In 1898, Claire Bromley travels with her companion Dorothea to Italy for her health. In the next month, she learns Italian, tours art galleries and cathedrals, and meets other English travelers enjoying the Italian countryside. When she returns to England just after Easter, she does so with the bloom of first love and an interest in the Catholic faith.
After World War II, Captain James Marsh returns to England and rents a small house in the countryside. As he attempts to return to normal life and forget the horrors of the war in Asia, his housekeeper finds a cameo brooch in the house. Looking for the brooch’s owner gives James the distraction he needed. Claire Bromley’s diary is given to him as proof of ownership of the brooch, and James finds himself greatly interested in Claire’s travels.
Claire’s diary is the heart of The Cameo. Here, author Lorraine Shelstad captures the voice of a sheltered, eighteen-year-old girl on her first trip abroad. Claire eagerly describes the places she sees, the new things she experiences, and the new people she meets.
Each of the characters is unique and interesting, and provides a new perspective on the story. Claire’s Italian tutor Mr. Bartoli gives us an insider’s perspective on Italy and its people. The Rev. Houghton gives us a sympathetic Englishman’s view of the town. And Mr. Fillmore, an arrogant, biased Englishman shows us the prejudices common at the time towards both Italians and the Catholic Church.
Through fiction, Lorraine explores common questions about the Catholic Church as Claire encounters things on her travels that pique her curiosity. Claire is an observant, curious young woman whose questions stem naturally from what she sees as she travels, and her traveling companions and tutor provide interesting answers to her questions. Claire’s diary is informative, never preachy.
The Cameo (CreateSpace, 2011, ISBN 978-1456301057) is Lorraine’s first novel. Lorraine’s careful attention to both historical and geographical details are evident throughout the novel. She captures the attitudes and ideas of English travelers at the close of the 1800s.
To other writers, Lorraine says, “You can use some of your own experiences in life in the story but the characters never existed except in your imagination. You may have to research a place or a different time in history and this can be a learning experience.” Lorraine’s own travels in Europe, as well as her questions about the Catholic Church, clearly helped her write this story about a curious, likeable young woman and the brooch she leaves behind.
Lorraine Shelstad currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds an MA in Linguistics and has worked as an English teacher and a Medical Laboratory Technologist in Canada and Thailand. Lorraine enjoys to traveling and has visited Italy, England, and Singapore, where parts of The Cameo are set, as well as other countries. She joined the Catholic Church in 1991. Her favourite authors are Boris Pasternak, Benedict XVI, Lucy Beckett, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer.