That's Amore, by Carol Grace

>> Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TITLE: That's Amore
AUTHOR: Carol Grace

PAGES: 343
PUBLISHER: Pocket Star

SETTING: Contemporary Italy
TYPE: Straight romance, with a lightish suspense subplot
SERIES: No, but it's part of Pocket's Bon Voyage line, which features contemporary romances in exotic locations (which apparently means anywhere but the US, as Italy and Greece and Ireland and France don't really seem particularly exotic to me).

REASON FOR READING: I love contemporary romance in exotic (or not so exotic, but at least different) locations!

In this delicious contemporary romance, Carol Grace whisks readers away to Italy's sunny Amalfi Coast, where whitewashed villas and fragrant lemon trees sit high atop craggy cliffs...and romance is always in the air.

Ever since high school, Anne Marie Jackson has dreamed of visiting Italy - a dream no doubt enflamed by Giovanni, the dashing exchange student with whom she shared her first kiss. Twenty-three years, one divorce, and one postcard from Giovanni later, Anne Marie decides to follow her heart to Italy, where her former flame has promised to show her the sights.

Giovanni proves elusive but Marco Moretti - a mysterious, handsome Italian - seems to be everywhere she is. Anne Marie doesn't know why the persistent, irresistible Marco wants to find Giovanni as badly as she does, or if her old friend's in some kind of trouble - but she soon discovers that it's her own heart that's in danger...of falling head-over-heels for the man who insists on being her personal tour guide to true love!
THE PLOT: Anne Marie Jackson is in Italy to meet up with her former high school crush, the sexy Giovanni (and the fact that her trip allows her to avoid her ex-husband's wedding is a plus). But Giovanni is not at the small town in Southern Italy where she was supposed to meet him, and as she follows him all over Italy, Anne Marie finds herself unable to shake the handsome Italian tour guide who keeps popping up wherever she goes.

The tour guide is not a tour guide, but Italian cop Marco Moretti, out to arrest Giovanni for diamond smuggling (and for breaking his little sister's heart and being his childhood nemesis; how's that for conflict of interest?). He has received intelligence that Giovanni's American accomplice is bringing him an important stolen gem, and he's determined to be there to catch them in fraganti during the handover. He will arrest them both, even if he is becoming more attracted to said accomplice every day...

MY THOUGHTS: Italy is beautiful, but most everything else in this book is a mess. My problem was all about the characters and how they kept behaving in ways I found implausible for reasonable adults.

Anne Marie, especially, was just unbelievable. The things the woman takes in stride! How she could believe Marco's excuses about why he's following her all over Italy is beyond me. I mean, the guy is everywhere she goes and he refuses to answer most of her questions. All he says is that he's a tour guide and the reason he's following her is because it's his job to take care of tourists, and she seems pretty ok with it. So he's doing it for free? A 5-year-old wouldn't believe this!

And that was just the tip of the iceberg. The most surreal part of the book was when she's in this little town in the middle of nowhere and suddenly Giovanni appears inside her hotel room, basically tries to tear her ring off her finger and runs out when he hears Marco approaching. Does Anne Marie freak out? Worry at all? Nope, she doesn't seem to find it odd in the least. In fact, she's still determined to continue on to Rome and meet Giovanni there, as they'd originally arranged. That's the kind of thing this book is full of.

Marco is remarkably dumb for a cop. If he's a realistic one, then poor Italy. He neglects to do the most obvious things, keeps thinking Anne Marie is some kind of crook long after it would be reasonable to do so and keeps sleeping with her even as he believes it. Grrr.

Plus, there was no real chemistry between Anne Marie and Marco. Other than a few lust-atacks, he didn't seem particularly into her. And neither did she seem particularly into him... I mean, she'd think about how Marco was the incarnation of the dark, handsome Italian lover fantasy, but she was all about finding Giovanni.

The suspensey thing with the diamond plot wasn't that bad, but it could have been much better. It was also pretty obvious who was behind it and where the diamond was. The clues weren't particularly subtle.

The one thing I enjoyed was the visit to Italy, though this, too, could have been better. The sense of place was nice, but not too remarkable, and the author's image of Italian people was stereotypical in the extreme. Marco's grandma is mad to get him married, all the women he knows are materialistic and sophisticated, etc.

MY GRADE: A C-, which includes extra points for the travelogue.


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