It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Sue Moorcroft’s latest book, One Summer in Italy, published by Avon Books on 17th May: my thanks to the publishers for my reading copy (the limoncello went down rather nicely too!). Because I review Sue’s books so often – and I do look forward so much to reading them – I’m now starting to find it quite difficult to find something new to say. But whenever I see that cover quote from Katie Fforde – the one that says “I love all of Sue Moorcroft’s books” – I can never help thinking “oh, and so do I!”.
So let’s take a look at what’s inside that gorgeous summery cover…
When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.
So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.
Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…
I’ve written before about how superb Sue Moorcroft is at creating a location – but instead of Middledip (which I now know like the back of my hand, and will never tire of), this time it’s Montelibertà. If you’re struggling to fit in a holiday this year, just read this book, and you’ll feel like you’ve spent a few weeks under the Italian sun. The Umbrian mountain scenery is beautifully described (and captured by Levi in his watercolours), the two piazzas, the long and steep hill leading to the Casa Felice hotel with its beautiful terrace (out of bounds to staff, of course), the black iron tables of Il Giardino, the staff quarters almost submerged beneath the overgrown foliage. And you really can’t visit Italy without trying the food – or sharing a bottle (or two) of Orvieto Classico.
This is an excellent story, full of exceptionally well-drawn characters. Sofia is an absolute joy, sadness lingering after the death of her father, moving on to fulfil her promises and live the life of a single woman. She has a ready smile to calm the most troubled waters and a real warmth to her personality – she also has the patience of a saint and the diplomatic skills of a UN negotiator, both attributes much needed as she tackles the obstacles life throws in her path. I’ll admit to being a tad less enamoured with Amy – again well drawn, but I did find it difficult to empathise with a sulky and self-obsessed late teen, however challenging her back story. But Levi really did win my heart – such a lovely man, strong and gentle, and I also enjoyed the fascinating thread about his IT business with all its twists and turns. There are some excellent subsidiary characters too – with special mentions for horrendous hotel owner Benedetta and her son, the slimy Davide.
The story really keeps you turning the pages – it’s a strong one, full of families and fathers, reconciliation and forgiveness, coming to terms with the past, secrets and whether it’s best to keep them – the threads expertly knotted, sorted out, then untangled. And the author’s writing remains a personal favourite, accomplished story-telling balanced by the smooth readability and sparky dialogue I always love.
And just a little added extra. It’s a pleasure to share this lovely summer dessert recipe (with thanks to Sue and Avon Books)…
Sofia’s Vanilla Panna Cotta
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
2 gelatine leaves, softened in cold water
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add both to a saucepan with the milk, cream and sugar.
Warm gently together over a low heat, making sure the milk doesn’t boil
Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine leaves until dissolved
Pass the creamy mixture through a fine sieve into a jug and leave to cool at room temperature, stirring every few minutes
Once cool, stir one last time to ensure the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed, and divide between 4 moulds. Leave the moulds in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.
To serve, gently run the outside of the moulds under warm water for a few seconds before carefully turning out the panna cotta onto a plate. Garnish with fresh berries or a berry coulis.
About the author
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author, an international bestselling author and has held the #1 spot in the UK Kindle chart. She writes contemporary fiction with sometimes unexpected themes.
Sue has won a Best Romantic Read Award, received two nominations at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards and is a Katie Fforde Bursary winner. Her short stories, serials, articles, columns, courses and writing ‘how to’ have sold around the world.
The daughter of two soldiers, Sue was born in Germany and went on to spend much of her childhood in Malta and Cyprus. She lives in Kettering.