Love and loss turn a rebellious heroine into a better person in the latest by a popular British romantic novelist.
Montefiore’s third novel (The Gypsy Madonna, 2007, etc.) is an odd combination of period piece, romance, mystery and near-gothic, sweeping from the Cornish coast in the 1950s to the toe of Italy as it follows the evolution of gorgeous but impetuous Celestria Montague, who could easily have turned out as spoiled as her mother but finds herself on a different course when her father disappears at sea, leaving behind a note, his watch, his shoes and a mountain of debt. Suicide is clearly suggested, yet the family is Catholic: Would he have courted eternal damnation? Celestria, dubbed by her mother as the top of the evolutionary food chain, was previously only interested in finding a mate of equivalent perfection, but now she is busy uncovering a money trail leading to a guest house in Puglia, where she meets a wild-haired, brooding, widowed hero named Hamish. Montefiore’s tale includes notes of knowing humor as well as occasional farcical touches (there are trusty servants with dodgy accents and slippery Italian lawyers caught with their pants down). But order is restored by another death in the family and the inevitable happy ending.
An old-fashioned romance tidily delivered.