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.