It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Italy Ever After by Leonie Mack, and sharing my review. Published by Boldwood Books on 11th May, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited), as a paperback, and as an audiobook too. Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation and the support, and to publishers Boldwood for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
When I’m working out which Christmas books to read and review, I always gravitate towards the authors who are my old favourites (no names, in case they don’t like being called “old favourites”!), but it’s also always a great opportunity to try some new-to-me authors. I was delighted when I discovered the writing of Leonie Mack – her debut novel, My Christmas Number One, was something refreshingly different, most definitely not about the usual traditional Christmas. I really enjoyed the unusual settings, the music that ran through the story, the chemistry between the two main characters – and found it really uplifting and emotional. So when I saw her new book, I couldn’t resist – I really was rather looking forward to reading another book from her…
Escape to the sun and head off to Italy, with the wonderfully warm and ever-so-page-turning Leonie Mack!
TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.
When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.
Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.
As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?
Leonie Mack is back with a sizzling, sun-baked love story, perfect for all fans of Mandy Baggot, Jo Thomas and Carole Matthews.
Do you know, I’ve rarely come across an opening chapter that filled me with such rage. When Lou meets with her husband – they’re now estranged, and she needs his permission to take her talented violinist daughter Edie on a music camp at Lake Garda – he casually presents her with the divorce papers, questions her motives for being one of the parents going on the trip as a “helper”, has the audacity to berate her for being “ordinary and talentless”, and ends the meeting with his usual kiss on the cheek.
I was fuming, and it told me everything I needed to know about both characters – particularly the way such constant criticism and belittling must have made her feel about herself, and I was immediately firmly in her corner. And when neither he nor his ballet dancer girlfriend turn up for Edie’s important concert before the trip departs, I was ready to run him through – what a thoroughly obnoxious (but entirely believable) character, and it’s sadly not the last time we see him.
Getting to know Lou better, you discover that while she may have had the stuffing totally knocked out of her by her marriage, doubting herself at every turn, she’s a character you soon grow to love. She’s a great mother, nurturing her daughter’s special talent (while her father sees it as an “obsession” she should move on from): and she has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour, coupled with a tendency to speak her thoughts before putting her brain in gear, that only makes you love her more.
I’ll admit that I was slightly worried about the way the story would unfold when I saw it was about a music camp – I thought the focus might be on the children, and that would have been something I might not have enjoyed as much. But other than a nice focus on the relationship between Lou and Edie, it doesn’t – it’s far more about Lou’s personal growth and development, her search for a “talent”, and her developing relationship with Edie’s quite wonderful music teacher Nick, all against the backdrop of Lake Garda and the build up to the final concert at La Scala in Milan.
The setting is vividly and beautifully drawn (yes, another destination added to my bucket list) – and I loved the music theme that runs through the whole story, all the emotions attached to it, the lows when performances don’t go as well as they should (and the fear of failure), the exhilaration at every small triumph. And I equally loved Lou’s search for her talent, filling her days with workshops making perfume (that’s one that went particularly badly), cheese, jewellery, the perfect satchel – and her disastrous (and very funny) attempt at stand-up paddle boarding.
But perhaps the element I enjoyed the most was the extraordinary chemistry between Lou and Nick. As well as being the most wonderful teacher, with a warmth and caring approach to his students bringing out their best and drawing it out through their performances, he has a special musical talent of his own that he hides from others because of his own personal demons. They’re two damaged people who are clearly meant to be together – and I absolutely loved the way the author managed their slowly developing relationship. The dialogue is just superb – they feel their way towards each other, light exchanges filled with humour but with a subtext that you can really feel, and I so wanted to push them together so that they could help each other heal. The book’s emotional climax is totally glorious – yes, there were tears – with the emotional impact of that final concert with all its many undercurrents, and the uncertainty as to whether there will be a happy ending for both Lou and Nick or whether they might depart in separate directions.
I so loved the romance (you can tell, can’t you?!) but I also really enjoyed Lou’s difficult journey towards increased self esteem and happiness, her growing understanding that she really is good enough and far better than her toxic husband has always made her feel. And I also loved Nick’s journey, his passion for music, his torment as he strives to overcome his deep-seated fears and reach his own state of contentment.
I’d expected this book to be a light romance with a well-drawn Italian Lakes backdrop, and I knew there would be music – but it was so much more than that, it entirely engaged my heart. Very highly recommended – and Leonie Mack most definitely added to my list of “must read” authors.
About the author
Leonie Mack is a romantic novelist whose first book My Christmas Number One was published by Boldwood in September 2020. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!