In this sprawling romantic drama, the first in a family saga, a young widow reluctantly falls for a passionate anarchist lawyer who has come to town to defend a man accused of murder.
It’s 1913, and the town of Novi, Italy, is a hotbed of political and economic discontent. Elettra originally came to Novi from Genoa as a rich young woman whose arranged marriage to nobleman Umberto Binaldi was designed to benefit all parties involved: She would get a title and the Binaldis would get her fortune. But when Umberto dies fighting in Libya, Elettra is left with her young daughter, some eccentric servants and her controlling brother-in-law, Count Guglielmo Binaldi. The news that someone was murdered at the Binaldi’s silk mill shatters her quiet existence. An anarchist employee is apprehended by the authorities. While he may be innocent of the crime, he is clearly hiding something, which the lawyer hired for his defense, Leonida Fassetti, discovers upon returning to Novi, his hometown, after leaving many years ago when his father was falsely accused of robbing the Binaldi estate. Fassetti initially hates Elettra for her connections to the Binaldis, while she fears him for his anarchist politics. However, their relationship follows in the footsteps of Darcy and Lizzie before them, and soon they find themselves drawn to each other despite their differences. Author Cibabene (Between Two Flags, 2012) clearly knows the time period, and her passion for the subject matter shows—a little too much thanks to her penchant for overly florid language. Eventually, the characters’ tendencies to tell rather than show, combined with excessively dramatic dialogue, may start to grate on readers’ nerves. Yet the intriguing Italian setting, rife with equal amounts of beautiful scenery and political upheaval—not to mention murders and robberies galore—will keep readers engaged even as they grow tired of Fassetti’s bombastic speeches and Elettra’s weepy swoons.
An interesting-enough historical fiction that overstuffs its pages.