In Nardin’s romance, a young woman’s life radically changes when she decides to leave America for Venice and a handsome gondolier.
Victoria Greco, 30, leads a busy life as executive assistant to a high-powered Hollywood talent agent and hopes to break into agenting herself. On a rare vacation, Victoria visits Venice, Italy, where a muscular, golden-haired young man named Alvise Moro serves as her gondolier. Although he has a degree in Italian literature, Alvise comes from four generations of gondoliers, and there’s no job he’d rather do. They’re immediately and mutually attracted; though Victoria is usually cautious, she tells herself “I’m on vacation. Why not enjoy a little romance?” Though Victoria doesn’t consider Alvise her dream guy (“The man she’d marry would have to be a successful business man to compliment [sic] her own desired success”), she misses him terribly in California. Before long, one door opens as another closes. Alvise visits and proposes to Victoria just as her boss gives the bad news: no promotion this year. Marrying a man she barely knows, moving to Venice, and giving up her career might not make sense, but “there was no negotiating with the heart.” Naturally, nothing is as easy as Victoria had hoped, and she must tackle several obstacles on the way to giving her heart what it wants. In her well-researched debut novel, Nardin does a fine job evoking Venice’s atmosphere, culture, and history. The particular practices and customs of gondoliering, along with women’s efforts to enter the profession, make for absorbing reading. Victoria’s new job—selling high-end jewelry—is also enjoyably luxurious. Given the highly romanticized love affair, the book benefits from its grounding in realistic conflicts that arise from Victoria’s situation, whether it’s the constant secondhand smoke in Europe, a critical Italian mother-in-law, or dealing with international law. Even so, it’s more than a little hard to accept that an ambitious career woman who’s always valued material success would so suddenly and completely change her plans, giving up a great deal of personal autonomy, privacy, and power.
Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice.