#bookclub Feature by SJV
“Let me start by saying that I am such a huge fan of Santa Montefiore’s books. I discovered them several years ago when I found myself swept away to Italy and Devon in The House by The Sea which still remains one of my favourites. Since then I have read many more, but I still have plenty more on my shelf (what I call my rainy day shelf – when I need a pick-me-up and know beyond doubt that a book by a certain author will be just the tonic I need).
The Temptation of Gracie is a standalone book, centered around Gracie herself, her daughter Carina and granddaughter Anastasia. It is again set in Italy and Devon and also over dual time-frames. Elderly Gracie Burton lives in Devon, where she spends her time walking her two dogs along the cliffs and helping to organise various events in the village. According to herself, and to the knowledge of her friends and even her own family, Gracie has led an unremarkable life, so when Grace suddenly announces that she is going to Tuscany to stay in a castle for a week-long Italian cookery course, it not only sets tongues wagging but has just about everyone she knows aghast at the idea. As Gracie sets off to sunnier climes, reluctant daughter and granddaughter in tow, the memories stirred up by the trip for Gracie that will have long-lasting implications for all of them.
To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the unfolding story of what happens when they arrive in Tuscany, but true to form there are secrets, revelations and romance. As with all Montefiore’s books, it is best to know little and allow yourself to be swept up in what ensues. One of the reasons I love her books is that so often when reading them, when I eventually look up, I am surprised to still find myself in my own front room. Every page is a feast of colours, smells and sensations. Everything feels so vibrant and sumptuous; from the flowers to the food to the views from the castle. I admit I am no chef, but when reading this book I immediately wanted to book myself onto an Italian cookery course in a Tuscan castle. Now that is great storytelling!
One final shout out about this book and that is the characters: they were all wonderful. However, my particular favourite was Flappy Scott-Booth – the bossy, snobby, interfering head of Badley Compton Ladies’ Book Club. She was an absolute delight to read about and added several (unintentional on her part) comedy moments. I’m desperately hoping she appears in more books in the future.
Verdict: An absolute joy. Pure escapism at its best.”
“This was my first Santa Montefiore book so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The first thing that jumped out at me were the warm characters, they were relatable and so easy to visualise. I couldn’t help but giggle at the group of ladies from Badley Compton as they attempted to stage an intervention.
Then there was the emotional side of the story which broke my heart and made it leap in equal measures. As a Mum, I felt so sad for Gracie and her quiet longing for the family she missed so much. As a woman, I applauded her defiant courage in doing something that would bring her happiness and not concerning herself with other people’s opinions on the matter. It soon became clear that Gracie had a secret and I must admit that I did have a vague idea what it could be.
It turned out I was partially correct with my prediction!
Carina wasn’t my favourite character to begin with, I really felt like she needed to reevaluate her life, particularly where her daughter Anastasia was concerned.
Would the beautiful Tuscan sunshine change her?
Unusually for me I found myself enjoying the present day scenes and the 1960s scenes equally. The tantalising romances that flitted through both time periods were wonderfully exciting to read.
The Temptation of Gracie was a warm and meaningful read that pulled at my heart in so many ways. It may have been my first book from this author but it certainly won’t be my last!”
Next up, Shaz Goodwin:
“The Temptation of Gracie is such an emotive read. With 68 year old Gracie’s stable and predictable life in Badley Compton a world away to the experiences she had as a teen/young woman, during the week at the cookery school in Castello Montefosco her past emerges as she confides in granddaughter Anastasia. From not knowing each other very well at all, they realise how similar they are (in more ways than one!). And as much as Anastasia is there for Gracie, Gracie is also the confidant for Anastasia. I adored the developing bond with these two.
The setting and the cookery school have a magical effect, opening up the hearts of all (and believe me, you can feel the author’s writing opening your heart and the warmth spreading). Gracie’s daughter Carina, always in control and trying to prove herself, alienates those close to her in her life in London. Even though I could relate to her I didn’t like her at the start … it was amazing to watch change happening. As Mamma Bernadetta’s daughter Ilaria says to her:
… Avoiding a whole food group is like living half a life. Living half a life is like being half a person.
(I know you’ll love Ilaria’s descriptions of how the different ingredients work together.)
Bringing some light relief to the story is Flappy Scott-Booth, the ‘queen’ of Badley Compton. She reminded me of Hyacinth Bucket from the TV series Keeping up Appearances. Karma works its way through her life too.
It’s obvious in present day that something life changing happened in the past. I wasn’t tempted to rush through though, savouring every page. But when it comes, what a shocker! No wonder it made Gracie change the path of her future. In a world where reputation is everything, life can turn on a pin … From the time Gracie visits La Colomba I read mostly through tears.
The Temptation of Gracie is as much about family as it is about true love (everything relates to the heart in some way). Told in a beautiful writing style with an incredible setting and characters you’ll identify with, I’ve no doubt your heart will be swept away too.”