SPOTLIGHT ON… Italy: Ten Must-Read Books set in Italy

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Mistress of Rome
Kate Quinn

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart. As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.

 

Italian Affair
Annie Seaton

Free-spirited sex therapist Brianna Ballantine has four days to find a fiancé so she can inherit her birth mother’s Italian villa. Commitment is not on the agenda. Writing her sex therapy book and signing legal papers are. And once all is said and done, she’ll return home to Australia. For finance guru Tomas Richards, relationships have been a bad investment—give him stocks and shares any day. When Tomas offers a marriage of convenience to help Brianna secure her inheritance, the sizzle between the sheets promises an affair to remember, despite family complications at every turn. But Tom must convince Brianna to stay, and make this Italian affair a lifelong commitment.

Venetian Affair
Dana Mitchell

When cool, reserved Helen Stoddart dons a mask in magical Venice, it changes her life forever. Her identity protected, she succumbs to a night of wild lovemaking with gorgeous Italian, Gabriel Venier. Convinced she’ll never see Gabriel again, Helen returns home to Australia, where an old family scandal sees her hunted by the paparazzi. Then Gabriel arrives, looking for the mystery woman he can’t forget. But the Helen he encounters is withdrawn, arctic, nothing like the gorgeous, sensual woman seared into his memory. Despite Helen’s reluctance, Gabriel makes time for them to get to know each other, and for slow, delicious seduction …


Juliet
Anne Fortier
When a young woman inherits the key to a safety deposit box in Siena, she is told it will lead to an old family treasure. But her mysterious inheritance leads her on a perilous journey into the past – and to the true history of her ancestor, Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo turned medieval Siena upside down. As she crosses paths with descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud that inspired Shakespeare′s famous tale, it becomes clear that the notorious curse ′A plague on both your houses′ is still at work, and that she is the next target. Both an inspired reimagining of the greatest love story ever told and a romantic, heart-pumping thriller, Juliet intertwines the fates of two fascinating women who lived centuries apart into one unforgettable tale no true romantic will be able to resist.

 

Her Italian Aristocrat
Louise Reynolds

On a mission to buy a prestigious shoe company, Australian career girl Gemma Parkinson arrives in Italy determined to succeed. But when she falls ill, effortlessly handsome local aristocrat Luca Andretti is on hand. Suspicious about Gemma’s presence in his town, he offers to let her recuperate in his amazing palazzo. Surrounded by the lavish trappings of the rich – servants, designer clothes, fine food and wine – Gemma is completely out of her depth. Intent on saving the town’s local industry, Brunelli Shoes, from foreign takeover, Luca throws every obstacle he can in Gemma’s path. Headstrong, savvy and equally determined to successfully wrestle the company away from him, Gemma fights Luca all the way. But Luca’s life of privilege masks a private world of pain and Gemma has demons of her own. As they come to understand one another, their growing attraction starts getting in the way. This moving love story involving two people from very different backgrounds is a delightful, contemporary romance in a gorgeous Italian setting.

The Light in the Ruins
Chris Bohjalian

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

Pompeii: A Novel
Robert Harris

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

The Contessa’s Vendetta
Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

When faced with the ultimate betrayal, a murderous vendetta is one woman’s only solution. A deadly plague is raging, killing thousands in 17th century Vicenza Italy. Carlotta Mancini struggles to protect her family and servants, but despite her precautions, she is the one who falls prey to the deadly illness. Her body is tossed into a coffin and swiftly buried in the underground, dank confines of her family’s vault. But Carlotta is not dead; she is merely unconscious because of the illness. She returns home to her beloved husband, her best friend, and her darling daughter. But before she reveals herself to her loved ones, she learns of an endless series of lies, deceits, and betrayal. As she unravels the labyrinth of shocking treachery, her wrath breathes life to an overwhelming need for vengeance. Slowly, meticulously, she launches her diabolocial vendetta. The Contessa’s Vendetta is a historical fiction thriller ripe with suspense from first page to last. A tale of betrayal and revenge that will hold you spellbound until the shocking ending!

Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She’s in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they’re trying for a baby – and she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

Under the Tuscan Sun
Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

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1 Comment on SPOTLIGHT ON… Italy: Ten Must-Read Books set in Italy

  1. So good to see such a lovely selection of novels to transport readers to Italy. Great blogpost, thank you!

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