destiny's consent
book two: lions and gondolas

[reviews]

In the historical fiction settings of the Rom Gypsies wandering Europe and of a Rom gypsy family finding a new home in 1920’s Venice, California — we meet a range of characters at once familiar and mythic. The tales of Destiny’s Consent are ultimately spiritual journeys, even as we learn about Rom gypsies and Venice history in a colorful spectrum of culture and society. This is entertaining storytelling deftly shaped by a beauty of language and of heart.


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NEWSPAPER REVIEW OF

LIONS AND GONDOLAS


An engrossing book that delights and educates

This review is from: Lions and Gondolas (Destiny’s Consent) (Paperback)

          Lions and Gondolas is enjoyable on many different levels. It serves as a coming of age novel, as a sympathetic treatment of the Romani people, as a thrilling story of a woman lion tamer, and as an inside look at the early days of that magical city, Venice, California.

          As an amateur historian in Venice, I can say that Shepard Townsend has written a turn-of-the-century novel that is so authentic you can almost hear the waves hitting the pier, and see the gondoliers making their way down the canals. If only most writers paid at much attention to detail and accuracy.

In addition to a three-generation Romani family, we meet a young Howard Hughes and a magnificent Abbot Kinney, who single-handedly conceived and built this city of enchantment that continues to delight tourists. Ah, but if they could only have visited it 100 years ago. Now, thanks to Laura Shepard Townsend we can do just that.

                                                                                  –Jim from Venice

 

Entertaining Storytelling
Deftly shaped by A Beauty of Language and Heart

     In the historical fiction settings of the Rom Gypsies wandering Europe and of a Rom gypsy family finding a new home in 1920’s Venice, California — we meet a range of characters at once familiar and mythic. The tales of Destiny’s Consent are ultimately spiritual journeys, even as we learn about Rom gypsies and Venice history in a colorful spectrum of culture and society. This is entertaining storytelling deftly shaped by a beauty of language and of heart.

                                              –Sigrid Bergie Feliciano

 

I love this book! It’s philosophical. It’s metaphysical. It’s mystical. It soars with the genuine magic that was Venice, California, circa 1920, and with the master magician himself, Abbot Kinney. Wrapped within the enchantment, are three generations of audacious gypsy women – runaways from a husband and a small-time east coast circus with a pair of purloined lions in tow — who struggle to embody their authentic selves.

                                              –Delores Hanney, The Lure of a Land

                                                            by the Sea: Venice Vignettes

 

  “Gypsies and Venice, California are just about my favorite things in the world, especially when they show up in the same book. Lions and Gondolas is a tale of three immigrant women, refugees whose only capital consists of a pair of lions.

         When the story opens in 1918, Angelica Grastende is already a veteran trapeze flyer, and her mother is a novice lion trainer. Grandmother Lena has an intimate relationship with the occult secrets of the world, as well as a way of making things happen. It is her sly determination to con a con artist that sets off the unfolding of her family’s fate in the New World.

          This novel is soaked in Gypsy lore. Grandmother Lena describes the Tarot as “the greatest book of all, but purposely left unbound, so as to be examined from any direction of whim….” Interactive, randomized…. Of course! The Tarot as hypertext, predating the computer by hundreds of years. I’m impressed. It isn’t every novel that puts an entirely new thought into my head.

         At the same time, Lions and Gondolas is a charming historical romp through the splendors of Venice past.   I Love This Book!”

                                                            –Pat Hartman, Virtual Venice

 

     Color and light and truth

     Color and light and truth are the raw materials of wonderful writing. Obviously, as revealed in her rich and textured writing.   Laura Shepard Townsend uses them deftly.   She watches and sees.   She listens and hears.   And she writes it all for us to savor.   She understands the human condition and crafts it into a magically-woven fable based on the actual well-researched history of Venice, CA.   Lions and Gondolas is a book you may not want to finish quickly, but take as a visual delight and chew on the scenery and get lost in the magic and live in the splendor of her wondrous women.   If you like history, this is for you.   If you like adventure, this is for you.   If you like delicious writing, this is for you.   If you like a hell of a good tale, well…you get it!

     Look at this cover, too: the artistry of the mysterious (or modest?) “M. T.” is a delight of nuance and design – in apposite partnership with the author.

                                                                                    –Natalie Tirrell

 

         Adventure, History and Wisdom

         I really had a ball with this book! It was a complete surprise to me as I only picked it up in the book store because of the colorful cover but as I read a few pages I was hooked in.  I like to find books I can wallow in and this is one of those.  It’s a great coming of age story about a young Gypsy girl who’s fallen into the amazing world of Venice , California in the 1920’s.  There is a scene where the heroine’s mother becomes one of the only two woman lion tamers in the world while on board a speeding train abandoned by all its passengers except a young Howard Hughes and his father.   There is an extraordinary relationship that grows between the young girl and the visionary millionaire wizard who is building the City By The Sea, Venice.   All is set against such historical backdrops as the new womens suffrage movement,the birth of aviation, and the most deadly epidemic in American history.

        In this author’s hands, all of this enveloped me effortlessly, like stepping into a beautiful garden.   The characters are so artfully drawn it’s like being introduced to fascinating new people by a trusted friend.

        Set amidst all of this are passages and entire scenes of such startling out-of-left-field wisdom and depth that all you want to do is read them again. In fact, I recommend you read this entire book very slowly. That’s what I did.

                                                                                                    –M.T.

 

     Lions & Gondolas, an unusual book of merit

        Laura Shepard Townsend’s newest book, Lions & Gondolas, opens with lions roaring about in a baggage car carrying three fleeing women to California, and concludes with measures of dancing and sweet violin music fracturing the family.

         For sure, this most rewarding novel contains wonderfully neverending pages about teenage Angelica Grastende interfacing with Abbot Kinney, creator of California’s Venice.   And reveals their enthusiastic sharing the wisdoms of experience and youth. as mellowed by values of her Romani heritage and Abbot’s wide-world philosophy.   They wander, together, without restriction though a convoluted Venice of the early 1900s, explore every pier attraction, the city’s hidden tunnels and surf the ocean with a glee of outstanding proportions.   Indeed, Lions & Gondolas is an almost overwhelming volume of great merit, which attaches itself to the reader by honored promises of more adventures to come on every following page.

          Plan to read late, with this one.   It’s a gem.

                                                                                   –William Carroll

        A Visceral Enchantment

       The pleasure begins with the cover: a sensual delight of magical realism (credited to M.T.) with a lion of the title announcing his presence to all, while blithely floating along a Venice, California canal in a gondola.   The book lives up to this promise.

       Laura Shepard Townsend’s vision is vivid and seductive. Her characters are compelling and richly drawn. Her delicious evocation of Venice – circa 1920 – is historically accurate. She brings these elements together into a thumping good yarn of coming-of-age exploration bound up with a mystical flourish.

       It’s a chronicle of women. A grandmother, a mother and a daughter, gypsies on the lam, who have run away from mom’s husband and a small-time circus with two of said husband’s lions they have swiped, to begin life anew (in accordance with Grandmother Lena’s Tarot reading) beside the sea in far off Southern California.

       Daughter Angelica, from whose first person perspective the story is told, immediately falls under the sway of Venice where “a strange but elusive magic exists like nowhere else in the world.” She’s enthralled by its founder, too, Abbot Kinney, who becomes a wise mentor in her struggle to know herself and her values.

       Given the Rom ethnicity of the tale’s stars and the carnival atmosphere of Venice, the account exudes an appealing exoticism. The mother, Ava, also attracts a mentor, in the form of real and renowned tiger tamer Mabel Stark, who instructs her in the ways of working with dangerous large cats. Silent movie making and the thrilling new field of aviation play their part as well, in the allure of this spellbinding story.

       But the visceral enchantment of Lions & Gondolas is funded, most especially, by Townsend’s mellifluous prose, in evidence even in throwaway lines, so to speak: “The room we had entered was paneled in a dark mahogany that gleamed as if the souls of the trees still lingered in the hardwood.”

Zowie!

                                            –Delores Hanney, The Lure of a Land by

                                                                    the Sea: Venice Vignettes

 

       Laura Shepard Townsend has a unique gift for storytelling.  In her second book, Lions and Gondolas, the magical journey continues.”             
                                                                                 –Starla Fortunato

 

“This wonderfully written novel combines two topics which fascinate me—-bohemians and Venice Beach. As the first book in the “Destiny’s Consent” trilogy, it’s an entertaining and enjoyable read. I was immediately transported to the magical world of Los Angeles at the early part of the 20th century. The women in this novel are strong and empowered, and their gypsy culture is colorfully described, making you feel like a participant in every vivid scene.

        If you love Venice Beach, these free spirited characters will warm your heart and enrich your consciousness.”

                                                                          –Patricia Nolan Stein

 

 

 

 

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