Lizzie & Dante
by Mary Bly
Publisher: The Dial Press
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
What if falling in love means breaking someone’s heart?
On the heels of a difficult break-up and a devastating diagnosis, Shakespeare scholar Lizzie Delford decides to take one last lavish vacation on Elba, the sun-kissed island off the Italian coast, with her best friend and his movie-star boyfriend. Once settled into a luxurious seaside resort, Lizzie has to make big decisions about her future, and she needs the one thing she may be running out of: time.
She leaves the yacht owners and celebrities behind and sneaks off to the public beach, where she meets a sardonic chef named Dante, his battered dog, Lily, and his wry daughter, Etta, a twelve-year-old desperate for a mother. While Dante shows Lizzie the island’s secrets, and Etta dazzles with her irreverent humor, Lizzie is confronted with a dilemma. Is it right to fall in love if time is short? Is it better to find a mother briefly, or to have no mother at all? And most pressingly, are the delicacies of life worth tasting, even if you will get to savor them only for a short while?
A luscious story of love, courage, and Italian wine, Lizzie & Dante demands to know how far we should travel to find a future worth fighting for.
I've been reading historical romances written by Eloisa James for the past 15 years. I adore her wit, her sparkling dialogue, the characters that leap from the page. I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard that she had written a contemporary fiction novel, a love story, but not a romance, under her real name of Mary Bly but I trusted that, whatever the outcome of the story, she would give readers her best. And she has.
First, Bly takes us to the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, a place she knows well as is evidenced in the exquisite descriptions that immersed me in the beauty of black sand beaches, the aroma of mouth-watering food, and the rich cultural heritage of the local populace.
Then she introduces us to a disparate group of people - long-time friends and newly-met strangers - at different stages of life; people who she begins to slowly weave into one another's lives. People who gradually open hearts and minds to the realities of life, to the possibilities of love, and to the impact one special person can have on many. They may experience great sorrow but they also experience great joy, as I did while reading this exquisitely written novel.
Lizzie & Dante is not only a beautifully rendered love story, it's a masterfully written triumph of the human spirit over the worst possible consequences life can throw at us. And, in my opinion, it's the best book Bly has written under any name. She offers readers a moment in time with stunning, emotional, life-changing impact and a woman's courageous and inspiring journey. She assembles a cast of characters who become a chosen family of the heart, not only with one another but with this reader as well. She weaves binding ties among them that may strain under the weight of life's unexpected twists but never break. She enriches those of us fortunate enough to read this book with the gift of a deeply romantic love story that I will not soon forget. And she reminds us that the choice of pure, unconditional love, whether it be romantic, parental, or among friends and chosen family, wholeheartedly given and received, is one to be joyfully treasured each day we are alive, however long that may be, and one that will continue to live on in the hearts of those left behind when one no longer lives.
This beautifully rendered love story reminds us of the fragility of life while celebrating the joy - and strength - to be found in loving and living each day with every fiber of our being. Many tissues were sacrificed in my reading of it but though there are sad parts, Lizzie & Dante is a book that never dragged me down. In fact, I found the journey to be uplifting and inspiring. It's the best book I've read this year and, in my opinion, the best book Mary Bly has written under any name. I don't have enough stars to do it justice.
Now that the world is beginning to open up again, I'm dreaming of places I'd like to visit. After reading this book, the island of Elba has surged to the top of that list. Where would you like to visit?
Have you read Lizzie & Dante? What are your thoughts?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 6 will receive a hardcover copy of Lizzie & Dante, courtesy of the fact that I forgot I had already pre-ordered a copy from one place before ordering a signed copy from another. ;-)
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