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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Invitation by Lucy Foley

Title: The Invitation
Author: Lucy Foley
Publisher: August 2nd 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical/general fiction, romance
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


An evocative love story set along the Italian Riviera about a group of charismatic stars who all have secrets and pasts they try desperately--and dangerously--to hide.

Rome, 1953: Hal, an itinerant journalist flailing in the post-war darkness, has come to the Eternal City to lose himself and to seek absolution for the thing that haunts him. One evening he finds himself on the steps of a palazzo, walking into a world of privilege and light. Here, on a rooftop above the city, he meets the mysterious Stella. Hal and Stella are from different worlds, but their connection is magnetic. Together, they escape the crowded party and imagine a different life, even if it's just for a night. Yet Stella vanishes all too quickly, and Hal is certain their paths won't cross again.

But a year later they are unexpectedly thrown together, after Hal receives an invitation he cannot resist. An Italian Contessa asks him to assist on a trip of a lifetime--acting as a reporter on a tremendous yacht, skimming its way along the Italian coast toward Cannes film festival, the most famous artists and movie stars of the day gathered to promote a new film.

Of all the luminaries aboard--an Italian ingenue, an American star, a reclusive director--only one holds Hal in thrall: Stella. And while each has a past that belies the gilded surface, Stella has the most to hide. As Hal's obsession with Stella grows, he becomes determined to bring back the girl she once was, the girl who's been confined to history.

An irresistibly entertaining and atmospheric novel set in some of the world's most glamorous locales, THE INVITATION is a sultry love story about the ways in which the secrets of the past stay with us--no matter how much we try to escape them.

My Thoughts

“You know, my friend, I have found that the best way to come to terms with one’s past is like this, through talk. It is painful, but, little by little, it helps to diffuse its power.”

This is a beautifully written book, with rich descriptions of settings along the Mediterranean - from the coast of Italy, to the south of France. Having read Lucy Foley’s first book and enjoyed it, I was eager to see what she would come up with next. Although I was interested to read to the end, I have to confess to skimming some sections, at times never fully engaged, feeling somewhat detached from characters and actions.

“It is only afterwards, with the clumsiness and misunderstanding of speech, that the distance grows once more.”

I had trouble connecting with the two main characters of  Hal and Stella, and indeed, felt that even they lacked that deep connection that was supposedly apparent to justify their actions.  I didn’t feel their passion. In fact, many of the characters lacked depth with only Stella being given flashbacks (interesting why only her past was deemed necessary). I did, however, enjoy the character of the Contessa, reminiscent of some famous film star. She was the one who demonstrated real warmth and understanding. Alternatively, Truss - a major player - was seriously underdeveloped. It would have been so beneficial to understand his motivations to better appreciate his role as the ‘bad guy’.

“I mean, you only have to look at us all. Apart from Giulietta, perhaps. We’re quite a ragtag bunch. She collects hopeless cases.”

This book took some time to get going and dragged a bit in the middle. I also found the ending to be inconclusive/confusing in some ways, as it was open to interpretation. Overall, however, it was an enjoyable piece of historical fiction and like I stated, Foley does write beautifully. Sadly, however, I was not as enamoured with this tale as I was with her first book.

“When you find something that rare, amico, it is seldom a matter of choice. If you find it, you must hold to it, fast.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy

Title: The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy
Author: Beau North and Brooke West
Publisher: 4 October 2016 by Beau North
Pages: 242 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 4.5 crowns


“He could no longer claim to be Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire, brother to Georgiana, master of Pemberley. In that moment, he was but a man. A man filled with more frustration than most souls could bear. A man torn asunder by his desperation, his fruitless dreams and desires.”

After Elizabeth Bennet rejects his marriage proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy finds himself in the most unusual of circumstances. At first believing the extraordinary turn of events has granted him an inexplicable boon, he is eager to put the humiliating proposal behind him.

He soon discovers that he is trapped in the same waking dream with no end in sight and no possible escape. All that he holds dear—his name, his home, his love—remains ever out of reach. How will he find his way back to his normal life? Will one mistake haunt the rest of his days? It will take all of his fortitude to weather the storms of his strange new fate, and all of his courage to grasp the promise of his future.

My Thoughts

“In vain I have struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Okay….I admit it - I am an Austen fangirl who can recite that above quote word for word! Still, with the plethora of adaptations out there, I like to think I am somewhat discerning. As to this book …. I loved it! In this clever adaptation, Darcy is trapped in a time warp (think Groundhog Day) after his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth. How? He knows not. Why? To give Darcy a second chance to right a wrong, to make good, to show the real Darcy we all know and love.

Darcy was more convinced that he was presently serving some type of punishment for a crime still unknown to him.

“Good God, what is happening to me?” he wondered aloud. “It is the same day.”

If you know the famous Pride and Prejudice, you know how this is all going to end. But how clever of these authors to take this much loved story, add a twist and have us all on the edge of our seats to see how we will arrive at our happily ever after.

Could she know how she affected him, setting his every thought aflame? He had to put his hands against the pianoforte, holding himself in place to keep from going to her.

I will admit that it lost a little for me as we entered something like ‘Day 70’ of the repeat performance and I found myself thinking, ‘okay, time to move on now’. There were only so many variations in Darcy’s repertoire to try and change the outcome that found him trapped in reliving his agonising rebuttal. Don’t despair, the humour and poignancy will keep you turning the pages to the very end.

And let’s just think about that Epilogue - sweet, sentimental and pulled at your Austen heartstrings. Overall, this book is most definitely creative and delightful.

“No,” he said through his clenched jaw. “You will not take this from me. Perhaps I never knew you, but I think it is clear that you never knew me.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release