It doesn’t happen to me often, but once in a while, a story touches me in such an unexpected way that I have to make a conscious effort to stop myself from going back to it and re-reading it again and again. From the moment I finished this book, all I wanted to do was go back to the very first page and read it in its entirety once more. There was simply not a single aspect of this story that I did not love, these characters and their story capturing my heart over and over again, and making me only greedier for more. R.S. Grey is a master at crafting tales that speak to the heart, but with this story, she sang to mine, making it an absolute joy to read.
At twenty-six, I obviously wasn’t a spinster, but I was becoming a bit lonely. I hadn’t ever experienced a gut-clenching, obsessive, swoony kind of romance.
Georgie Archibald has run away. But after being set up on countless dates with every single eligible bachelor her mother could find, what is a reasonable young woman to do other than pack her bags up and run away? Always expected to be the life of the party, the one everyone could depend on to lighten any situation and never show any serious emotions, Georgie’s innate effervescence and need to appease others have made her an easy target for her mother’s matchmaking tendencies, but after one too many failed attempts to find her a husband, Georgie decides to take her love life into her own hands and find amore in one of the most romantic places on Earth—Italy.
I was in Vernazza to have a laugh, meet a few blokes, and loll about on the beach. I wanted to have a proper holiday fling with lots of sex and maybe some flippant promises of love.
Sheer chance brings her to Vernazza, one of the five sun-soaked coastal villages of the Cinque Terre, and this picturesque little village on the country’s north-western Riviera becomes the fairytale-like setting of this story. Happily hidden between emerald hills and turquoise sea, Vernazza lures visitors with its candy-coloured houses and breathtaking views, but in Georgie Archibald’s case, a spin of a globe is all it takes for her to pick this spot of Italian paradise. And, as chance would have it, it takes her no time at all to come across the most beautiful man she has ever seen.
God, he was romantic looking, the sort of man who breathes passion into life without even trying.
A widower and a recluse, Gianluca has made an art of pushing people away and dealing with his broken heart on his own, but from the moment a vivacious Englishwoman swirls into town and sets her mind on befriending him, his every effort to push her away is only met with more determination on her part.
God, she was exhausting… She was a moving locomotive; I could either get out of her way or let her roll right over me.
As they undertake a project that forces them to spend all their days together, Georgie’s childlike stubbornness allows her to get closer to Gianluca than anyone else has managed in years, bulldozing through his defences with nothing more than patience and positivity. Their bond grows a little more each day, slowly bringing the brooding Italian out of his shell, but as their overwhelming sexual attraction to one another grows too and soon becomes impossible to restrain, the lines of their friendship quickly begin to blur. Until they dissipate entirely.
It felt like we were starved for each other, like I’d gone years abstaining from men like Gianluca, and now that he was there, holding me, touching me, kissing me passionately, my body didn’t know how to respond. I wanted more.
However, regardless of how well they both lie to themselves that a no-strings-attached type of relationship would made them happy and always be enough, there comes a moment when lies begin to sting, when every loving touch hurts just as much, and when their hearts can no longer be ignored. Ms Grey gives such a poignant and easily relatable dimension to her heroine’s loneliness and desperate need to love and be loved the same way, and our hearts break watching her try to settle for something that would never make her truly happy. Those moments of prickly angst were some of my favourite aspects of this story, and brought me even closer to a character that I loved from the start.
All my life I’d imagined myself a strong woman. I’d never let a man rule my life, had always been the one to walk away. I kept myself at a cool distance, and now suddenly I was more than happy to take any scraps Gianluca could spare, like a hungry stray.
This book is absolutely mesmerizing in its vivid descriptions of scenery and people, enrapturing our senses and making us feel as if we were part of the glorious landscape, but the true beauty of this story lies in the way the author shapes these characters from within, and in their capacity to inspire such profound reactions in us on their behalf. It’s a tender, slow-burning story of love healing all, even the most permanent of wounds, and of a woman’s willingness to fearlessly put her heart on the line in hopes of capturing what it craves the most. I laughed and I cried, and even before finishing this book, I knew I had found another favourite.
“And what if it’s too late? What if I’m already half in love with him?”
“Be thankful for the half that’s not.”