Sam Raymond, a photographer for a Canadian newspaper, comes to Rome to cover the death of the ailing Pope and the election of a new one. At 39, Raymond is a sad, dispirited man who has cut himself off from everyone who might have been a real friend and he arrives in the Eternal City at a crossroads in his life -- though he himself does not know this. On his first night in Rome, lost and unable to speak the language, he has a strange encounter with a beautiful and mysterious woman whom he can't get out of his mind. Later, through the friendship of Francesca, his interpreter, he meets this woman who calls herself Carla Caneli and pretends to be a woman of Rome though she is actually a down-and-out alcoholic American named Anna Connel who had once been a singer of some fame in the U.S. Knowing nothing of her, except that she can only cause him grief, Raymond falls in love with her and she, in her limited fashion, with him. They live together, sustaining each other, and the details of a Pope's death and the Roman expectations of a new leader of the Church provide a dramatic counterpoint to their own difficult romance. Eventually Anna has regained enough of her former confidence to make a comeback and though this is a personal triumph for her it also puts an end to their affair; Raymond in his own tortured way needed her in a state of total dependence. But he manages to salvage enough of the relationship to be grateful for the fact that his life was more meaningful, for a while. The publishers compare the book to Of Human Bondage but the characters of A Passion in Rome are not sufficiently engaging to disturb one's feeling about them, one way or another.