Book Review Club: The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen #review

Tuscan Child book cover
The Tuscan Child
by Rhys Bowen
Adult Fiction
Lake Union, 2018

I’m a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, so when I saw that she had written a “story within a story” one of my favorite literary devices, I had to buy the book.

The Tuscan Child takes place alternately in 1944 and 1973, and the narrators are a father and his daughter.

Hugo Langley, a British pilot, is shot down over the Tuscan countryside in December of 1944. He’s the only survivor of the plane crash, but his leg is badly injured. He is discovered by Sofia Bartoli, a young woman from the nearby village of San Salvatore. She helps him to hide in the ruins of a nearby monastery and brings him food and whatever medical supplies she can find.

Then the action moves to 1973 when Joanna Langley goes back to her ancestral home to deal with her father’s sudden death. Joanna is in a bad place herself, but grateful for the small legacy Hugo left her. Among his things she finds a letter to Sofia that was returned after war in which he declares his love for her and makes a cryptic reference to their “beautiful boy” being hidden. Intrigued and without work, she uses his legacy to travel to San Salvatore to find out what happened back in 1944. Once there, she meets Sofia’s son Renzo, but finds that the past mystery is not easily uncovered, and that someone wants it to stay buried. Someone who is willing to kill to keep his or her secrets.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt sympathy for Joanna’s predicament as well as Hugo’s. The subplot involving Paola Rossini, who rents a room to Joanna and teaches her about Italian cooking, is charming and heartwarming. And then there’s the handsome but mercurial Renzo. Can he be trusted or not?

If you enjoy Susanna Kearsley’s books, you will probably enjoy The Tuscan Child. In the end, the main villain was a bit obvious, but there was an interesting twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming. The pace is fast, the characters engrossing, and the description of both countryside and food is lovely.

(My apologies to regular readers of my blog for my absence this last month. I’m happy to report that my remodel is almost finished, and I should have more computer time in future.)


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Recycled Reviews: The Scarletti Curse #audiobook

This is a review of the audiobook of The Scarletti Curse, by Christine Feehan, which I checked out of the library and listened to while recovering from eye surgery back in 2013.

audiobook coverThe Scarletti Curse
by Christine Feehan
Love Spell Books, 2000
Romance Audiobook read by Rebecca Cook

A classic Gothic tale, though written in third person omniscient point of view rather than the traditional first person. All the Gothic conventions are here: the young, innocent heroine, the older, domineering and mysterious hero, the forbidding house, in this case an Italian palazzo, the dark atmosphere and sense of impending doom.

Nicoletta is a young peasant woman with a special gift for healing. She is sweet-natured and free-spirited, used to running barefoot over the hills of her homeland, but at the same time dedicated to her healing arts. When she and her guardian, Maria Pia, are called to attend the Scarletti family at the Palazzo Della Morte (Palace of Death), as the peasants call it, she meets the dark and brooding Don Giovanni Scarletti. He and his little niece Sophie are ill from tainted soup. Was it poisoned? If so, who was the target?

When the don decides to claim her, Nicoletta resists, even attempting to run away, but the don will have his bride. She goes reluctantly to the palazzo, a dark frightening place with a reputation for destroying women. A number of them have been murdered, from Giovanni’s grandmother to several maids, including Nicoletta’s own mother. The palazzo is full of secrets and dangers and Giovanni fears he cannot protect her. But who is safe in the Palazzo Della Morte?

The danger and tension build to a dramatic climax that includes the requisite confession by the villain. Gothic fans will love the atmosphere and the satisfying romance. Rebecca Cook’s narration is delightful. She does the Italian accent well and gives each character a unique voice.

Scarletti Curse book coverThe only criticism I have, other than some occasional overheated prose, is that I didn’t get a good sense of time and place. I could not tell you what part of Italy the story takes place in nor which century.  The audio cover didn’t help as the clothing pictured looked quite modern. The original paperback cover gives more of a Renaissance look, which I think is close to the period. It was clearly pre-Industrial Revolution, but that was as close as I could pin down. But I imagine most readers will not care, as the story is very enjoyable.

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