Title: Villa del Sol
Author: Martha Reynolds
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Villa del Sol is a thoughtful tale of love, loss, and hope reborn centered around the story of Jennifer Logan, the young, recent widow of a popular, older senator.
Jennifer has had a rough life. She had an alcoholic mother and never knew her father, and she grew up with very little support from friends or family. Thus, she’s had to make it on her own every step of the way. Even after she married her rich, influential husband, she still struggled with loneliness as she kept up the image of being a perfect wife. Whether faced with his infidelities or his daughter’s bitterness over marrying someone young enough to be a sister, Jennifer has had to always live behind a polite smile.
So when her husband suddenly dies after being diagnosed with cancer, she decides to retire to a villa in the Swiss Alps to escape the media, the curious well-wishers, and the friends of her husband who, like her step-daughter, thought she was just a gold-digger after her husband’s money.
Once in Switzerland, though, she discovers her villa isn’t quite ready for her—it’s suffered a broken pipe in its plumbing system—so she ends up staying with the son and daughter-in-law of her travel agent. However, once her villa is fixed, she retires to its spacious seclusion, intent on grieving on her own terms, but life and the people around her keep drawing her out, bringing her back to church, to Lugano, to Rhode Island, and to interacting with humanity again.
Overall, the pacing is slower, befitting that of a story of loss and rediscovery. Though she and the senator had their challenges, she genuinely cared for him, and it shows in how she grieves, a mixture of relief and sorrow, worry and loneliness.
However, there are moments when the struggles that Jennifer faces seem to melt away far too quickly to be believable, and it would’ve been nice to have the side characters a bit more developed. As it was, they feel rather like stereotypes—the loud, flirtatious American, the dark, alluring Italian, the bitter stepdaughter, the suave British gentleman, and the happy Catholic family with well-mannered kids—but the focus is on Jennifer, and she certainly feels like a real person with her own fears, hopes, and worries.
The story is one of new beginnings and personal growth, as Jennifer has to learn to let down the barriers she’s built and begin living and finding herself again. Thus, this is aptly women’s fiction rather than a romance, though there is some suggestion that one might happen, someday.
The narration is rich in description, giving readers the sights and smells of southern Switzerland, just where it meets Italy, and there are enough descriptions of food to send one eagerly to the nearest Italian eatery. Villa del Sol will appeal to readers who enjoy stories about life, personal growth, and human interaction. For those who were looking to travel to Europe via a book, this would be an excellent choice.
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