Francesca Hackett has fled to London, and she now lives in Rome working as a tourist guide, trying to forget about the reasons she left her previous life behind. But one day she finds a designer handbag in her rubbish bin, and when she returns it to the owner, the grand socialist Viscontessa Elana die Damiani Pignatellis dell Mirandola, she is drawn into a world of privilege and intrigue. Elena is delighted to have her handbag returned, especially as it has an unopened letter in it, written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.
Elena likes Francesca on their first meeting, and she invites her to write her biography – something that publishers have been chasing her to do for years, and she has finally decided to tell her story. All she asks is that Francesca doesn’t research her on the Internet as Elena wants to tell her side of the story without Francesca being influenced by the many scandalous articles that have appeared in print over the years. Because what a life she has lived! Born into a wealthy American family and a famed beauty, she was already onto her third husband at the age of twenty-six. And then she met the man who would be her love match – but he is the one man she couldn’t have.
Things get more complicated when Elena’s garden collapses, and experts are called in to evaluate the situation, discovering an ancient tunnel under the building. When a priceless diamond ring is found in the tunnel, Francesca discovers that Elena has been keeping some secrets from her, one of which is especially shocking…
I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful novel. It’s mix of exotic location, engaging characters and a lively plot keep the pages turning to the end. The only thing I wasn’t convinced about was the twists right at the end of the book – they just weren’t believable. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book overall, as there is just so much to cherish about this lovely novel, set in the captivating city of Rome.