The numbed, loving heart (metaphorical) of a dear little Italian widow is revivified by a divorced American. . . while her damaged heart (anatomical) is re-tuned by the magic fingers of a super-surgeon--in a limp, cross-cultural, scalpel-and-tubing romance. A widow for three years and mother of two, Genoa's Rafaella Leone is sent to Houston's St. Matthew's hospital, where the famous Dr. Martin Lassiter will repair two badly occluded valves. And there, at the hospital, among the volunteers who help as interpreters for an international clientele, is divorced film-maker Stephen Morrisey, 44, who plans a documentary on the work of Dr. Lassiter. Stephen, wary of amorous attachments, is nontheless curiously drawn to Rafaella--aloof, ""vulnerable and lost,"" like a ""frightened doe."" So the frightened doe and the wary buck drift into sex (Rafaella ""imagined the blood beating through the damaged valves"")--and Stephen hovers anxiously when he realizes the severity of Rafaella's condition. There are case-book rounds to other cardiac patients; procedures are outlined; operating room spectaculars are celebrated; lengthy stretches in Recovery and ICU wards follow. But Rafaella, who gets' the full treatment, is finally pronounced cured, and she returns to Genoa With two men on her mind--the noble Lassiter (who ""had been in her heart"") and Stephen. . . who comes to Italy and persists in courting Rafaella, in spite of her Italian suitor and her cage of family obligations. Ultimately, then: Rafaella will take the children on a Stephen-financed trip to California, opting for the love and risks of family-independent living Over-sweet and as slow as a post-op stroll with a wobbly IV pole: love and medicine on the soap-op level.