Gardens of Delight – Erica James

 I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to read a romance novel, but when I heard that Erica James had won the Romantic Novel of the Year award in 2006, I decided it might be worth a try. It was also the only affordable book I could find set in Lake Como, which is where I went on holiday straight after reading it. I was hoping that reading a book about a group of people visiting Lake Como would be a nice way to get in a holiday mood.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. For starters, the characters didn’t actually spend all that much time at the Lake. Most of the book was set in a small, English village full of nosey neighbours and where the social highlight of the week is the local Gardening Club meeting. As you can imagine, the book doesn’t get much more exciting. Continue reading

Naples ’44 – Norman Lewis

My Neapolitan grandmother (or ‘nonna’ as the Italians would say) married a British officer posted in Naples in 1944. It is quite likely that Norman Lewis, an Intelligence Officer also there at that time, would have had to interview both of my grandparents to judge the suitability of the match. Marriage with Italian civilians was discouraged and lots of officers who applied for permission were turned down and sent away from Naples. So really, my grandparents were lucky.

I have always been interested in my grandmother’s home country and after her death a couple of years ago, I have only ever become more curious about the city she grew up in. After marrying my grandfather, she moved to England and only returned to Naples for holidays a couple of times a year. So when she told stories about Naples, it was always about the ‘old days’ before and during the Second World War. Continue reading