by Elaine Coffman

November 2002
ISBN: 1-55166-946-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Mass Market Paperback

Beatrice Fairweather, an English painter, is finally returning to Italy after five years - years that she regretted leaving Angelo Bartolini, her first and only love. Beatrice isn’t as shy or uncertain as she once was and she wonders if things will progress romantically for her and the sexy Italian. Lingering sparks flare up when Angelo and Beatrice meet again, but Angelo’s heart belongs to another. He is a member of a secret society called the Carbonari, whose members are dedicated to freeing Italy from Austrian rule in the 1820’s, and Beatrice isn’t sure that there is room in his heart for his noble cause and for her. Falling in love during these uncertain times, when Angelo could be incarcerated or put to death, puts a strain on their relationship, not to mention a betrayal from a Carbonari member puts their lives in danger. Will the lovers have a chance to live happily ever after or are forces conspiring against them?

I enjoyed The Italian, the plot was compelling and I had trouble putting the book down. The story centers around Austria’s occupation of Italy and the Italian patriots who want freedom from the Austrian invaders. A well written historical, I was surprised how much I was completely interested in the politics within the story. Normally I just care about the characters and I glance over the “historical” bits and pieces, but The Italian engaged my senses and wouldn’t let go. While I enjoyed the story from that aspect, I felt that the romance was lacking. The relationship starts off well, but it fades out for most of the book in the telling of the political intrigues. I never felt that the two main characters had re-established their relationship.

Then there were the added conflicts. The main characters have enough stacked against them that they don’t need extra conflicts that don’t go anywhere. A perfect example would be when Angelo and Beatrice are fleeing Italy. Beatrice cannot stand being on the run anymore, so she goes back to familiar ground with Angelo’s promise that he will follow when he is able, but (without me going into great detail) he ends up married! Okay, I can accept that. What really bothers me is how the author conveniently 'ends' the marriage without anything being gained. That conflict was complete and pure filler, with a few more of those types of instances occurring in the story.

An epilogue would have been appreciated, especially when you realize how much effort the author put into her research. To leave threads hanging just left the story with a flat and unfinished feeling. Yes, I do realize that Italy overthrew Austrian rule. Nonetheless, I would have liked to know what had happened to some characters, along with the relationship between Angelo and his birth father. So many — too many — unanswered questions.

Even though there were some problems with the story, I still liked it. If the romance had been better balanced with the wonderful political story, the rating would have been higher. If you’re looking for a story set in a time period and place that isn’t often written about, with an extremely engrossing political story, The Italian would definitely be the story for you.

Reviewed in October 2002 by Thea.

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