Kate Harper has always loved the painting that has hung in her parents’ dining room for years, never suspecting that it is worth a fortune. When her art dealer boyfriend cheats her family out of the proceeds of the painting’s sale, she is left devastated and alone.
Kate discovers that two hundred years ago, the girl in the painting, Charlotte Browne, ran off to Rome with the artist who painted her portrait, but her eventual fate is unknown.
Hoping to uncover the mystery of what happened to Charlotte, Kate seizes the chance of a summer job in Rome, where she strikes up a friendship with artist Jamie Taylor.
As they explore the city and start to piece together the surprising secrets of Charlotte’s life, Kate finds herself wondering if summer in Rome can mend a broken heart…
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
If you enjoy your romance with an art historical twist, this lovely story set mainly in Rome provides the perfect escape. Kate decides to take a summer job in Rome when her boyfriend proves untrustworthy. Working at a historical house previously home to nineteenth-century English artists and writers is an excellent way to heal and try to solve a mystery.
I enjoyed the gentle romance between Kate and Jamie and the incredible sense of place this story has. The historical mystery revealed through journal entries adds authenticity and interest to the contemporary novel. The author brings Rome in the summer to vibrant life, and the art history and historical detail make this an engaging read.
I loved the romantic conclusion too.
Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction and romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing (re-released in e-book as Meet Me In Paris), won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition, and her fifth novel, Love On Location, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novelists’Association Award – the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy.
When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city with her writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband and has three adult children who live nearby.
Should first love be left in the past, or is first love, forever love…
Sisters Annie and Jess are used to their mother Julia being spontaneous. But when Julia announces she’s flying off to Rome to meet her first love Patrick, whom she hasn’t seen for fifty years, it’s an adventure too far. So, her daughters decide the only way to keep Julia safe, is to go too – without actually telling their mother she has chaperones!
Julia and Patrick’s love story was everything – epic, once-in-a-lifetime, with a tragic ending and life-long consequences. First love is hard to forget, but sometimes, just sometimes, life delivers a chance to rewrite your story.
As the eternal city of Rome works its magic, old secrets, old friends and old loves become new possibilities and new dreams. And when the four travellers return home, nothing will ever be the same again.
Join Helen McGinn for a timeless, joyous, unforgettable journey through love, family, and long-forgotten dreams.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a multigenerational story with strong female characters and a relatable dynamic between the sisters and their mother. Julia’s three marriages are a source of despair for her daughters, and they don’t want her to make another mistake. Julia has a secret she’s never shared with her children and can’t resist meeting her first love again.
The sisters are different in personality, and despite loving each other, they don’t understand the pressures of their individual lives. There are many poignant moments, particularly in Julia’s story, who was a victim of the judgemental morals in the early 1960s.
The real journey is the emotional one all the characters experience both in the past and present.
This proves to be an engaging family drama.
Helen McGinn is a much-loved wine expert on TV and in print and an international wine judge. She spent ten years as a supermarket buyer sourcing wines around the world before setting up her award-winning blog (and best-selling wine book) The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club. She is the drinks writer for the Daily Mail and regularly appears on TV’s Saturday Kitchen and This Morning. Helen lives in the New Forest and Boldwood are publishing her debut women’s fiction title in Spring 2021.
Responsible widow Lilian Fairclough is persuaded to travel to Rome for a hard-earned break and to let down her hair! She’s surprised to be reunited with passionate, cynical Italian duke, Pietro Venturi. He reawakens her sensual side and intrigues her with glimpses of pain beneath his rakish surface. Enticed into a secret and temporary affair – what will happen once she returns home?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
I love older couples romances, and whilst these are becoming more popular in contemporary romance, they are rarer in historical romance, so one is particularly enjoyable to read.
Set in romantic Rome, Lilian, who still mourns her husband, reacquaints with an Italian Duke Pietro, who has only bad memories, of his late marriage, and will never enter that institution again.
A mutual love of art draws them into friendship, but proximity builds the sensual attraction, to sizzling level. The characters are authentic and easy to empathise. The decisions they make, are in keeping with their maturity and the resultant romance is passionate, poignant and permanent, after much angst and conflict.
The final book in the Secrets of a Victorian Household, series it reads as a standalone, but for those who have read the previous books, or like continuity, the epilogue ties everything together.
An engaging read with delightful characters, a vivid setting and a realistic but romantic love story.
When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace insomnia and start writing them down. Despite that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.
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Rome is where the heart is… The heartwarming read of the summer
Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.
Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?
Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.
The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love, conquer all?
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Like all T.A. Williams books, this story is atmospheric, authentic and absorbing. You quickly become immersed in the sights and sounds of Rome, the excitement of new possibilities and romance and the chance to escape for a little while.
The theme of this story is contemporary, climate change and both the main protagonists are scientists. both attribute their undeniable attraction to hormones and neural impulses, Jo, because she has been damaged by a previous relationship, ending badly and Corrado because he believes love is merely an illusion.
The reader experiences Rome with the protagonist and that alone makes it a wonderful read, but add in complex characters, a lovely balance of heartbreak and humour and it is the perfect beach read.
I’ve read lots or romantic comedy, many are set in far-flung places, but this series stands out and is always a pleasure to read. If you’re looking for a romantic, escapist read, this series is for you.
Author Interview – T. A. Williams – Dreaming of Rome
What inspired you to write this story? Are all your stories set in holiday destinations?
What I’m trying to offer
in my books is escapism; the chance for the reader to forget everyday worries
and lose herself (or himself) in a magical world of luxury, beauty and
happiness. I make no excuses for writing easy-reading, feel-good books with a
happy ending. We all need a bit of happiness from time to time, not least with
the world in the mess it’s in at present (please don’t mention Brexit). In
consequence, I try to set all my books in gorgeous locations. Not least as I
insist upon doing a “research trip” to each in advance of starting to write (J).
The inspiration for “Dreaming of Rome” was to revisit a city I have loved all my life. After university, I lived in Italy for 8 years and the head office of my employers was in central Rome. I love it. As for the main thrust of the story – what happens when a girl who’s lost her belief in love meets a scientist who believes he can prove it doesn’t exist apart from as a biochemical reaction – who knows? It just came to me one day when I was out for a walk.
There are lots of similar stories in this genre, currently, what makes yours different?
I don’t really know. I have to confess that I hardly read any romance. I write it, but I don’t read it, so I don’t really know what else is out there. I suppose one thing maybe that makes me stand out from the crowd a little is the fact that I’m a man. Most romance these days is written by women, so maybe I can give a slightly different perspective. Of course, it wasn’t always so – take “Romeo and Juliet” for example.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
Probably the setting, but
this is as much down to the title as anything. So far I have written “Dreaming
of…” books set in Venice, Florence, St-Tropez, the Austrian Alps, Tuscany and
now Rome. Each time we are looking for a name on the cover that will appeal to a
prospective reader. I’m afraid that “Dreaming of Huddersfield” (apologies to
Huddersfield – no doubt a charming city) is unlikely to appear. After that it’s
the main character. This tends to be a bright, competent woman, and readers
have commented on how they like my girls because they are decisive and
organised and know their own minds. If that is so, that probably comes from me
– I’m a fairly well-organised character when I get going.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
I’ve never consciously
set out to draw upon somebody I know. Inevitably there will be elements of real
people in my characters, but they are pretty much an amalgam. As for making
them realistic, I always make sure they aren’t perfect. At the moment I’m
writing “Dreaming of Verona” and my heroine wears glasses and is chronically
shy. Even the obligatory Labrador I slip into all my books isn’t ever perfect.
They fart, they disobey and they insist upon shaking themselves dry right
beside the main characters.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I don’t read enough.
Also, I almost never read romance. Normally I tend to go for historical novels
or non-fiction. My all time favourite is probably “Wolf Hall” for fiction and
“Saints and Sinners – A History of the Papacy” for non-fiction. By the way, if
you want sex, violence and intrigue, you can’t beat the history of the popes.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
I still have a 44 page (handwritten in pencil) story that I wrote when I was 14. I wrote my first full-length novel at 25 (never published) and then carried on ever since. It’s a drug. I can’t seem to be able to stop. The best thing about being a writer is that you are your own boss (unless you are unlucky enough to have a bossy editor – I have a wonderful editor) and you get to visit and write about places that most people can only dream of. The worst thing: sitting at the computer for hours on end had caused me all kinds of back problems. I have now invested in a sitting/standing desk that makes things easier. Mind you, this might just be because I’m very, very old.
What are you currently writing?
“Dreaming of Verona”. A Shakespeare
scholar visits the city that was the setting of “Romeo and Juliet” and falls in
love, but the course of true love is anything but easy for her.
I hope these answers are of interest to you. Thanks a lot for your support.
T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks
Five men burnt alive. In the dog days of a searing August in Rome, a flat goes up in flames, the doors sealed from the outside. Five illegal immigrants are trapped and burnt alive – their charred bodies barely distinguishable amidst the debris.
One man cut into pieces. When Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara begin to investigate, a hitherto unknown terror organisation shakes the city to its foundations. Then a priest is found murdered and mutilated post-mortem – his injuries almost satanic in their ferocity.
One city on the edge of ruin. Rome is hurtling towards disaster. A horrifying pattern of violence is beginning to emerge, with a ruthless killer overseeing its design. But can Rossi and Carrara stop him before all those in his path are reduced to ashes?
I initially decided to write a thriller, or a crime thriller, as the case may be, on ‘Blue Monday’ in January 2014. Until then I had written poetry and short stories and had some success publishing in magazines but writing a novel was a new departure for me.
I had been reading some classics in the genre and enjoying the pure escapism. But then I began to wonder if it was something I might be able to do myself, as a challenge. I say escapism for a reason. Italy, where I have lived since 2001, was going through a rough period in terms of social problems, economic hardship, its growing involvement in the immigration crisis and the government of the day was not doing a great job.
There was the endemic problem of corruption as one scandal followed on the heels of another. Politicians were also playing the race card, and populism was on the rise. So things were tense but interesting, and I felt like I had material for at least a story or two.
Shortly after, I got my big idea, pretty much in a flash of inspiration, and I knew then where the book was going. I sketched out a rough framework, and as the pastime quickly grew more serious, I found myself with a novel that I had to finish.
The Inspiration behind Michael Rossi
I needed a central protagonist, and the name just popped out. Rossi is a very common surname, easy to remember and recognisably Italian to non-Italian audiences. I thought ‘that will do for now’ but it stuck, and I got to like him.
I wanted Rossi to be a bit of an outsider, a little detached from the wheeling and dealing and intrigue, yet knowing its workings. As someone who flirted briefly with the priesthood, he has a familiarity with the powers-that-be but distrusts big institutions and their motivations. He also has Neapolitan origins and, because of an Irish grandfather, is bilingual. As such, he doesn’t quite belong in Rome, but he possesses a certain fluidity and openness to ideas, which means he often sees the bigger picture. All of this gives him a certain superiority that can arouse suspicion and also lead to alienation, but it gives me plenty of plot lines to play with too.
Why Rome makes a good setting for crime thrillers.
The traditional and well-known backdrop provides wonderful depth of atmosphere with the piazzas and fountains, the style, food, and the street theatre but the less familiar parts of the city have an interesting noirish flavour too. There is bleakness and menace in the sprawling concrete suburbs and post-war developments and their inhabitants, which I also like to explore.
Rome is where our legal systems, our philosophy, ideas of beauty and ethics, right and wrong, all come from. With its government, the capital is the power centre of Italy where kingmakers and influencers and obscure forces play out their power games. It can seem very feudal; patronage is often still an effective reality, especially in the ever-present Church, a Moriarty-like character that always has a hand in whatever’s going down.
So there is an ongoing struggle to get close to that power, through favours and bribes, nepotism, and blackmail. And then there are those trying to fight all that, often with the odds heavily stacked against them.
Rome’s strategic position between east and west, Europe and Africa, and straddling the north and south of the country itself means there is a constant flow of influences and stimulating contrasts and compromises. NATO is here, there are US airbases, international NGOs, embassies, multinationals. The middle east, Israel and the Balkans are a stone’s throw away. Anarchism has a long history here; the city was something of a haven too for the PLO in the 70s and 80s. As such, it’s a kind of bridge across the Mediterranean on which you might run into anyone; in the books, they frequently run into each other, often with incendiary results.
Rossi and Carrara have to solve a particularly gruesome set of crimes that threaten the foundations of Rome and Italian society. Although set primarily in Rome, there is an international theme with terrorism at its heart. The killings are satanic in nature and like in the first book in the series ‘ A Known Evil’ you question whether the killers are different but connected? This story reads as a standalone but to understand what motivates Rossi and the character dynamics between him and Carrara and journalist Dario Iannelli I recommend reading ‘A Known Evil’.
The well-described setting betrays an intimate knowledge of Rome and its government that make the story believable. The cleverly orchestrated plot has many strands. Different stories explored and painstakingly woven together to solve the mysterious crimes before the city implodes. The politics, patronage and corruption that defines the city make Rossi and Carrara’s job both dangerous and frustrating, always wondering if they can find the guilty before they are sidetracked or stopped by the establishment. Detailed and lengthy this complex story’s pacing maintains the momentum and keeps the reader’s interest, the killings are graphic, but they underline the threat to the city’s population and give the story its menacing ethos.
‘ A Cold Flame’ has everything you need for a thrilling crime read, an enigmatic detective with a dark side and secrets, a set of complicated, horrific crimes and a powerful political infrastructure that thwarts their aims at every opportunity to find the guilty and punish them.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse/ Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Aidan Conway was born in Birmingham and has been living in Italy since 2001. He has been a barman, a bookseller, a proofreader, a language consultant, as well as a freelance teacher, translator and editor for the UNFAO. He is currently an assistant university lecturer in Rome, where he lives with his family. His first novel, A KNOWN EVIL, was published on 5 April 2018 by Harper Collins ‘Killer Reads’. The second book in the DI Michael Rossi crime series, A COLD FLAME, is available as an e-book on 20 July 2018 and in paperback on 6 September 2018.
When Alvie discovers that her hitman boyfriend has driven off with the Lamborghini and two million euros, she does what any heartbroken, deserted, amateur assassin would do – she drinks everything in the mini-bar and trashes her hotel room. And then she gets to work.
A perilous cat-and-mouse game takes the pair across Rome, leaving a trail of collateral damage in their wake. But as she wholeheartedly embraces her dark side, Alvie will have to figure out if Nino is her nemesis . . . or the only man bad enough to handle her.
‘Bad’, lives up to its name in the second part of the’Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know ‘trilogy. You need to read the first book in the series’Mad’ to enjoy this book, although’ Bad’ does give a brief plot resume’.
Alvie wakes up hungover(no surprise there then) and finds her lover has taken all the money and the car. This story follows her pursuit of the said lover with flashbacks into her past that illuminates her current state of mind and actions.
Alvie’s character darkens even more in this story, her lack of insight increases and her grasp on reality weakens. Dark humour makes this all seem probable and perhaps not as terrible as sounds, but she carries on a killing spree, albeit accidental for the most part and exploits, drink, drugs and everyone she comes into contact.
There’s enough in this book to make you want to see how it concludes but the plot is weaker in this story, as is often the case in middle trilogy books.
An enjoyable read for those liking erotic romance and dark humour, with larger than life characters and glamorous, richly descriptive settings.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK- Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A city on lockdown. In the depths of a freakish winter, Rome is being torn apart by a serial killer dubbed The Carpenter intent on spreading fear and violence. Soon another woman is murdered – hammered to death and left with a cryptic message nailed to her chest.
A detective in danger. Maverick Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara are assigned to the investigation. But when Rossi’s girlfriend is attacked – left in a coma in hospital – he becomes the killer’s new obsession, and his own past hurtles back to haunt him.
A killer out of control. As the body count rises, with one perfect murder on the heels of another, the case begins to spiral out of control. In a city wracked by corruption and paranoia, the question is: how much is Rossi willing to sacrifice to get to the truth?
‘They’d found the body in the entrance to their block of flats where, sometimes, bleary-eyed, they would avoid treading on the dog shit some neighbour couldn’t care less about cleaning up – teenagers on the way to school at eight in the morning. They’d been the first to leave the building, apparently, although it was now known the victim didn’t live in the same complex. Paola Gentili, mother of three, a cleaner, on her way to work. Multiple blows to the cranium. No sign of sexual assault. No attempt to appropriate money or valuables. No sign of a struggle.
So, it seemed she had been taken completely unawares. Better for her. Husband had been informed. Distraught. Had given them the few preliminary details they required without the need for any formal interview. That would have to wait until they got the go-ahead from the presiding magistrate. But the guy seemed clean enough going by the checks the new ‘privatized’ IT system had given them in record time. What social media access she had was regular and only moderately used. Meanwhile, they’d started looking into the other stuff. No particular leads. No affairs. No money issues. No links to known families in the organized sector. Worked in a ministry in the centre of the city. No unexplained calls. Just waiting now on the forensics guys to come up with something more concrete to work with.
Inspector Michael Rossi had only just driven through the gates in the Alfa Romeo. He had known immediately that something big was coming by the urgency of Carrara’s steps as he’d emerged from the baroque archway leading from the Questura’s offices to the car park. If Rossi had bothered to switch his phone on before it would have got him out of bed, what? Twenty minutes earlier? But that wouldn’t have saved anyone’s life. Now, the debris of takeaway espressos and sugar sachets violated the bare desk space separating them in his office. Their own cleaner had just been in, chatty as ever, oblivious as yet to the news.
“Other than that,” said Carrara, “we’re totally in the dark on this one. But it does look like there’s a possible pattern emerging.”
“You’ve been busy,” said Rossi.
The second such killing in as many weeks. The modus operandi and the victim profile bore distinct similarities, but no one had dared yet to use the term. Serial? Was it possible? In Rome?
Detective Inspector Luigi Carrara. Five years Rossi’s junior, several years under his belt in anti-mafia, undercover, eco-crime, narcotics, now on the Rome Serious Crime Squad. Recently married, he had the air of one of those men who never seem to have overdone anything in their lives: hardly a wrinkle, haircut every month, bright, fluid in his movements. Just the man Rossi needed on a Monday morning like this one.
“How similar?” said Rossi, still struggling to form what he considered decent sentences, though his mind was already whirring into action. “The weapon, for instance?”
“Blunt instrument. Iron bar or hammer, probably.”
“Who’s on the scene?”
“A few boys from the local station. They got the magistrate there sharpish though. Hopefully, they’ll have disturbed as little as possible. She was carrying ID, so we got to work with that straight off, once the news came in on the police channel.”
“Not officially. But they will.”
“Out of town, I think.”
“Good. Let’s go,” said Rossi grabbing his battered North Face from the coat stand, feeling more vigorous and even a little bit up for it. “I want to see this one for myself.” ‘
‘A Known Evil’, is an informative, well- researched international thriller. It details a serial killer’s exploits in a well-paced plot, set against a background of Italian politics and bureaucratic corruption, involving the church, police, judiciary and state.
If you are expecting graphic, serial killing detail, and knife-edge suspense, you may be disappointed. This story concentrates on how the corruption in all aspects of Italian life has facilitated the serial killer. Hampering the police investigation and furthering his and the corrupt officials’ sinister agenda.
Michael Rossi is the senior investigating officer; he is well-educated, a philosopher and a theologer, he sees his police officer role as a vocation. An enlighted individual who looks at the bigger picture, which helps him to be an excellent detective. His success allows him a certain latitude with his bosses, but they still frustrate his progress if he threatens their much-prized status quo. There are shades of ‘Morse’ and ‘Hathaway’ in this character with the Italian influence of ‘Zen’, and he is both likeable and interesting, worthy of more than one book.
I read this story in a day, intricately constructed with multiple settings and subplots that demand concentration to see how they relate to the overall story. The short chapters allow action and detail to be delivered in manageable bites, keeping the story’s momentum and suspense levels high.
There are plot twists and misinformation that keep you guessing. The reader glimpses aspects of the main characters’ past lives, perhaps the springboard for further stories in the series? The atmospheric, edgy ending answers all the questions posed throughout.
‘A Known Evil, ‘ explores in vivid detail the political intrigue, sinister organised crime and apparently random assassinations in a chaotic city drowning in corruption.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Killer Reads in return for an honest review.