Debut author Johns offers a sweet historical romance in a memorable setting.
In 1960, a young Italian woman named Lucia Chiezzi lives in Frascati, Italy, with her parents, her three sisters, her brother and her aunt. With two of her siblings, Lucia commutes into Rome for work daily, and their beauty sets them apart from other villagers. American-born William Bates sees Lucia on his first morning in Rome, and he’s instantly intrigued. Later, he’s delighted to meet her properly at the Carnivale in Frascati. Their mutual attraction is instantaneous; however, William’s conniving father, Joseph, has summoned him to Italy with his own matchmaking agenda in mind. Lucia’s modest circumstances don’t meet Joseph’s standards, and he’s not one to let others’ feelings affect his schemes. Indeed, his determination to drive William and Lucia apart seems to know no bounds. Eager to protect her family, Lucia ends her relationship with William and enlists the help of her sister Vittoria to keep the family’s apartment, as Joseph wants them to be evicted. In addition, Lucia must cope with her fickle boss, Enzo, whose devotion to her grows apace with her own love for William. Johns creates several deeply affecting characters and settings in this novel. Readers may dream of living in the author’s versions of 1960 Rome and Frascati, with their cobblestone streets, haute boutiques and enticing cafes. The people inhabiting them are also arresting, although the women are perhaps more convincingly drawn than the men, except for Joseph and his sidekick, Mario. That said, Joseph’s selfishness and lack of compassion make him almost a caricature at times and make William seem weak and malleable. All of the Chiezzi women are mercurial and emotional, particularly Lucia and her mother, Esther, although the latter’s spontaneity sometimes comes off as merely wacky. Overall, however, readers will find that this novel offers an appealing sojourn into an engaging time and place.
A pleasing romance that may have readers pining for more love stories, perhaps involving Lucia’s three remaining sisters.