Two people broken by World War I look to start over and take refuge in each other in this unique historical romance.
Williams’ debut tells the story of Francesca Sittoni, an Austrian turned Italian by the war, who immigrates to America with her husband, Cesare. He paid a dowry to Francesca’s father for the marriage, but he is unloving toward Francesca and her young daughter from her first marriage, Elena. When Cesare dies working in a coal mine, Francesca is understandably determined to stay in America since her family is too poor to care for her and Elena should they return to northern Italy. She answers an ad for a housekeeper on Kent Reed’s ranch in Willow Valley, Wyo. Despite Francesca’s pregnancy and child in tow, Kent agrees to hire her for one year, and he gets much more than he ever expected or wanted. As they raise Elena together amid hardships, they form a strong bond; affection inevitably develops between them. Francesca and Kent’s equally stubborn attitudes keep them apart romantically, even though they are forced to live in close quarters in the small house they share. The characters come from extremely different backgrounds, but as Williams skillfully weaves their lives together, they begin to see that they have much more in common than they originally believed. Kent is resistant to officially making Francesca and Elena his family; he feels unworthy and has struggled with emasculation after he was wounded in the war and his wife left him. Francesca thinks Kent only sees her as a live-in maid and cook—a poor Tyrolean woman set in the ways of the old country. It takes the neighbors’ help for them to see the life they have already created together and how much they care for one another. Williams writes with familiarity, easily transporting the reader back to the 1920s. Despite the technological, economical and social differences between then and now, the heart of the story is timeless. Beautiful imagery accentuates the compelling narrative that depicts an era gone but not forgotten.
A poignant story of loss, love and family.