First we had the cover reveal – then a lovely author guest post about her author life. But today is publication day for Sue Moorcroft’s Under the Italian Sun, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be helping launch the blog tour, and sharing my review. Published by Avon, the ebook is now available for kindle via Amazon, for Kobo, and via Apple: the paperback is available via Amazon too, through WH Smith, Bookshop.org, by ordering from your favourite local bookshop, or even when you’re doing your food shopping (Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons). And if you’d prefer an audiobook… yes, that’s available from today too. A big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support – and for allowing me to help open the tour. And a big thank you too to Avon Books for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
Sue always says that even if she lives to publish 100 books she won’t get tired of the fizzy feeling that a new publication brings – and I must admit that I’ll never fail to get excited either when I see she has a new book on its way. There are so many reasons why she’s long been one of my favourite authors – that contemporary edge she brings to her romances, the superb story-telling, the strong and well-defined characters, and the locations that are always so thoroughly researched and vividly drawn. I could already feel the sun on my face when I saw the beautiful cover, and couldn’t wait to be whisked away to warmer climes – this was a book I was really looking forward to…
The #1 bestseller is back with an uplifting, escapist read that will brighten the gloomiest day!
A warm, sun-baked terrace.
The rustle of verdant green vines.
The sun slowly dipping behind the Umbrian mountains.
And the chink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…
Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.
When Zia discovers that her mother wasn’t who she thought she was, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.
However, as she delves into the secrets of her past, she doesn’t bargain on having to think about her future too. But with local vineyard owner, Piero, living next door, Zia knows she has a serious distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…
This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?
I always love a romance – but the other thing I might enjoy even more is a setting that comes to life on the pages, the opportunity to travel and experience everything together with a book’s characters. Much of this lovely book is set in Umbria, among the vineyards outside Montelibertà – if you’re a fan like me, you might just remember visiting the area before, for Sofia’s story in One Summer in Italy. The descriptions are just so wonderful – you can feel the heat of the sun as you look out over the rows of vines, a rose bush at the end of every line, stretching into the distance towards the shimmering mountains in the background. Imagine lying there under that clear night sky, every star clearly defined, a chilled glass of Orvieto at your side… that travel element is something we all need so very badly after such a long confinement, and this book delivered absolutely everything I hoped for.
But then there’s Zia’s story – and that drew me in from the opening pages. There’s not much doubt that she has Italian heritage – the name her mother gave her made that fairly clear – but she was brought up by her grandparents after the loss of her mother, and she knows nothing about her father or any other Italian family she may have. She looks Italian, she’s kept up the language, and now that she’s been made redundant and her latest relationship ended rather horribly, she’d rather like to live and work in Italy – but that’s far from easy in these post-Brexit times (a nice contemporary touch) unless she can prove that family connection. A suitcase of letters retrieved from the attic raises more questions than answers – and they prove to be rather bigger questions than just those about her father, casting doubts over everything she’d understood and believed about her identity. So, accompanied by her friend Ursula – who’s keen to leave her own marriage problems behind for a while – they head for an extended break in Umbria to try and uncover some of the answers.
In Umbria, we find a parallel story – a family seriously at odds with each other when the patriarch decides to retire, the planned sale of the family vineyard to a large corporation having life-changing implications for a number of people. The stories converge – Zia begins to uncover a personal family history that she could never have imagined, and struggles with the impact of what she discovers on everyone around her. And, at the same time, she’s becoming ever closer to Piero, one of the winemaking family whose home and future is being threatened by the impending sale of the vineyard.
Goodness, that’s such a poor attempt at setting the scene – there are far more layers to both stories, which twist and turn in ways you could never expect. There’s a really well developed theme of both corporate and personal greed, with particularly complex legal issues that need to be disentangled: and that storyline sits very comfortably alongside Zia’s journey of personal discovery and the many family secrets she uncovers. And as you come to expect in a book from Sue Moorcroft, there are a number of well-handled issues that accompany the story – mental health, traditional values, the whole question of parenthood and what it means – including the intrusion of some residual problems from relationships at home. This is such a difficult book to review without revealing far more of the story than I want to – but it was a superb read, I loved the way it developed, but I really, really mustn’t say any more.
So, instead, let me tell you about the romance – because I entirely loved that too. It’s one of those relationships that begins slowly, falters frequently, at times looks entirely impossible – but the attraction between the pair has a quite perfect sizzle, a well-developed chemistry, with a satisfying amount of heat as the relationship develops that really makes your heart beat faster. But what I loved about it was that it felt so very real, as they both deal with their own issues and concerns, feel their way past all the imagined wrongs and misunderstandings – this was one where I really yearned for a happy ending. The author always has the most perfect emotional touch – and there are so many moments in this book, not just within the romantic relationship, where every response is perfectly judged in a way that would have been beyond the reach of a lesser author.
I really loved this book – for its compelling and multi-layered story, the strength of the writing, its complex characters, the wonderfully drawn setting, the emotional impact, and for the moving and believable central romance. If you’re looking for a book that’s more than just a read, a book that makes you feel … I really do recommend it most highly.
About the author
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK as well as top 100 in the US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s emotionally compelling, feel-good novels are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers in other countries. Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.
Born in Germany into an army family, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire, England aged ten. She loves reading, Formula 1, travel, time spent with friends, dance exercise and yoga.
For more information on Sue and her books, she has an excellent website, and a blog: she also has a Facebook author page, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. And if you’d like sign up for her newsletter, you can do so here.