If you’ve been following my blog for any significant length of time, you’ve probably heard me mention Rhys Bowen or one of her books. I’m a great fan of hers and have read and loved both her Molly Murphy Series and Her Royal Spyness Series. In the last couple of years, she’s started coming out with a few stand-alone books. First came In Farleigh’s Field in 2017, which I absolutely loved. Second came this book, The Tuscan Child, which was released in February of this year but I didn’t get around to reading it until now. I’m also planning to read The Victory Garden, which is scheduled to be released in February of 2019.
I cannot recollect one Rhys Bowen novel that I did not adore. Until this one…
Release: February, 2018
Synopsis: In 1944, Hugo Langley’s plane went down in German occupied Italy. While in hiding, he fell in love with Sofia Bartolli, only to be torn away from her when they are betrayed and he returns to England alone. In 1973, Joanna Langley returns home when her father Hugo dies, only to discover a mysterious love letter to a woman named Sofia, sent to a small village in Tuscany. Now, she travels there to find out the truth.
Review (minor spoilers)
I have extremely mixed thoughts about this book. To begin with, there are a lot of filler scenes (especially at the beginning and encompassing Hugo’s chapters) which add nothing to the plot. And the ending seemed to wrap up everything a bit too perfectly. However, I loved the suspense and the solution to both the murder and the mystery. And the descriptions of Tuscany were incredible! I really enjoyed Joanna’s character. She was troubled, a lost soul trying to find a place to call home, and yet she was both a likable and moral person.
I ended up giving this book a three star rating on Goodreads, because there are both good and bad things about this book.
The book is divided between Hugo’s perspective back in 1944 and Joanna’s perspective in 1973. Unfortunately, Hugo’s perspective seemed pretty pointless for most of the book. Only two or three of his chapters added something that we didn’t know from the present day (1973 being the present). I felt similarly about the beginning of the book, since it took eighty-three pages to get to Tuscany, where the real mystery began. I easily think those pages could have been cut down to one or two chapters without losing much.
However, once the story reached the village of San Salvatore, I was totally invested in the mystery. Though the ending solution was rather obvious, I enjoyed getting to know the people in the village (Paula, Renzo, etc.) and seeing Joanna grow happier. I won’t be revealing the murderer/betrayer, but let’s just say the solution was well set up and it made sense.
Now let’s get to the romance…I’m going to call it Hallmark romance, because it seemed so silly. So Joanna meets Renzo, who is the son of Sofia before she met Hugo, and they solve the mystery together. They clearly like each other and though I didn’t care much for the chemistry (or lack thereof), it wasn’t prominent enough to the plot for me to dislike it. Except for the end! Joanna just decides to stay in San Salvatore with a guy she’s known for less than a month (more like a week, in my estimation). And her financial issues are also resolved.
The ending just seemed too…perfect. I wanted some things left unresolved, but everything was wrapped up nicely in a metaphorical bow.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it did not live up to my expectations of Rhys Bowen’s other books. In fact, it’s probably my least liked book of hers. Saying that, it was fun to read and I could feel that Bowen loved the Tuscan countryside (I know she visited it several times and that really came through in the story). It probably wasn’t a great book to read around Christmas and totally suits summer weather better, but whatever.
Have you read this book? Or any other by Rhys Bowen? What are your views on books tying up every loose end perfectly? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,