This debut novel, the first installment of a trilogy, revolves around a woman with a keen intuition, a dark past, and a bright future.
After her husband, Brian, is killed in a car crash, Sophie Winters is a widow at age 25. With no spouse, no parents, and only two friends in the world—Martin and Kathy Bowman—life looks bleak. Enter country music star Jamie England—Sophie feels a strange pull to him at Brian’s funeral (“She could sense his concern...and somehow feeling connected to him took all her pain away”). Later when they cross paths at a club (“Her mind swirled to the past, back to the present, into the future...she knew him. They were a couple in love”). Unfortunately, she has already arranged to move to Amalfi, Italy, her birthplace, hoping to find a new start. On her arrival, she finds the town intoxicating (“Nothing prepared her for its magnificence…her heart swelled in her chest, stirred by the scents of the sea air, bougainvillea, and hibiscus growing below her window”). There, she comes to terms with her family secrets and builds a glamorous life (aided by a hefty inheritance). Then Jamie resurfaces, along with a shady character from her childhood who could threaten everything she’s accomplished. For all its heart, Winkler’s novel suffers some pitfalls. Plot points and character descriptions are often woven into the dialogue, which results in conversations sounding more informative than colloquial, as when Sophie describes her head of security to Kathy: “He’s tall, exudes power, dark brown hair and dark, intense eyes, which always roam on guard.” The narrative gets bogged down in logistical details, with events being relayed several times. The characters depend on recycled traits: Sophie has an endless supply of tears, Kathy addresses her as “sweetie” in most lines, Martin is perpetually “in the doghouse,” and Jamie uses “Dear God” to express nearly every emotion. Despite its challenges, the tale includes elements that should appeal to most readers: steamy scenes for erotica fans, sweet moments for die-hard romantics, and a suspenseful finish for thrill junkies. For those who become attached to Sophie and Jamie, the book is a gold mine after they’re reunited a third of the way through. There’s ample time for ups and downs, the luxuries of being über-wealthy, and general bliss.
An appealing couple in a well-intentioned but messy love story.