A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A – from this author – surprisingly sweet tale about second chances, set in a vividly life-like contemporary Rome.
The Blurb: Successful British model Sam was making a big name for himself on the catwalks of Rome when he met and fell head over heels in love with Lauro, a waiter in a pizza restaurant. Lauro, charming and naïve, returned all Sam’s affection, and they enjoyed one passionate summer in the vibrant city and the wild campagna countryside beyond. But Sam had big dreams. He accepted a modelling assignment in New York and left his pizza boy behind.
Now Sam is back, older and wiser. But Lauro is older and wiser too. Can the city of eternal romance work its magic on these two star-crossed lovers?
The Review: During that summer in Rome, twenty-two years old Sam was on the summit of his career. He had everything: money, looks, fame, and the world at his feet. And the love of beautiful, shy, affectionate Lauro, a young Italian whom Sam met one day in a park outside Rome where Lauro’s family were having a picnic.
Lauro and Sam had fallen hard and fast for each other, inseparable during that summer, and Sam thought their relationship would last forever. They were so happy to have found each other that they even made a pact to return to the very same park on each anniversary of their first meeting. But Lauro refused to introduce Sam to his family, which was their one issue and the reason for the only–and last–argument they ever had. Lauro left in a rage, and, with infernal timing, Sam was granted his dream assignment in New York the very next morning. Still sulking, Sam departed without giving Lauro any notice, effectually ending things between them. Because once Sam had cooled down and realized how awfully he missed Lauro, and tried calling his lover, Lauro told him they were finished, and this was the last Sam heard of him.
But Sam couldn’t forget Lauro. Three years later, on their anniversary, Sam is back in “their park” near Rome, waiting for a reunion he barely dares hope for. But even though Lauro doesn’t turn up that night, they run into each other only a short while later. Both Lauro and Sam are stunned at how much either of them has changed in the meantime. In fact, the changes are so huge that they might prove insurmountable, even though both are willing to try and overcome any obstacles between them.
I’ve come to appreciate Harper Fox as a master of setting and place. In this story, Rome and the Campagna countryside were described in vivid pictures, and not only the views, but also the mood and rhythm of this ancient, crumbling, postmodern, brimming-with-life city was perfectly caught. I almost felt transported right there and greatly enjoyed the ride.
Also, the characters were well-formed for such a short format, especially Sam, the viewpoint character. Smoothly written and engaging, the story pulled me in despite some issues I had with the plot.
It was the shortness of their separation time compared to what all is supposed to happen during these years what bothered me most. Not even so much with Sam – the twist in his fate was sadly only too realistic, and what happened to him next seemed quite possible. But I really had trouble believing Lauro’s changed life situation. I kept thinking: wait, he’s what now? He did what? Arriving where he was from where he supposedly had been should’ve taken him longer, and I also couldn’t believe his personality change from the sweet, pliable and naive boy he used to be to the self-confident leader personality he was three years later. Also, in the first part of the book, Lauro acted younger than his supposed age, while in the second part, he acted much more mature, at least for the most part. Sure, these facts could be explained away by the mountain of responsibilities that suddenly weighed on Lauro’s shoulders, and it wasn’t as if I didn’t like the older Lauro–quite the opposite, he was gorgeously dark and mysterious and so exactly what Sam needed–but it just bothered me.
The ending, though, was outrightly evil. (a good evil, for those who must know, and no, nobody dies!) Sweet without the slightest trace of saccharine and so beautifully romantic while at the same time it hung a terrible Damocles’s sword over the lovers’ heads – reaching the last page I was like, what? come on, you can’t stop here, their real struggles are just about to start, don’t let me hang like this! So I guess it’s a good thing, and I’ll be eagerly waiting if there will be a sequel that’ll give me more of these two.