Due to time restraints while I work on my own novel, reviews on this site will simply comprise a book blurb and a short response.

I often imagine living in Italy, and if I could talk Blue Eyes into it, I’d love to try for a couple of months. Sadly, I can’t see that happening any time soon (despite showing him plenty of Umbrian towers and Tuscan villas that look perfect). Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino takes the idea of a house swap further, with the protagonist wondering if she should go the extra mile and swap lives completely. Here’s the blurb:

Stella has life under control – and that’s the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she’s been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she’s left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio. It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost – until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?

But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger’s life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can’t help but imagine the owner from the clues 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 wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there’s a chance for her to find a way into her future…

Under Italian Skies is another enjoyable book from Nicky Pellegrino, blending the author’s love of Italian food and culture into a warm story of letting go and moving on. Pellegrino’s protagonists tend to be middle-aged (Stella is 49), which is refreshing, and they’re at that crossroads we all stumble across at key points in our lives: What do I want to do with my life? For many of us, it’s familiar territory – we’ve all had to make big life changes (or they’ve been made for us) and we have to decide whether to embrace or simply tolerate the changes.

In Under Italian Skies a number of characters, in addition to Stella, are at this point in their lives and it’s fun and heartwarming as the changes play out. The emails between Stella and Leo (who owns the Italian house) beautifully develop their relationship through words, and add a charming touch to an already engaging story. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to escape with on a rainy day, but watch out … it’ll have you wanting to run off to Italy next!

Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Hachette.




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