when it becomes the location for a new horror movie, aptly named The Revenge of the Lake Witch—and she lands a starring role.
Silvia immerses herself in the part of an ingenue tormented by the ghost of her beautiful, seductive ancestor. But when Gabriella abruptly vanishes, the movie’s make-believe terrors seep into reality. No one else on set seems to share Silvia’s suspicions. Yet as she delves into Gabriella’s disappearance, she triggers a chain of events that illuminate dark secrets in the past—and a growing menace in the present . . .
“A delicious Gothic filled with atmosphere, twists, romance, and dark secrets. Readers will devour it.”—Megan Chance, bestselling author of A Splendid Ruin
“Cinematic and spooky, there is something for everyone in this gripping historical novel. A delight for the senses and a truly entertaining story!” – Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say
“Fascinating…filled with mystery, family secrets, and unexpected romance.” —Lorena Hughes, author of The Spanish Daughter
About the Author
Kelsey James is a historical fiction author and content marketer whose work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Insider, ABC News, and The Huffington Post, among other outlets. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in Creative Writing and Classical Studies, she currently lives with her family outside New York City and can be found online at KelseyJamesAuthor.com.
Early Praise for The Woman in the Castello
“A young actress desperate for stardom agrees to film a horror movie in her aunt’s crumbling Italian castle. Then the aunt disappears. What secrets lurk in her past—and in the mysterious lake behind the castle? The Woman in the Castello is a thoroughly original blend of mystery, family drama, and sultry romance, all unfolding in the fast-paced world of a Swinging Sixties movie set. A riveting debut from author Kelsey James!” —Elizabeth Blackwell, bestselling author of Red Mistress
“The 1960s in Rome, a crumbling Italian castle on the edge of a volcanic lake, a glamorous aunt she’s never met, and a starring role in a horror movie that begins to feel a bit too real…Kelsey James’s debut novel is a delicious Gothic filled with atmosphere, twists, romance, and dark secrets. Readers will devour it.” —Megan Chance, bestselling author of A Splendid Ruin
“Like Jess Walters's Beautiful Ruins, the glamour and heady indulgence of the era take center stage in this captivating, multilayered story that will keep you guessing to the end. Silvia and Gabriella are flawed, fascinating characters who will linger in your mind long after the book is closed.” —Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author
“Mystery, romance, and an enchanting cast of characters with a plucky heroine at its heart. Against the richly drawn backdrop of post-war Italy, in a castle brimming with secrets, Kelsey James explores the enduring and sometimes destructive power of love, family, and ambition.” —Amanda Skenandore, author of The Nurse’s Secret
“Cinematic and spooky, there is something for everyone in this gripping historical novel that expertly blends a love story with family drama and a twist of suspense. Readers will be swept up in the glamorous—and sometimes grungy—1960s movie scene, and the magnificent setting is sure to inspire many a trip to Italy. A delight for the senses and a truly entertaining story!” – Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say
"You’ll get lost in the pages of this lush, entertaining story as you follow aspiring actress Silvia Whitford through the dark towers and crumbling staircases of a remote Italian castle, where she uncovers twists and turns around every corner, including shocking family secrets you’ll never see coming.” —Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook
“An impromptu movie set in a medieval castle in 1960s Italy provides a fascinating backdrop for this fresh gothic tale filled with mystery, family secrets, and unexpected romance.” —Lorena Hughes, author of The Spanish Daughter
“From the moment a stunning 1960s Italy kisses your hand and draws you into the opening pages of this novel, you’ll be riveted to The Woman in the Castello. Mysterious, stimulating, intoxicating … a dark, rich caffe corretto of a novel.” —K.D. Alden, author of A Mother’s Promise
“Cinematic and spooky… There is something for everyone in this gripping historical novel that expertly blends a love story with family drama and a twist of suspense. Readers will be swept up in the glamorous—and sometimes grungy—1960s movie scene, and the magnificent setting is sure to inspire many a trip to Italy. A delight for the senses and a truly entertaining story!” —Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say
“A tantalizing mixture of romance, mystery, and the Gothic enfolded in a well-crafted plot that pays homage to the long lineage of ghostly tales, romantic and suspense.” —V.S. Alexander, author of The War Girls
“The Woman in the Castello comes with all the trappings of the Gothic: a beautiful but dilapidated and forebodingly remote estate, collapsing boundaries between reality and fantasy and dream, and secrets that will not stay secret. Kelsey James crafts in Silvia, a young actress starring in her first film, an exciting new take on the Gothic heroine… James has given us a beautiful work of historical fiction and Gothic horror, and an impassioned love letter to Italian horror cinema” —Jenn Jordan, Syosset Public Library (Syosset, NY)
“From page one you are in Italy, and even better, Rome in the 1960s… with the excitement of making a film and the tension of keeping secrets… as old mysteries unfold and new ones build, Kelsey James takes you through a perfect blend.” —Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore (Millbrook, NY)
“A little mystery, a little ghost story, and a whole lot of family. Reading this fun novel feels like watching an art house movie filled with color and theatrics. Grab some popcorn and let yourself be transported." —Mary Webber O’Malley, Skylark Bookshop (La Grange Highlands, IL)
“A young unwed mother determined to support her daughter and her dying mother…a movie production beset by problems and Hollywood drama…a crumbling lakeside castle haunted by the past, by family secrets – and by, perhaps, a ghost? Toss in a mid-’60s Italian setting and a steamy romance, and you have the perfect addition to your beach bag this summer.” —Laurie Walters, Brighton District Library (Brighton, MI)
“1960’s Italy: a horror film being filmed in a crumbling, possibly haunted, castle owned by the estranged aunt of the leading starlet. What could be better? As the lines between reality and the movie plot begin to blur in this tautly written novel, family secrets begin to emerge that if revealed, might lead to unforeseen, and possibly deadly, consequences for everyone.” —Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library (Flemington, NJ)