Lake Como by Anita Hughes

Source: St. Martin’s Press
Paperback, 274 pages
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Lake Como by Anita Hughes is a summer read that will sweep readers away to Lake Como, Italy, and wish they were being romanced and fed so well!  Hallie Elliot is part of a competitive interior design firm in San Francisco, Calif., and she has a journalist boyfriend, Peter, who dotes on her while wooing the famous and infamous to spill their secrets.  While her life is humming along in America, her half-sister Portia’s marriage is falling apart in Italy.  Hughes has crafted a novel about building and rebuilding family ties, particularly between sisters, and how unexpected events can change the course of one’s life in better ways.

Hallie’s mother, Francesca, was a carefree teen studying and playing abroad when she met Pliny and quickly married him.  Unwittingly, she had entered the old world of family politics, becoming a part of Italian aristocracy with their own ideas of motherhood and obligation.  As a teen, Francesca could not handle the pressure, leaving her two children, Marcua and Portia, behind.  Hallie has lived a privileged life in California, thanks to Francesca’s mother, Constance, a socialite and constant mothering presence.  Hallie’s life is not as cohesive as many family units with a mother and father and siblings living together, but she’s able to rise above and carve out her own life.  Hughes peppers the story with elements of Hallie’s growing-up years to ensure that readers understand her foibles.

Readers will be immersed in Lake Como’s romance — the glittering light playing off the waves and the sleek satin dresses hugging the curves of each woman — and swept up in the family drama caused by a clash of old world tradition and the realities of the modern world.  Portia is struggling with the pull between those worlds, but Hallie is there to pull her back to simpler times when they shared music and sleepovers one summer as kids.  She brings her back to life just by being her sister, and while at one point Hallie forgets that connection amidst her own troubles, these sisters have a concrete bonds.

Lake Como by Anita Hughes is about finding out who you are, even in the worst circumstances, and relying on the bonds you know to be true when you find yourself waffling.  Hughes is an exceptional dramatist, weaving in the past and present to create a fuller picture of the family.  The bonds tying these members together will last for many years to come, and some readers may even want to see a sequel. (I know I do!)

About the Author: (photo by Sheri Geoffreys)

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

Check out my review of Monarch Beach!

Mailbox Monday #231

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  August’s host is Bermudaonion The Reading Fever.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received/bought:

1.  Lake Como by Anita Hughes from the author for review this month.

Hallie Elliot has a perfect life. She is an up-and-coming interior designer in one of San Francisco’s most sought after firms, and has just recently become engaged to Peter, a brilliant young journalist. But when she stumbles upon Peter and her boss in what seems to be a compromising position, her trust in her perfect life is shaken.

So Hallie escapes to Lake Como, Italy to spend time with her half-sister, Portia Tesoro, an Italian blueblood dealing with the scandal of a public estrangement from her cheating husband. While staying in the Tesoro villa, Hallie falls in love with the splendor and beauty of Lake Como, and finds work designing the lakeside estate of a reclusive American tech mogul. The caretaker of this beautiful estate is a handsome man named Angus, and Hallie finds herself drawn to his charm and kindness, despite hints of a dark secret in his past.

2.  Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River by Beth Kephart, which I purchased from an Amazon third-party.

From acclaimed writer Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun, comes a short, imaginative telling of the life of the Schuylkill River, which has served as the source of Philadelphia’s water, power, industry, and beauty for the city’s entire life.  Before that, it fed the indigenous people who preceded William Penn, and has since time immemorial shape our region.

3.  The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, which I purchased at the library.

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.

Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

4.  Joyland by Stephen King, which I purchased from the library.

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

What did you receive?