Universally, we value truth above all else, and it is easy to paint a world in shades of only black and white in which to lie is a sin… an unforgiveable one. But the human experience is so much more complicated than that.
Secrets ripple beneath the surface in my latest novel, Concerto, and when it comes to deception, the heroine, Catriona, finds herself caught in a web of her own making. But she never set out to conceal anything of herself; she grew up with integrity.
At eighteen, Catriona had a bright future ahead as an opera singer; she’d won a coveted place at the Paris Conservatoire. But one night of following her heart rather than her head changed her life forever. Pianist composer Umberto swept her up in heady passion, and then left her – with unexpected consequences.
A decade later, Catriona has built a good life, albeit different to the one she imagined. She has a son, Michael, and a successful music therapist business. Yes, she is harbouring a secret, but it does not haunt her too much. Until Umberto comes back into her life.
The man she once knew, and loved, is a wreck – bitter and depressed since an accident robbed him of his sight. Catriona cannot deny his dying mother’s request that she work with Umberto, to help him recover his musical gift. But she is fearful that he will uncover her secret – and so, to protect herself, she adds lie to lie; she weaves a tangled web.
She travels to Lake Como, to stay with Umberto at his lakeside mansion, and from the moment she sees him, she takes advantage of the fact that he cannot see her: she does not tell him that she is the Katérina he knew so fleetingly in the South of France a decade ago, the Katérina whose heart he broke.
Catriona tells herself that she is here to do a job, that she will maintain her professional facade, that Umberto need never know who she really is – or what happened after their night together. But she hasn’t reckoned on feeling so much for this tragic, broken man who once made the most beautiful music.
Soon, Catriona is plunged into conflict. It is deeply uncomfortable for her to be veiled in secrets; hard to look at herself in the mirror. The more she feels for Umberto, the more she wishes she could be all of herself with him. But the bigger the web she weaves, the longer she dwells within it, the harder it is to have the courage to be honest – to trust that doing so will not bring untold pain upon her family.
We are all human, and thus fallible; we know what it is to keep a secret. We can forgive Catriona for being secretive. But as the proverb says, ‘secrets will out’ – and in that case, could Umberto forgive Catriona? Could they untangle themselves from the web and forge a path ahead, liberated by the truth?