The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore

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The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: A combination of romance, mystery and a few ghostly/spiritual encounters, all set on the idyllic Amalfi coast. This is a lively bit of upbeat romantic escapism with just enough mystery to keep you interested.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0340840542

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Luca, a half-Italian, rich banker has been through a painful divorce and has decided to take stock of his life. He decides to leave the City behind and, at the suggestion of a friend (and, inevitably, ex-lover) he decides to take off for the summer to visit his parents who have, fortuitously, recently renovated an old palazzo in (the sadly fictitious) Incantellaria on the Amalfi coast. Here, his parents live with a rich assortment of eccentric friends in residence, including a pet pig.

Before we go on, there are some things I have forgotten to tell you about Luca - not only is he rich, but he is 'devilishly handsome'. Oh, and he has a long-suppressed ability to see spirits (the ghostly kind, not the gin variety). This comes in handy since the palazzo is reputedly haunted and he soon falls under the spell of a Latin beauty in mourning for her drowned son, whose spirit only Luca can see.

Yes, we are in the world of romantic fiction full of ruggedly handsome men and Latin ladies who are 'as voluptuous as a ripe peach'. It's fabulous escapism and The Italian Matchmaker is well-written enough with a story that cracks on at a terrific pace, which it's best just to relax into and enjoy the ride. OK, so the characters are thinner than a slice of Palma Ham, and the story isn't the most likely you will come across, but Santa Montefiore knows how to create exotic atmosphere and how to keep the reader wanting more. What makes this book stand out from the crowd of romantic novels is the added spice of the supernatural. The author claims to have seen spirits 'on and off' throughout her life - but whether you believe in ghosts or not, there's no doubt that it adds spice and mystery to the story and it's a largely successful combination as Luca discovers the dark secrets of the palazzo's history and gets closer to finding what he really wants in life.

The palazzo was formerly the home of an Italian Marchese who, during the war, had a relationship with a young girl of the town (Valentina) and spent romantic nights with her in a folly which he had built in the grounds - which the new owners have not disturbed. When he discovered that the girl was having other affairs and threatening to run off to London to get married, he murdered her. The family, in good Italian style, subsequently took their lethal revenge on the Marchese. Various generations of the family of the unfortunate girl (including Luca's love interest) still run the local trattoria and stories abound in the town as to whether the palazzo is haunted. And who continually disturbs the bedding, Goldilocks-style, in the folly?

Fans of Santa Montefiore may recognise many of the characters from her earlier book Last Voyage of the Valentina, which deals with some of the back-story. I had not read that earlier book and this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of The Italian Matchmaker, although when I discovered this in hindsight, it did make me think that maybe some of the characters mentioned may mean more to readers of the earlier book.

So why haven't I rushed out to spend my hard earned pennies on this earlier book? Well, I do have some reservations. To be fair, I am in the wrong 50% of the main target audience for romantic fiction, but I can certainly appreciate the genre and don't expect in depth characters and likely plots. That's part of the charm. But there is a repetitiveness about some of the descriptions (I lost count of the number of girls who were likened to various ripe fruits) and there are a couple of occasions where the words spoken by characters go too far from reality even accepting the norms for this genre. At one point a character clumsily introduces some back story to her husband with 'As you know, thirty years ago I discovered that [x] murdered the Marchese'. At another, our hero Luca says to the object of his affections 'I want to make love to you' adding 'I know. I won't push you, my darling. I just want you to know I desire you'. Now I'm sorry, but people don't talk like that. Ever. Even in romantic situations in Italy, no matter how much the person you are with resembles a ripe fruit! I have to admit that these did slightly hinder my enjoyment and enthusiasm for the book as they seemed to break the spell.

The Epilogue was also one dose of slush too far for me, but that may just be my cynical male genes kicking in again.

Overall, this would be a great summer holiday read, or alternatively curled up in front of the fire dreaming of summer days - with a nice glass of Italian wine, naturally. It's an uplifting, page turning yarn and good escapism - and as the nights get longer, who doesn't want a bit of that?

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If the descriptions of the Italian way of life have tempted you to consider following in Luca's footsteps, The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk gives an account of what this is like in the real world.

Buy The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore at Amazon.com.


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