Saturday, April 9, 2011
A Heart Most Worthy
The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream--and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?
Wow! This book is like a sweet Vidalia onion that's been caramelized - lots of layers and all full of yummy goodness. I could analyze this for pages and pages but I'll try and restrain myself. ;o) It starts with the cover. Isn't it drool-worthy? I'm in total envy over that dress.
The author tackles surface issues like the the problems the Italian immigrants faced both from outsiders and from their own prejudices against other Italians. Tradition and family was all many of them had. Sometimes the same stubborn pride that helped them survive in this new country insulated them and even caused them to refuse help they needed.
What makes a healthy relationship? What is most important in love? All the main characters struggle with these questions on some level or another. Whether it's 1918 or 2011, people still mistake lust for love, they still think they're unworthy for whatever reason, they still fear what will happen if they trust... and sometimes they think it's too late once they've made mistakes. Sometimes people try to manipulate people and call it love.
Then you have the political undertones. People who think violence is the way to bring about change and that the government should do whatever they want. People who don't mind stealing, killing or dying in order to make their plans come to fruition. It sounds eerily like what is going on here and around the world. Yet you meet them, sympathize and want to be able to help them see what they're doing is hurting themselves and others.
The three main characters couldn't be more different. Add in Madame Fortier and you have four women who will stay with me for some time. They loved deeply, made mistakes, kept secrets, and showed a tenacity of spirit that made me love them all. From the beginning to end you can see each of them grow and change in individual ways that reflected the personal journey each had to take.
There were also some yummy heroes that you won't want to miss. Each had his own strengths (and weaknesses) that perfectly matched the girl he was destined to be with. Some had unflappable faith and determination, some patience that would try a saint, some were self-sacrificing... and some were forgiving and generous. All were romantic because true romance is loving in a way that brings out the best in them and is concentrated on their needs instead of your own.
This is going on my list of best books of 2011. I want to thank Bethany House for providing me my copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted by Margaret Metz at 12:05 AM