Farelli's Wife by Lucy Gordon
(Harl. Romance #3561, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-03561-6
Farelli's wife, Rosemary, is dead. Knowing she had a weak heart, she nonetheless risked a second pregnancy to give her husband Franco a second child that he badly wanted. Since they had shared an unparalleled passion and devotion, his guilt now takes many forms…the obvious ones plus the fact that for some reason she had never shared her health status with him. Their only child, six-year-old Nico, becomes his sole reason to exist.

Rosemary had been an extraordinary person. Really, one of those very perfect people who live for others and are totally selfless. As she was growing up she became the de facto sister and mother of her younger cousin, Joanne, after she was orphaned. Genetically, they shared a face, a build, and to some extent the same gentle, noble personality.

When Joanne was seventeen she believed herself to be deeply in love with the older Franco. Her cousin Rosemary came to visit her and saw instead Franco. Joanne's hopes were instantly dashed and a decade long love affair between Franco and Rosemary was ignited. Married quickly and in opposition to Franco's "evil mother," they nonetheless crafted a fairy tale marriage.

Joanne went on in her career as an artist, but always lacked the creativity to do original work. She became a copier of great painters. The market for this was good as it permitted the owners to hide the originals, while displaying the copy, much to the relief of the insurance companies. So Joanne had fashioned her life as the great imitator when, a year after Rosemary died, she accepted a commission in Italy.

Through love of Rosemary and fear of exposing her feelings for Franco, she had deliberately stayed away from them since their marriage. To try and lay old ghosts to rest, she shows up at Franco's villa for a short visit.

Physically she resembles Rosemary enough that some people in the small village think Rosemary has come back to life. And what of Franco? Her presence causes him great agony. Joanne recognizes the dilemma and loves him enough to offer herself as the "bridge he must cross' to rejoin the living. An interesting concept for someone who has made a career of imitation. Accustomed to her role, she permits herself to be "used" as a stand-in for Rosemary, hoping that Franco will evolve beyond it.

Farelli's Wife is an easy choice for readers who prefer no external conflict in their romance – a gentle, undemanding story which might have been more interesting if Joanne had been a bit less sweet and a bit more stalwart.

--Thea Davis

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