3 August 2017

Review #633: The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”

----Giotto di Bondone

Karen Swan, an English author, has penned a compelling, stirring and riveting contemporary romance novel, The Rome Affair that revolves around a former British barrister who after escaping a not-so-sweet-past into the Rome and works as a tour guide besides writing a blog, but one day she chances upon a stolen handbag in a dust bin that belongs to an Italian socialite and aristocrat old lady living in a grand mansion, with her own past demons and when these two women's paths are crossed, history is bound to get unraveled amidst of lies and secrets, and taking the tour guide to places, where she could never imagine to be, until she comes across the mystery of the old lady's not so grand life.


The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.

1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can't change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbor who lives across the piazza - famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena's life.

Francesca Hackett has barely manged to escape her ugly past and left it behind in her home city, London and found a new meaning with a new job title as a tour guide at the elegant capital city of Italy called Rome, where besides being a tour guide she writes a blog called, The Rome Affair. But one day, her sweet life turns into something extraordinary, where she can never turn back, when she chances upon a stolen ladies handbag containing one one unopened letter inside a dust bin, and that letter has been addressed to an lady named, Elena Damiani. Elena, born into good fortune and with good looks, never found herself in any murky situation until she falls head over heels in love with a mysterious Italian man, even though she is married to one of the richest man in Rome, but pursuing that man will leave behind a trail of mysteries, that years later will come to haunt her, when a young woman walks up her grand palazzo in Rome with her handbag containing an unopened letter from her husband. Eventually Elena decides to let Cesca pen the memoirs of her life, even though that would mean opening the doors to some unsolved mysteries of her life. Can they both resolve their past mistakes, all the while unraveling one mystery after another?

After reading this book, I was left with the thought that Karen Swan is an incredible writer, not just her writing is flawless, but her style of spinning the story is also polished and perfect. Firstly, my heart was left arrested by that enchanting and "Ammàzzalo!" artwork of the book cover that instantly begged me to open the book and start reading it. And needless to say, right from the very first chapter, the story left me wanting for more and to know what will happen next with the characters.

The author's writing style is eloquent, evocative and exquisite, laced perfectly with intense emotions and mind-blowing tension. The author narrates the story with many layers without giving away too much, but enough to make her readers to stay glued to the story line. The dialogues are convincing and free-flowing as well as articulate enough to help the readers comprehend or lose themselves into it. The pacing of the book is moderate, as this is the kind of book that readers need to enjoy in a subtle way or rather say, to taste it like a wine.

The backdrop of Rome is bound to leave the readers awe-struck not only to those who have visited Rome but to also those who are yet to visit or haven't visited it. The author has vividly captivated the charm, the perfect flair as well as the essence of a real Roman landscape, streets, restaurants, bakery, ice cream parlors, people, weather, flora as well as the fashion, and the aristocratic lifestyle. The author has brought alive the eternal city with her fascinating words that strikingly portrays the city with its finest details for the readers to visually imagine it in their mind's eyes. Apart from Rome, the author also depicts so Rhode Island with careful observation and in proper depth so that the readers can imagine and feel the change in the landscape. This book is like a direct portal that opens up to the city of Rome and right at the center of Elena's palazzo where a twisted mystery lies buried under.

The characters from this book are extremely well developed, laced with realism, their flaws and their strengths. The main character, Elena, is a complex and bewildering old lady with a hidden past, that she keeps it away from the world, but gradually, it opens up (in a literal sense) right in the middle of her palatial mansion, when Cesca begins to pick the needle from the haystack. Whereas Cesca is extremely confident and as a former barrister, she knows where to look for if she comes across a mystery. moreover, she too is running away from her past, but that too comes to unwind before her when a man enters her life. Both the characters' backgrounds are enriched with depth and layers of emotions and events that make them look riveting in the eyes of the readers. The supporting cast, although, failed to peak any interest in me.

In a nutshell, this book is perfect while one is traveling to their next summer vacation getaway. A must have in one's traveling bag, enriched with emotions and suspense, this story will only enthrall the minds and souls of the readers.

Verdict: Rich with history, Roman flair and romantic mysteries, this is a perfect contemporary read!

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Pan Macmillan for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany's, Summer at Tiffany's, The Perfect Present, Christmas in the Snow, The Summer Without You, The Paris Secret, and Christmas Under the Stars.
Visit her here

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