Lucinda Riley has become one of my favorite authors; I am particularly enjoying her series of novels called The Seven Sisters. This one however is not a favorite. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.
As Riley explains in the foreword, her publisher asked to re-publish some of her earlier works – now that she has become a bestselling author. (After all, can’t pass up another revenue stream, right?) This novel is among those early books (originally published under the title ARIA by Lucinda Edmonds). Riley says she did some “extensive” rewriting and editing, but it’s still clear to me this is an earlier work.
It’s simply less polished. The plot is less sophisticated, more predictable. Riley doesn’t yet trust the reader to figure things out from the characters, and, instead, has to spell out everything she wants the reader to know. Even the dialog is flatter than what I have come to expect from her more recent novels.
The story however remains engaging and will keep you reading to the very end. It begins with 11-year old Rosanna Menici, just discovering her exceptional singing voice. Though living a very modest life with her family in Naples, Italy her older brother Luca manages to help Rosanna access singing lessons and she develops into a successful opera star.
Most of the book, however, focuses not on her voice and career, but on her lifelong love for older, already-established opera star Roberto Rossini. Theirs is an all-consuming passion, which turns out to have significant drawbacks, particularly for Rosanna. I don’t want to spoil the book, but I’m sure you can probably imagine what some of the plot twists will be.
At the same time, in a secondary plot, Rosanna’s brother Luca is trying to figure out whether he has what it takes to become a priest, with all the sacrifices required. And Rosanna’s older sister Carlotta (the beauty of the family but a more minor character) lives with the consequences of one big mistake made when she was in her late teens.
The book covers about 15 years. You’ll learn a bit about the world of opera. And a little about the behind-the-scenes shady deals that can happen in the art world. But mostly it’s just about people dealing with everyday life — success, commitment, friendship, family, illness, death, and love.
Perhaps if I hadn’t read so many of Riley’s more recent books, I would have rated this higher. But, there you go.
More about the author, Lucinda Riley.
You may be interested in my reviews of other Riley novels: