Published by Berkley on November 17, 2020
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Bantering Books Rating:
A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.
Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.
Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse.
Bantering Books Review
Red wine gives me migraines. (Oh, such unfair horror, I know.)
I absolutely cannot drink it. Not one single drop. Even though I love it so. Because if I do, I will be sicker than a dog – for days.
I can’t even drink a rosé. Or a blush. Believe me, I’ve tried. A wine with even the faintest tint of pink is poison to my body.
It’s one of my life’s little cruelties that I must bear. And for the most part, I’ve accepted this red-wineless fate of mine, with only a smallish amount of occasional complaint.
But once again, thanks to Lori Nelson Spielman’s lovely new novel, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, I have a hankering for red wine like you wouldn’t believe. My long-suppressed craving is suppressed no more, and unfortunately, I am without a way to quench it.
Hmm. Maybe I can somehow satiate my thirst as I write this review by recreating in my mind a few of the wine-infused scenes of the story. At the very least, it’s worth a try. More surprising things have happened in life, I suppose.
Over two hundred years ago, Filomena Fontana cursed her younger sister to a life without love, in a moment of jealous anger. And true to Filomena’s words, all second-born Fontana daughters have failed to find enduring love, ever since that day.
But is it truly due to a curse? Or just more of a coincidence? The answer given will vary, depending upon which Fontana family member is asked.
There are those like second-born-daughter Emilia, a contented, single baker in her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, who strongly believe the similar fates of the Fontana women are nothing more than happenstance. And then there are those like second-born-daughter Luciana, Emilia’s cousin with the world’s worst luck in love, who believe the curse to be pure truth.
All differences of opinion aside, both Emilia and Luciana are taken aback when their Great-Aunt Poppy, who is also a second-born Fontana daughter, invites them to accompany her on an all-expense-paid trip to her homeland of Italy. To further sweeten the deal, Poppy promises that while they are there, she will be reunited with the love of her life at the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, thereby forever breaking the family curse.
Enticed by the prospects of both an Italian getaway and Poppy’s bold promise, Emilia and Luciana set off with Poppy on a trip of a lifetime – a trip that will unbury family secrets, ignite newfound inner flames, and change their lives in so many unforeseen ways.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany has filled a tiny hole in my book-lovin’ heart. A hole that, for the last few years, has been patiently waiting to be patched with a new novel by Sarah Addison Allen. And while Spielman’s story does not have the same touch of magical realism as is so common in Allen’s novels, the tone and the feel of the narrative are the same. It’s a warm and cozy, rich tale of romance, family secrets, and the unbreakable bonds of sisters.
And there’s scrumptious food. And luscious (red!) wine. And gorgeously vivid descriptions of Italy – its people, its cities, and its countryside.
It’s enough to make you wanna jump on the first available flight to Venice, let me tell ya.
Spielman’s writing is vibrant and sparse, clean of any excess. Her characterization is superb, and she has crafted three memorable and lovable characters in Poppy, Emilia, and Luciana. You will laugh with them. Smile with them. You will mourn their losses and celebrate their victories.
You will cheer as Emilia, always the pushover, finally sprouts a backbone and stands up for herself. You will applaud Luciana as she grows into her own place of self-acceptance. You will absorb Poppy’s words of wisdom and hold them close to your heart.
The novel is compelling, emotional, and sincere. It is consuming and highly enjoyable.
I will confess, however, that The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany does feel a bit clichéd and predictable at times. And once again, much of the romance is of the dreaded, eye-rolling insta love variety. Yet the story is also surprising in many ways, and it takes a few unexpected turns, enough to offset the handful of inevitable plot points that can be seen a mile away.
But what will stick with me the most, I think – and compensates also for the slightly unoriginal narrative – is the overarching message of the novel. It’s a message that, to me, is universal. It is one that both men and women will appreciate. And it is this –
To live a full and happy life, romantic love and marriage are not prerequisites. Yet an opportunity to love, and to be loved, should never be squandered. Love is always worthy of at least a good looking-over, as Poppy would say.
To this sentiment, I could not agree more.
And on that note, off I go to enjoy a refreshing glass of chardonnay. You should treat yourself to your own glass, too, as you sit and read the beautiful novel that is The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany.
My sincerest appreciation to Berkley and Edelweiss+ for the Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.