High on a hill in the Tuscan countryside stands a castle of golden stone, home to Patricia O’Hara’s writers’ retreat – a serene hideaway where you can polish your prose by the pool, gain inspiration from your peers and eat the best melanzane in Italy, courtesy of shelf Aldo. But, while the splendour of their surroundings never fails to wow the guests, huge maintenance bills and bad news from the bank threaten to close Patrica’s Castle down. It’s make or break time for the Castello de Luna.
This August each of her seven aspiring authors arrive with emotional baggage alongside their manuscripts. However, something is different. It may be just the prosecco, but soon lifelong spinster Mary is riding on the back of Aldo’s Vespa, and smouldering odd-job man Fabio has set more than one heart racing.
As temperatures rise, the writers gossip, flirt, and gently polish their prose by the pool. But with some unexpected visitors to contend with, one thing’s for sure: neither the Castello, nor Patricia has ever seen a summer like this.
Patricia, an English woman in her 40’s, is divorced and living in the sprawling Castello trying to make the place pay for itself, whilst working out where it went wrong with her teenage son Matt. One of the ways to bring in money is to hold a 2 week writers retreat in the middle of summer and this book is about the mixture of people who sign up and attend. There’s Jeremy, the tutor, who wrote a best seller 20 years ago, and has been crippled with doubt ever since. There’s Sam, who has quit a good job in the city in order to write a best seller in a bit of a pique – if only he didn’t lose interest in which ever story he starts. There’s JP, the Frenchman who hates Italian Wine (but not enough to shun it completely when it suits), Cat the ‘yummy mummy’ who is confident that she has written the next best seller, Cat’s best friend Anne, Mary the elderly spinster who has spent the best part of 30 years writing her crime novel with no expectations of it ever being published.
Some characters get more attention than others, some dying off near the end as focus is put on others and “what happened next” is only detailed in a very short epilogue, some of which could have done with a little more explaining.
Patricia’s money problems are solved with the help of a very unexpected source. Dorothy’s stories show her childhood of woe is thrown into doubt, when her delightful mother turns up, and Cat’s perfect life and delightful children is shown to be just one side of the story she tells.
Everyone staying at the villa gets some surprise and insight into their life – for better or for worse – and for some it is life changing (even if it means things stay the same).
At first there seemed to be too many characters to keep track of to remember. However, the story was pleasant enough with eventually being able to grasp each characters’ personality.
Overall, Tuscany and its captivating beauty, the strange and sensual atmosphere of an old castle which is situated in the countryside, near Siena, perfect. This novel had everything needed to draw the reader in. Nice summer read to remind you of the Italian countryside, great food, scenery and a little bit of drama thrown in.
Sadly, the story ends in a nonsensical way, as if the author felt rushed. This story seemed to have it all for a perfect summer read, however for me personally it felt like something was missing, or it was just based on a much older crowd (Above mid 30’s onwards). 2.5 stars from me.