By: Lori Nelson Spielman

Published: November 12, 2020

Publisher: Berkley


I enjoyed Spielman’s previous two novels and this one was just as lovely. Take a family secret, add a love letter to Italy, and a bit of historical fiction and you have a charming story. I think my favorite part was how she put me in Italy with the descriptions of the scenery, the food, and the people. It just makes me want to visit there even more.

Emilia is a second-born daughter, just like her cousin, Lucy, and her Aunt Poppy. These second-born daughters are all part of the same “curse” that dates back generations. Second-born daughters will never marry and so far, the curse has lived up to its name. Aunt Poppy has been the estranged family member, even though Emilia always seemed to feel a special bond with her. When Aunt Poppy calls and asks her to go along on a trip to Italy for Poppy’s 80th birthday, Emilia decides she can’t pass up this opportunity. Even though her Grandma (Poppy’s sister) tells her she can’t go, Emilia defies her family obligations and joins Lucy and Poppy on a trip of a lifetime.

The story is told from Emilia’s perspective as well as Poppy’s flashbacks to the 1960s. As the story of a long-held family secret and a decades-long romance with Rico, the only man she loved, begins to unravel, Poppy and Emilia’s lives become even more connected. On the journey to Poppy’s favorite places in Italy, more pieces of Emilia’s family history are revealed and she starts to awaken to a new future for herself.

The story includes some closed-door romance and a lovely old-fashioned romance that was revealed a bit too slowly for me. I wanted more of Poppy’s story and history but her chapters were much less than Emilia’s. Emilia’s character was boring and lifeless, but I’m sure that was intentional as she blossomed into a new person while they traveled and more family history was revealed. Lucy was the extreme opposite of Emilia and her liaisons were uninteresting to me. The twist to her story was one I did not see coming and seemed a bit out of the blue. I appreciated the ending for each character and how their futures were left hopeful and full of promise.

Overall, I loved being transported to Italy including Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast. I truly would like to take Poppy’s itinerary and travel it myself. The author took liberty with a letter she received from a reader in Germany asking her to turn his family story into a book. Even though she didn’t write their story, she did create the character Rico based on this reader’s family. This story is full of regret, betrayal, hope, and most importantly, forgiveness. Lies and long-held secrets forever changed the direction of the lives in this story. Knowledge is power and the willingness to start fresh means no more regrets and new adventures ahead for Lucy and Emilia.

I listened to the audiobook as well as read my eBook copy. There were two narrators for Emilia and Poppy’s story and I appreciated their native Italian which helped with the pronunciation of all the Italian food, places, and words. Without even trying, I found myself reading the book the same week of the year the three went to Italy. I’m thinking October 2022 for my 50th birthday would be a perfect time to go myself!

Lori Nelson Spielman was born and raised in Michigan, the youngest of four children. After college, she began working in the public school system. She spent the early part of her career as a speech-language pathologist and later became a high school guidance counselor. It was during her stint as a homebound teacher that she rekindled her love for writing. She has written three books. Check out her website, HERE.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a n eBook copy for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
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