This fairytale-like story of longing and belonging, set among the picturesque hills of the Italian countryside, made my heart soar. An enchanting and profoundly romantic tale of a young woman whose family betroths her to a man she’s never met, a man of great social stature who could give her the world, but who then finds herself losing her heart to another—this is a story of soulmates found, of two halves of a whole finding each other unexpectedly and against all odds, and of all the ways their hearts won’t be denied. I felt positively giddy with childlike delight as I devoured the pages of this beautiful love story, loving these characters, savouring every moment spent in their company, and would highly recommend it for when the mood strikes for a tender, feel-good romance to steal your heart away.
“Welcome to the life of the European blue bloods of the Upper East Side! Drowning in Prada and Gucci, dripping in diamonds, but having no free will to call our own!”
Ever since she was a little girl, Duchess Caresa Acardi dreamed of a handsome prince who would one day sweep her away to some enchanting place where they would live happily ever after. At twenty-three, her childhood fantasy turns into reality when she finds herself promised in marriage to a real-life prince, but marrying Zeno Savona, the infamous Playboy Prince of Italy and future king, purely as a means of saving his family’s business from imminent collapse and strengthening both their families’ place in society, is not the kind of fairytale that Caresa always dreamed of finding. Her devotion to her family and their adherence to centuries of tradition, however, takes her from her home in New York City to the Prince’s estate in central Italy—Bella Collina—home of his most prized vintage and the shining crown jewel of his entire winemaking empire. But from the moment Caresa meets her future husband, it becomes clear to her that love is not something she should expect in their arranged union.
“…you seem like an intelligent woman. Surely you do not believe this charade is about love.”
Left alone in her new palatial home while the Prince attends to his many business engagements, Caresa is expected to fill her days with high society luncheons, charitable dinners, and preparations for their impending wedding. One day, while wandering through the estate, she comes across a small hillside vineyard with a charming, old stone cottage at the heart of it, and becomes utterly mesmerized by it. But it is the timid winemaker living in it that takes her breath away.
I was the Duchessa di Parma, soon to marry the prince. I just had to remind my heart of the fact.
Achille Marchesi is a simple man happy with his quiet, isolated life on the very vineyard he was raised on and then groomed to become head maker of its esteemed merlot. A man of few words but a true romantic at heart, Achille never knew just how lonely he felt until Caresa comes into his life and their every shared moment makes him miss her when she is not there. She awakens in him the kind of yearning he’s never felt before, feeling incomplete when they are not together, and knowing that his heart has found its other half. When they can no longer fight the natural pull between them, they succumb to it, and find themselves falling hard and fast for one another.
My heart was stuttering simply by being beside her. I wasn’t used to these feelings. I wasn’t used to this kind of attention from anyone…
But as easily as they fall in love, they just as surely know they could never stay together, and that those few stolen moments of indescribable happiness in each other’s arms would become all that life is willing to give them.
“I know. There can never be more than this—”
When the time comes for Caresa to choose duty over her heart, however, a potential game changer is thrown into the twist, and everything they believed to be true is suddenly turned on its head.
He pressed his forehead to mine. “Did you know that you were my first? That night, when we made love, did you know it was you I had been waiting for?”
The author made me feel the passion and need between the characters to the point where I had to take short breaks to just remember to breathe. Ms Cole builds Caresa and Achille’s relationship slowly but meticulously, telling their story in alternating first-person perspectives, and thus exploring the effects of the nascent star-crossed romance on both their characters. I was moved by the sheer loveliness of this love story, making this one of the most romantic books I’ve read this year.
We were destined for different paths. We were from such different worlds, yet shared the same soul.