When I was younger, I thought Valentine’s Day was a big commercial plot to trivialise love. I thought flowers and chocolates were cheesy and embarrassing gifts with no thought behind them. I was convinced it was better to show love every day in small gestures – making a cup of tea for a partner, letting them pick the film – than to make a grand gesture. But as I grew older and wiser with a dear person by my side, I began to see that small things are how we show love, but it’s worth celebrating love occasionally too, with something bigger.
In A Match Made in Venice, the main character Didi starts off the book in much the same place as I was – sceptical of so-called gestures of love and clichés around expressing love. But ultimately she’s just afraid those gestures would be empty and struggles to believe someone would love her as deeply as she is capable of loving them back (book characters always have so much baggage!). Her character unfolds over the course of the book, forced to confront a different world-view and tempted to be brave and believe she could be loved.
The love interest, Piero, has the opposite view. He’s always about the big and the grand, but he’s been feeling empty for a long time. He has to come to understand the power of everyday intimacy – the moment he does is one of my favourite parts of the book.
And this mismatched pair, both of them wrong about love at the start of the book, realise their mistakes in time for Valentine’s Day in Venice, the ultimate setting for the final act of a romance. I had so much fun writing the final sequence of the book. I’ve recorded a snippet of the scene in Venice on Valentine’s Day for your swoony enjoyment, but there is a surprise I won’t even hint at. For the rest of the journey, well, you’ll have to read to find out.
Valentine’s Day in Venice often (but not always) falls during the period of Carnevale. As such, the theme of love and lovers has been woven into the spirit of Carnevale. Listen to the video or read the text below!
Didi stared at the distant pink above the horizon, wisps of clouds reflecting the sinking sun. She glanced at her watch: 5.24. She had twelve minutes – Piero had twelve minutes. The gondolier stood lazily on his perch, leaning on a piling. As Didi had expected, her request hadn’t been met with any curiosity or surprise by the bearded hipster gondolier, who’d introduced himself as Pino, in his jaunty straw hat and striped shirt under a puffy gilet.
Didi wrapped the plush throw blanket more tightly around her shoulders and gazed out at the lagoon with a smile. She wasn’t going to regret riding on a gondola. The perspective was different, down by the gently lapping water, looking up at the stone bridges and Gothic windows, studying the colourful reflections of the crumbling buildings.
The Piazza was packed and Carnevale was still in full swing. A group of revellers in the most outrageous masks had been up on the stage as Didi had hurried past. The full-face masks had glittered in gold and silver, with butterflies, silk, feathers and embroidery. Despite the convivial announcer and jovial crowd, the masks weren’t smiling, which made Didi giggle. Venice took its folly very seriously.
Her emotions had experienced their own raucous upheaval while the city enjoyed its final revels before the sobriety of Ash Wednesday in a few days. How different the world looked to her today.
The cupolas of the ancient city hovered over the water: the tip of the Dorsoduro district, where she’d wandered on that first day of sightseeing with Piero; the islands of Giudecca and San Giorgio Maggiore with its imposing bell tower. In the distance, the Lido was visible, reminding her of New Year’s Day, when she’d been so blind to the potential in her relationship with Piero. They’d both taken too long to understand what their friendship meant.
I was wrong about love… It was strange how much faith Didi was putting in those words. She didn’t usually take leaps of faith, but here she was, still so certain, despite the rapidly sinking sun. He would come. She’d prepared him the ultimate romantic gesture and she couldn’t even muster an ironic smile.