Book reviews: Sunshine, romance and friendships with Orion Books

Sunshine, romance and friendships with Orion Books
Sunshine, romance and friendships with Orion Books

An enchanting Italian escape and an exquisite novel that spans the generations take centre stage in a new season of reading from Orion Books.

Nicky Pellegrino whisks us away to a sun-soaked village in the southern Mediterranean and Erica James tugs at our heartstrings with a story that resonates across every age group.

Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

What’s the next best thing to a holiday in gorgeous Italy? Total immersion in a Nicky Pellegrino sunshine odyssey…

The delicious, Italian-flavoured novels of half Italian-half Liverpudlian Pellegrino have that happy knack of transporting her addicted readers to some of the most alluring landscapes of the southern Mediterranean.

Throw in lots of lip-smacking culinary delights, romance aplenty and a cast of supporting characters who could light up even the darkest of wet English days and you have reading heaven for thousands of fans.

Pellegrino’s sparkling new adventure invites us to imagine swapping your house for a stay in a drop-dead gorgeous Italian villa... and falling in love with the owner’s life.

Forty-nine-year-old divorcee Stella Forrester has left been with nothing to do and she finds it unsettling. For 25 years, she has been the trusted assistant to legendary fashion designer Milly Munro, but her boss has died, the business has closed down and all that’s left is to clear out the studio.

Stella’s friends tell her that she’s still young enough to start a new career, see the world or fall in love again but the only suggestion that appeals is to take a ‘gap year.’ And when she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village, she falls for it hook, line and sinker.

In exchange for her mews flat in London, English-speaking landscape gardener Leo Asti from Triento agrees to give her the keys of his pink Villa Rosa, with its terraced gardens stretching down to a rocky coastline.

But what was intended as just a break becomes much more as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger’s life. As the villa and her colourful, eclectic neighbours begin to get under her skin, she can’t help but imagine the owner from their constant exchange of emails and the clues about him that lie around her.

She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality? As Stella gradually lets go of the safety of her past, she starts to hope that a new future lies ahead...

With her trademark exuberance and love for her father’s home country, Pellegrino delivers another beautiful, invigorating story about friendship, food, family and a passion for life and love.

Romance Italian style…

(Orion, paperback, £12.99)

Song of the Skylark by Erica James

Love and friendship also steal the show in an enchanting and uplifting new book from much-loved author Erica James.

A master storyteller, James excels at getting to the heart of everyday life, penning lyrical, acutely observant novels that capture the essence of what it means to be human.

In Song of the Skylark, she introduces us to two very different women from very different backgrounds… one is old and one is young, but the unlikely friendship between them develops with such charm and beauty that it cannot fail to lift the soul.

Lizzie Moran has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she has hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss at a London radio station leads to her losing the job she loves, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back in with her parents in Suffolk.

When she reluctantly takes another job at Woodside rest home, she meets Mrs Clarissa Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past. Now aged 95, Mrs Dallimore is also coming to terms with her situation… old age is finally catching up with her.

As she and Lizzie form the bonds of an unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she could never have imagined. And as Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she is not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you…

Written with tenderness and genuine affection, Song of the Skylark grabs you by the heartstrings and won’t let go. Poignant, moving and totally captivating, this is a stunning story to savour from first page to last.

(Orion, hardback, £14.99)