Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Book Review - The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

Amazon UK
Title:  The Rome Affair
Author: Karen Swan
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: 13th July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

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 neighbour 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.

Elena Damiani has had an interesting life, but it isn't until Francesca is hired as her biographer that long hidden secrets start to emerge, to a surprising conclusion. 

The story is part written in modern day Rome, and partly written in the past, as we follow key points in Elena's life "live" and the see how she interprets them for Cesca.  Elena is from a privileged American Family and she eventually married into the top rung of Roman society, but its not all Bulgari jewellery and great parties. Her life is far different to what you may think, from the opening as the character development goes on and we see just what life is like in the large Palazzo she lives in.  Although just why a couple of the local older ladies try to persuade Cesca that Elena is bad news, is something you need to discover for yourselves! 

Cesca it a huge fan of Rome, she even runs a blog called The Rome Affair, and was working as a tour guide, until her change meeting with Elena. She is also a former barrister and seems to keep running into a man who she appears to hate! 

I found the story was a fascinating look at higher society in Rome and America from the 60s onwards and just shows you can't guess what goes on behind closed doors, away from the worlds press. 

I really enjoyed the character of Cesca, she has an incredible eye for detail, a clear love of Rome, has made a great life for herself in the city, and is clearly hiding a secret herself, so should be able to empathise with Elena's inability to reveal the truths about herself.  

The storyline involving a sinkhole was quite different too, especially once it had me thinking about what lies beneath the surface of a city like Rome, thanks to the handsome speleologist who was determined to investigate the hole and surrounding thoroughly.  

The Rome Affair was an enjoyable story with Karen Swan's usual attention to detail, human interest and great storytelling style. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

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