Family Tree

The Librarian's Secret Wish

Married to the Sheik

 
That's Amore by Carol Grace
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-7434-6760-4
***
A note to Carol Grace and other authors. When you want to write about a buttoned up, naïve contemporary heroine, please, please stop making them librarians. And if you must, keep in mind that some of us do wear colored underpants. Thank you.

Anne Marie Jackson is California librarian who needs to get away. Her ex-husband is remarrying his younger girlfriend and Anne Marie is feeling discarded and depressed. In high school she developed a crush on Giovanni, a charming Italian exchange student. She's always fantasized about going to Italy, so when she receives an invitation from Giovanni, she goes for it.

Once in Italy, however, Giovanni proves hard to find. When she is stood up for their first meeting, Anne Marie catches the eye of Marco Moretti. He seems to be everywhere Anne Marie is and everywhere Giovanni is supposed to be. Marco tells Anne Marie he is a travel guide and offers her his services. What she doesn't know is that Marco is really a government agent on the trail of Giovanni and a stolen diamond.

Of course he suspects that Anne Marie is Giovanni's contact and partner in crime. That's why he has to stick so close to her. Marco and Anne Marie travel all over the beautiful Italian countryside on the trail of Giovanni. Of course the sexual attraction is unbearable and they both begin falling for one another.

Marco is a typical handsome Italian hero. He's smooth, charming and perfect, well except for the whole lying through his teeth thing. He's also dodging pressure from his doting grandmother to settle down. For some reason he resists love. No particular reason is given for this, just that he doesn't have time for love or a wife. Not a very satisfying reason.

Although Anne Marie acts strong, she really isn't. Anne Marie frequently thinks about how she's going to stand up to Marco, or whoever, but is too easily convinced otherwise. For example, after Giovanni blows her off rather rudely, she's still mooning over her fantasy of him and jumps to his tune several more times. It's just short of pathetic. She is also annoyingly naïve. It's difficult to believe that Anne Marie could be so inexperienced at forty-one. But of course it's because she's a librarian and everyone knows that librarians are shy and naïve. They wear plain white cotton underwear and sensible shoes. And they don't have much experience with sex.

That's not the only stereotype in this book. In fact a reader would be hard pressed to find anything in this book that isn't clichéd. Italians dance at the drop of a hat, waiters serenade their customers and everything is clean and romantic. Anne Marie even stomps grapes, wearing a peasant blouse of course. It's just one big love letter to Italy.

The funny thing is, the book ends up working. Perhaps it's because the author admits up front that she's playing heavily onto the clichés. At one point Marco admits that his grandmother and cousin are stereotypes. It's possible that this self-awareness makes the reader more forgiving of what is otherwise overly sweet and sentimental. It's also difficult not to be charmed by Grace's lush descriptions of Italy.

The mystery about the diamond is on the back burner until the very end of the book when everything winds up rather quickly. I admit to being stumped for a while about what was going to happen, but when it became obvious it was very much so, like a two by four to the head.

That's Amore is just as superficial and corny as the song of the same name. Despite that, it's a pleasant escape book, perfect for the beach or the lunch hour.

--Anne Bulin


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