Quill and Quire

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Ciao Bella

by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk

The second collaboration between authors Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk has all of the right elements for a frothy romance with a touch of adventure and intrigue thrown in: a love triangle, a dashing husband, an historical setting (post-Second World War), the Italian countryside, a handsome American soldier, etc. Unfortunately, it falls flat because, for a love story, there is very little passion.

Graziella Nevicato (formerly Grace Forrest of Toronto) is married to Ugo, a member of the Italian resistance during the war. The war has been over for months and there is still no sign of Ugo. Despite the prevailing belief that her husband has been killed, Graziella continues to hope that he will return.

She is thrown into a state of confusion with the arrival of Frank, an American soldier whose motorcycle breaks down outside her house. Within days, Graziella is giving in to the temptation of Frank’s open arms, all the while claiming still to be in love with the missing Ugo. Not surprisingly, Ugo does finally make his reappearance, and proceeds to act with unbelievable understanding and compassion toward Graziella and her new lover. In fact, both men are so dispassionate about the situation that there’s no suspense or juiciness to the story. Will Graziella choose Ugo or Frank? It’s difficult to care.

There’s nothing particularly bad about the writing, though scenes are set with such cinematic detail that the book sometimes reads more like a screenplay than a novel. But while the prose, characters, and setting are all well-executed, the book as a whole lacks substance. This is a novel for people who like their historical romances G-rated and not overly strenuous.