"Verismo" is the Italian word used to describe scenarios of real life, and Janette Griffiths' "The Singing House" is a verismo story that draws us into the very unreal world of opera. It's genuine and true, and her thoroughly believable characters react to unusual turns of events in endearingly human ways. Unlike those of many fiction writers who "open up" the world of classical music for their readers with over-heated clichéd accounts of "passion" and "rapture" (cringe-inducing stuff that's not for a minute believable in most cases), Griffiths' characters are the stuff of real life and all the more interesting for it. That said, there is no shortage of poetry and lyricism in the skilled writing as our protagonist, Rose, is propelled into the confusingly alluring (and decidedly odd) world of opera. Here she meets all sorts of characters (this is a true ensemble piece, I forgot to mention): barmpots, mavens and mentors, each richly-developed and thoughtfully introduced to a finely-crafted story. Griffiths clearly knows what she's about in the operatic world, and she offers a refreshingly intelligent romance for grown-ups.