I am delighted to have my novel published.
“Hotel of the Siren” by Antoinette Carone
Scantic Books is proud to publish Hotel of the Siren, the richly textured debut novel by Antionette Carone.
In the late twentieth-century, before cell phones and the internet, Lucy comes home from work and finds her artist husband Jon slumped over his easel. Some days later, Jon dies. At his funeral, Lucy watches a lady in a green scarf linger by his grave. When Lucy later finds the green scarf carefully placed over Jon’s grave, she begins to suspect Jon may have been having an affair. Lucy collects Jon’s life insurance, sells her house, and moves to Naples, Italy. She takes the scarf with her. There, she changes her name to Lucia, meets new friends, enjoys running along the bay, and begins a love affair of her own with Antonio. Unbeknownst to Lucia, Antonio is The Lady of the Green Scarf’s cousin. Hotel of the Siren tells of lovers and a city where reality can differ from appearance and expectations can be overturned
Below is an excerpt, which I hope you will enjoy.
The day after Thanksgiving, Lucy decided to sort through Jon’s work. Now was as good a time as any. Things needed to be put in order. Not a simple task. She started by gathering blank canvases, sketch pads, paints, brushes, art books, pencils of every size and hue. These she packed into boxes and stacked them in the corner. On Monday she would drop them off at the Children’s Aid Society for after-school art classes.
Next Lucy turned to the paintings lined up along the wall. Some she would give to friends. Most she would take to the gallery to be sold. Jon had created a plethora of work, and recently it had been going for a good price.
The fifth painting she picked up struck her. It was a nude, a woman. Not unusual. Jon often hired live models. This model was tall and thin. She was seated with her right leg extended while the left leg bent with the foot touching the right thigh. Arms lifted, hands folded behind her head, she reclined on pillows piled against an ochre wall. She seemed to contemplate something beyond the frame that contained her. The woman was rendered in warm tones. Her skin was alabaster with pinkish-beige shadowing. Her nipples and aureole were a dark sienna with a muted vermillion undertone. A tint that only Jon seemed able to formulate. All shades of brown, except for her auburn hair which blended into cushions of rose-and amber. All these warm tones lulled the viewer’s eye until it was pulled away by the emerald green drapery around the woman’s shoulders. A long scarf fell between her breasts and over her right thigh, only just concealing her vulva but not her pubic hair, which was a lush chestnut and prolific. The effect on Lucy was disturbing. Something in the painting was familiar.
Instinctively, she shoved the canvas away from her. She sensed danger in the image but couldn’t articulate its cause. Unsettled, she reacted to something in the painting that she had seen in the past. Something no longer remembered, even, but it lay in the recesses of her mind waiting to be recognized, waiting to do harm. The threat centered not on the nude herself but on the green scarf. It was uncanny—familiar but strange. Lucy remembered having seen it, but it was nowhere in Jon’s studio, not with other fabric and props he used with models or for still life.
“Green,” Lucy remembered Anna saying, “is the color of healing.” But this green looked like the color of poison, the drapery languidly spreading to engulf and suffocate.
My imagination is on overdrive.
Lucy berated herself as she picked up the painting to place it in the stack for the gallery. Instead, she stood it against the wall, facing backward.
On Sunday, Lucy went for a walk. The painting had disturbed her more than she wanted to acknowledge. She had been nervous and restless since finding it. Instead of staring out the window and allowing Grimaldi to make use of her lap, she sought the outdoors. She enjoyed walking. It relaxed her..
Lucy walked the short distance through the dead leaves on the sidewalks in front of the houses on her street and onto the larger avenue. This, in turn, gave onto a street as old as the town itself. It had never been properly paved but surfaced with brick. Because of this, hardly anyone ever drove on the street. It was ideal for walking, though. Lucy advanced without conscious aim in whatever direction fate took her. The old road ended abruptly at the graveyard so curiously placed in the middle of this splendid neighborhood.
Finding herself at the cemetery, Lucy decided to visit Jon. Perhaps seeing the earth that contained him would make her believe time was truly passing. She might not remain frozen in grief. She loved the life she and Jon had shared. She loved the colors that stained his hands, the smell of oil paint on his skin, and the way he looked beyond everything when solving a problem with shading or line. She loved the way he beamed at gallery openings. All now and forever gone.
“I need to find a new mode of being,” she said aloud.
She wound her way through tombstones toward the oak and maple canopy that stood over Jon’s gravesite and searched for his grave. His headstone would not have been erected yet. There would be only a small white rectangular marker with his name. Lucy imagined she saw a figure move among the trees, and vaguely recalled an image of witches dancing around a sacred oak.
An acorn fell at her feet. She was standing under a spread-out branch an oak tree. A live oak, still bearing its leaves, although now brown and desiccated. The lawn too was sparse and dun colored. Then she saw it—the one point of color standing out in the monochrome of muddy earth and grey tombstones. Green.
An emerald scarf lay on the upturned soil of Jon’s grave. It was placed over the earth, like someone might cover a sleeping child. Lucy inhaled sharply. Her breath came cold and sharp, like the thrust of a knife. She picked up the scarf. It felt warm., as if laid there only a few minutes ago. It was made of fine wool but had no label. Perhaps it had been hand-knit, the stitches were so small and precise, soft and supple. The scarf was stunning.
Once home, she made directly for Jon’s studio. She laid the scarf on the edge of Jon’s easel. It draped in folds to the floor. It was the scarf in the painting!
Again, Lucy could not help but admit that the model was beautiful and her appearance the antithesis of her own. Now she pondered the idea that Jon had been deeply estranged from her. He did often say that if she lost just ten pounds, she would be perfect and had often asked her to let her hair grow and maybe have it straightened. But Lucy liked her curly hair cut short for easy maintenance. She resented his imposing his artist’s aesthetic on her. After all, her body was hers to control, not his. The notion that her husband might have been attracted to a woman so opposite unnerved her. But then, it was only a picture. Still, it was so sensuously and lovingly rendered.
The figure in the painting propelled Lucy to her bedroom mirror. For the first time since… when? Lucy studied herself in a mirror. She encountered an average-looking woman where once she welcomed an exotic one. This woman was not short, but she certainly was not tall either. She appeared sturdy rather than delicate, having ceded her youthful flexibility to her work desk, and in return, having been granted a little extra weight. That woman had once looked like a Botticelli boy, or so Jon had said. Dark brown hair, very curly, falling to her shoulders in ringlets. She hadn’t bothered with her hair over the past month, so now it was almost shoulder length again. In the soft and intimate shadows of their bedroom, her eyes seemed to be a plain light brown. But not always. They were perfectly capable of turning green in certain light. But green was not a color Lucy wanted to acknowledge.
You can order Hotel of the Siren here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09V34QY2Q