LAKE COMO - Anita Hughes
St. Martin's Griffin
San Francisco, California and Lake Como, Italy - The Present
Hallie Elliot sees her boyfriend at a wedding groping her friend, who is also the boss of the interior design firm where Hallie works. He says he was trying to get away from her, and her friend can't remember anything due to all the alcohol she consumed. Hallie's boyfriend convinces her to accept an engagement ring. Still, she doesn't trust him, and can't stand the idea he is possibly lying to her. So Hallie wants to get away for a while to think things over. Her mother suggests she go to Lake Como in Italy where her half brother and sister live. Her half sister Portia need her help. She's left her philandering husband, and Portia's grandmother Sofia wants Hallie's help to convince Portia to repair the marriage.
Hallie's mother Francesca had a whirlwind romance with Pliny, an Italian aristocrat. After two children, she found she couldn't stand Pliny's mother controlling everything in her life, even her children, and she left. After a one-night stand she became pregnant, so Hallie is illegitimate and has never met her father.
In Italy Hallie meets Angus, and through him receives a commission to decorate the Villa Luce, the home of an extremely rich man. This gives her an excuse to extend her stay. During the summer she will discover truths and lies about her family and her situation. Some revelations will damage her relationships; others will improve them, and both cause changes in her life.
The descriptions of the setting are sumptuous, and the lifestyle of the characters privileged. (I got a little tired of a designer's name assigned to every dress.) I loved that she was an interior designer and appreciated the places she went. Hallie is a loving sister, daughter, and granddaughter, but she feels the absence of a father has affected her life. Her mother has worked hard to provide Hallie a good upbringing and stable home, and her reasons for leaving Pliny are thoroughly explained. So, at age thirty, I didn't expect the heroine to be so indecisive, inflexible, and to me, often immature, which ultimately colored my view of the story. Even so, that is only my reaction. Otherwise the story is well written with a strong cast of characters, and as I mentioned, set in a marvelous location.