Book: The Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip (NEW April 2011)
They did it again. Got me to read a romance novel by disguising it as adventure travel. [amazon_link id="0758241828" target="_blank" ] Song of the Silk Road[/amazon_link] is indeed all three–romance (with plenty of sex), an adventuring quest, and travel to exotic locales. Continue reading →
Destinations: Devon, England and a bit of Tuscany, Italy
Book: The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore (NEW May, 2011) [U.S. Title]
The House by the Sea [British Title]
We get a double romance here–the story of two generations. And we get to travel to two countries. Even more appropriately for A Traveler’s Library, the main action of The Mermaid Garden takes place in a hotel, based, the writer says, on an actual hotel in Devon, England. The actual Endsleigh Hotel, although it is on a river instead of on the ocean as the book’s fictional Polzanze Hotel, should profit greatly from the connection. I’m a bit surprised they are not already promoting the book on their beautiful web page.
Oh, excuse me, you came here to read about a book as travel literature–not a hotel review? As I was saying, there is plenty of romance in this book. Besides the two main threads, there’s a romance between a couple of octogenarians. Other side romances include one that turns out to be extremely embarrassing. There’s so much romance in the air that if Biscuit the dog had been a female, she would have been in heat.
Whoops! There I go dissing a romance novel. I just cannot help myself, it seems. Honestly, I am not made of stone. Romantic emotions can move me. But please give me real people.
The heroine of romance number one, the Italian romance of 1966, (Floriana) is so adorable and so virtuous that everyone in the village loves her–except her drunken father and the mother who abandoned her for a shopkeeper. Am I sensing a bit of melodrama?
The hero of the 2009 British romance novel, an Italian Argentinian named Rafa, not only looks adorable and acts virtuous, but he is an accomplished artist. He also spouts more wisdom than the Dali Lama, despite his relative youth.
Admittedly, Clementine, the British romantic interest is a flawed person–until she falls in love, that is. Then she becomes–well–adorable and virtuous.
And Dante’s Italian father shows us a personality as unattractive and evil as all the other people are–(all together now) adorable and virtuous.
I must admit that I started the novel with high hopes. Santa Montefiore (or in America Santa Montefiore) has many popular romance novels under her belt (10 books–2 million sold) and she writes some beautiful sentences. The early scenes hooked me on the “who is she really?” plot line. I even cared about the characters until about half way through when it all got too obvious and too repetitive and just too too. (Please realize that is my romance novel prejudice showing and your mileage may vary.)
Along with the well crafted lyrical writing, this author nails the two locales she chose as settings. You may fall in love with the beautiful houses and gardens even if Rafa and Dante are not your cup of tea. Her word portraits of both small seaside towns — Tuscany and England– truly made me want to visit. The seaside of England has never seemed that alluring but now I’d like to walk along the cliffs or visit lush gardens.
So, if you need an escapist beach read and if you like to sink into the comforting happily-ever-after-with-a-handsome-foreigner romance, then by all means add the romance novel The Mermaid Garden to your travelers’ library. Me, I’m dreaming of a visit to The Endsleigh.
You can follow Santa Montefiore on Facebook and learn what she wore to the royal wedding.
Why do publishers assign totally different titles to American and British editions of the same book?? Why would The Mermaid Garden appeal to Americans more than House by the Sea? And vice versa. By the way, the British title is much more descriptive of the book. Do you have a theory?