2 out of 5 Stars
*I was gifted a copy of this book by the author. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*
Brianna Ballantyne has been searching for her birth mother for years, so when a letter finally reaches her in Australia and reveals that her birth mother is deceased but has left an Italian villa to Brianna, she has to scramble to get to Lipari Island to claim the inheritance. Getting there in time is only half the problem. Brianna, a woman who never wants any attachments, also must be married to claim the property.
Tomas Richards is giving up his stuffed shirt persona in exchange for his aunt’s marina business in Lipari. He’s determined to make his life more carefree. Running into Brianna in the airport and on the plane shows him that his list-making ways need to change. When the pair strikes up a tentative friendship, Brianna offers Tom a proposal—literally. She asks him to marry her so she can claim the villa and learn more about the woman who gave birth to her. This suits Tom just fine, since it will also keep him from having to dodge his aunt’s matchmaking attempts.
When a sham marriage leads to real feelings, Tom and Brianna need to decide if this is the life they really want. Brianna never wanted commitment, but maybe now she’s found the right person.
Italian Affair is a contemporary romance with an enjoyable plot. Two people who are polar opposites—free spirited Brianna and uptight Tom—have to learn to live together and prove their marriage to Brianna’s skeptical grandfather. Tom teaches Bri how to better manage her time while she writes her book. Bri shows Tom how to live life freely, starting with throwing away his to-do lists.
Unfortunately, there was a lot about this story that didn’t work. Brianna’s character was way too indecisive. While this was part of her free spirit characterization, it got a bit old. Every decision was waffled over, drawing things out unnecessarily. She didn’t realize if the will stipulated she be married to claim the property, being engaged wouldn’t be enough. She asked Tom to marry her, and then she was surprised when he told her they actually had to get married. Brianna tended to go from hot to cold and back at the drop of a hat. Half the time I couldn’t even figure out why she was mad at Tom. Tom was no better. In one paragraph he stated he had no interest in a “friends with benefits” arrangement, and then two minutes later he gave in to Brianna’s seduction.
There were also a few holes in the plot. There was talk about creating an agreement before they got married, and we even saw them discussing it right before the wedding, but there were never any details given on what the agreement entailed. Shortly after the wedding, they discussed creating an agreement again, as if the prior one had never happened. Brianna’s conviction of remaining single wasn’t delved into. Several times she mentioned having no interest in ever getting married, but the story never told us why. One of the main focuses of the plot had to do with Brianna finding out more about her family, yet that felt like it was entirely skipped over. We only saw her interact with her grandfather and great-aunt. The family dinner at her grandfather’s house was told from Tom’s point of view and essentially summed up in a few lines. We didn’t find out why her birth mother was buried in Australia or how Brianna came to be adopted by a family in Scotland. Brianna never questioned who her father was. When her grandfather gave her a box of her mother’s belongings, we didn’t get to see what was in it beyond some pictures of her birth mother and her adoptive mother.
In addition, the growing relationship between Tom and Brianna was glossed over. They went from being friends with benefits to several months later (the timeframe was undefined in the book) and Tom wanting more. At the end of the story, Brianna was completely set against continuing their relationship, and then the next time we saw her, she was jumping into Tom’s arms and telling him she wanted to stay married. There was no explanation for what changed her mind, and then the story was over.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style and the idea for the plot, but unfortunately this lacked follow-through.