The Relentless Italian by Sarina Rose, set in the 1960s, focuses on the love story between the Italian American Sophie and Italian Tony Andriosi, starting with their first date while in their last year studying at a Catholic college in New Jersey. The two become serious very quickly, with Sophie teasing Tony about her intentions but still becoming jealous whenever she sees him even talking with another woman. Their senior year soon comes to an end, and Sophie prepares to go to veterinary school at Cornell, while Tony goes back to Italy to become a music sensation. Their love gets challenged in their long distance relationship.
This book has a very weak plot, with lots of back and forth between the couple but not a whole lot of story to the book. Especially with all the teasing between the two characters, I found it a little bit tiresome. The description of the book talks about tints Tony’s search for his biological mother, who gave him up to a group of nuns during World War II, and that interested me in the book, but sadly, this search takes up only a small piece of the book.
There were a couple redeeming details in the book though. Sophie, a devout Catholic, keeps in mind her faith’s belief against pre-marital sex, and she works to honor that prohibition. Few romance books or even books of other genres with romance in them see the characters wait. It seems they usually jump into bed together by the second date. So I appreciated the fact that they waited.
I also appreciated the way the book did not have graphic sex scenes. Those make me uncomfortable, and even those who enjoy the sex may prefer to imagine the scenes themselves rather than have every detail laid out for them.
But there was one scene that I especially connected with. While in veterinary school, Sophie must have surgery to remove a cyst in her uterus. However, when she comes out of the anesthetic, the doctor tells her that she had more than just one cyst, with at least one being malignant, forcing the doctor to remove her uterus. This sends Sophie into a panic, as she feels that she has had her womanhood taken away from her. Certain that Tony will no longer want her, especially since they will never be able to have children together, Sophie can’t handle this. But Tony, who has come to be with her in her surgery, proves to be as gentle and loving as possible, sleeping on the floor next to her bed to be ready to care for her.
This scene was written very powerfully, and it actually brought tears to my eyes, tears both for Sophie and for myself. Her horror at not being able to have children of her own brought to life my own grief at my own inability to have children, despite my lifelong dream of having kids of my own. This scene really brought everything to life.
The book is ably narrated by Anna Castiglioni. At the start of the book, I could not connect to her narration, as it comes across as very staccato. But that is really the result of the narrative style of the book and not the problem of the narrator. As the book continued, I came to appreciate the narration further. She does a great job of switching between the accents of the Italian Tony and the American Sophie. By the end I came to enjoy Castiglioni’s performance. She gives good sound effects throughout the book and helped a lot to make this book that I found a bit tedious more enjoyable.
The Relentless Italian had some good points to it, and I see a lot of potential for this author. The way she was able to grip me in the scene where Sophie loses her uterus showed real power. I hope future books will unleash this power more in the future. I give this book two stars.
I was given this book by the narrator, but that in no way influenced the nature of my review.
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