Although not quite as inventively and lushly mellow as The Magic Ship (1979), this latest romance by popular German author Paretti, set in 1943 Rome under German occupation, has a gauzy, bittersweet charm. Maria Canossa, separated from her chilly, callous German husband of nine years, and recovering from a suicide attempt, returns to her native Rome to join her fighter pilot brother, Gianni. But Gianni is dead (only later will she learn that he did not die in combat); and in Gianni's apartment Maria meets Marco Varelli: ""He had one of those Roman faces which had always irritated her. . . open but entirely mysterious."" And, indeed, Marco seems surrounded by mystery--sudden absences, strange voices and messages, secret meetings. Nevertheless, their love grows, while Maria works as a translator for the German embassy and--in the evenings--for elderly, Swedish doctor/archaeologist Lennart Larsson. And only later will Maria become aware of a network of intermingled plots and counterplots, codes and decoders, with dangerous connections to a possible Allied invasion: it seems that the dead Giauni, Marco, and two members of the German embassy staff have been working with the Allies--and they will be betrayed. Maria does her bit as courier, all the while passionately adoring the ""phantom"" Marco (she's adored in turn as a ""phantom woman"" by Larsson) and awhirl in--ah!--""the eternal geometry of love, the circle that is never closed, the spiral into the infinite."" But the love affair of Maria and Marco ends sadly on a diminished seventh as he disappears. . . forever? Paretti works with the ripest of romantic remnants: a heroine with a ""golden"" complexion; a hero with that one touch of vulnerability (a game leg); scenic views of a city rich in antiquity; villas in the hills and muffled omens. Yet somehow it all tinkles together like the classiest of cocktail-bar pianos--schmaltz with a touch of European chic.