Generally, I dislike the terms "beach read" etc but if you were picking a mini library to take away with you on holiday, then this is a book I would recommend.
Flicking between two time points, (1966 Tuscany and 2009 Devon), the story focuses on a young girl, Floriana, and her obsession with La Villa Magdalena - most notably, its beautiful gardens - and Marina, a woman living in Devon who runs a hotel called the Polzanze with her husband and step-son. The Polzanze, on the brink of financial ruin, hires an artist-in-residence to attract more attention to the hotel. After a few excruciatingly cringe worthy interviews, Marina finally finds an artist, a devilishly handsome Argentinian man called Rafa, though after a conversation Rafa has with his mother the reader is shown that not all is at it seems and Rafa has an ulterior motive for being there.
The descriptions of the Polzanze are detailed and intimate, as if Montefiore built it herself in real life. You get Marina's struggles as a childless woman and the love she pours into the hotel as if it is her own flesh and blood. You also feel her pain as she longs to connect with her step children, particularly her step daughter, Clementine, who sees Marina as nothing more than the woman who stole away her father from her mother.
This is wonderful human story with relationships at its heart. The locations in it, while beautifully and lusciously described, are mere devices to tell the stories of different people from all walks of life and classes crossing paths and making their marks on each other. While some of the dialogue seems a bit cheesy at times, you find yourself moving past this in order to discover the surprisingly richly layered story, building up to a big reveal at the end.
Definitely one for the happy-ever-after lovers.