Another good review of “Oranges”!

“Reading books by Mary F. Burns, especially “The Love For Three Oranges,” is an archeological experience. As any mystery, you can read it through quickly to get to the exciting conclusion. But as I read, I dug deep into its layers – its charming characters, its authentic history, its mystery unfolding in two historical periods, and its flights of fancy. All of this set in the dangerous, drunken romp of Venice during the Winter Solstice. This book is the second in the series, “A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery,” but it stands alone. Sargent and Paget, lifelong friends who later become the real life renowned artist and writer/historian, are at this point caught in their fresh young adulthood. Their creativity and wit are put to the test when a fellow artist invites them to his sumptuous Venetian palazzo to solve a tragic death that appears to stem from age-old griefs and grudges. Burns plays with her readers as we travel back and forth between the 19th and 17th centuries. She uses, she tells us, much of the actual 17th century “Memoirs” of the palazzo’s prior inhabitant—who, we learn, initiated those grudges. The best layer is this book’s use of beautiful and complex, yet perfectly clear period language. Highly recommended for readers who want to sift through all those literary layers, before uncovering the satisfying conclusion.” –Elise F. Miller, author of The Berkeley Girl: In Paris, 1968.


Historical fiction thrills me. It’s where I live, especially when writing it. Many authors will tell you that once you’re really into writing a book, the characters take over–you just write down what they’re telling you. This happens a lot, especially with characters I write about more than once, like John Singer Sargent and Violet Paget. Their lives and thoughts and challenges are so interesting I can’t resist writing their stories!

When I write Biblical fiction, there’s an added layer of Time and Eternity talking to each other–the characters on earth, living their lives, and their interaction with G-d, angels, other spiritual beings. There are windows into Eternity that open up from this time-bound earth we live on, and the glimpses of the eternal verities, seen sometimes in a flash of light in the dark of night, are awe-inspiring.

And finally, there’s Literary fiction. I feel the most “writerly” when I’m creating a story from pure air, people who come from somewhere deep inside me, touched and formed by all the people I’ve met and loved and despised and wondered about throughout my life. Their stories grow organically–I never know how a novel I’m writing is going to end up until I get to the last page.

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