I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is an odd book for me to rate because I found the first half of the book to be 2 stars, but the second half was 4 stars. My final rating for this is 3 stars, which is the average of the two.
On an unrelated note, when I first saw that one of the epigraphs was an excerpt from Burnt Norton I was really happy. I love that poem mainly because Lana Del Rey recites it for her interlude on her Honeymoon album and I love Lana Del Rey.
So the first half of the book was 2 things: slow and cringe worthy.
In regards to its slowness, I thought that it took way too long to get to Tuscany. It took nearly 150 pages for our main character, Venetia, to finally get there. I felt like the story didn’t actually start until she arrived. A lot of the first half of the book was Venetia being wishy washy towards Paolo. She would think to herself, I love Paolo. Then the next page she would be like, I don’t love Paolo. That continued regularly until about half way through and made the book go by so slowly. I got pretty annoyed with her because she could not make up her mind. A good portion of the first half could have been removed because it was all really repetitive.
As for the cringe worthy parts, there were two lines in particular that drove me nuts. The first line described Venetia as having “neither racial or social prejudices” (41). Like okay. That’s kind of an odd thing to say in a book. The second line was when Venetia asked the Chinese fortune teller, “How come you speak such perfect English” (98). As someone who is half Asian, I really have an issue with that. It just adds to the perpetual foreigner stereotype that gets attached to Asians. It wasn’t even a necessary question for the story. Another thing that had me cringing was how predatory the males were in the beginning. Count Umberto was so horrible and even Paolo was a bit too much with his constant demands.
But then the book moved to Tuscany and things got a whole lot better. Paolo and Venetia became less annoying. There were conflicts which finally got the story moving (I loved Allegra’s character. She was really interesting). The romance finally heated up. A lot of the time it reminded me of Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast, which isn’t surprising considering Beauty and the Beast (the original fairy tale version) is mentioned on page 304 and Jane Eyre is mentioned in the author’s Q and A at the end of the book. I could definitely see the inspiration and since I love both of those I did end up enjoying the second half.
As for the big reveal at the end, I had already figured it out by that point so I wasn’t super surprised by it.
Overall, this wasn’t the best romance due to its overly long beginning but the second half saved this book from becoming a disaster. I’m am curious to read more from Hannah Fielding because out of all her books on Goodreads this one has the lowest average rating of only 3.66. All her other books have an average rating of over 4. I’m hoping that this book was just a fluke and not representation of her writing as a whole.