Title: Bella Cigna (Foreign Endearments #1)
Author: Wendi Dass
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Publication date: September 30, 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
One Sentence Summary: After being unceremoniously dumped by her husband after failing to conceive, Sarah turns back to her teaching roots to teach English in Italy, hoping for a new start to her life, and maybe find love again.
There are two countries I adore reading about: France and Italy. Don’t ask me why. Even though romance isn’t really my thing, I knew I needed to read it simply because it was set in Italy. It also sounded like a lovely story with a woman trying to find herself, and maybe a new romance, after her husband abruptly decides to leave her. Just because of that I knew the heroine was going to be a bit older, closer to my age, which I really look for these days, reading about a character I can identify with.
A Sweet Story About Loving Again
Sarah Flynn receives the news she’s been dying to hear: her last chance fertility clinic has an opening. She rushes home to tell her husband, only to find him in the process of leaving her. Devastated, she has only her best friend and her mother to turn to for support.
And to have a posting for a teaching position in Italy pushed at her. Sarah misses her teaching days and desperately wants to leave her life and ex-husband behind. She takes the job, dreaming of days sketching and touring all of the artwork Rome has to offer.
The only thing is, the position is at a Catholic girls’ school under the watchful eye of Sister Maria. Fellow American teacher, Anna, though, does everything in her power to make sure Sarah has a good time, though Sister Maria hopes Sarah will have a grounding influence on the partying Anna.
Sarah is grateful for Anna’s help and friendship, but she’s still reeling from her divorce. Her growing attraction to divorced father Eduardo complicates her life, but it might also give her an avenue to moving forward.
Bella Cigna is such a sweet story. It felt equal parts women’s fiction, with Sarah rediscovering herself, and romance, with the growing attraction between Sarah and Eduardo. The beginning felt a little slow and I felt a little mired in Sarah’s devastation, but then it picked up and her relationships moved at a realistic pace that had me believing I was there alongside her.
I really enjoyed this story. It had it’s fun parts with Anna, but it was also serious as Sarah, and Anna, needed to figure out where to go with their lives. I did feel a lot of the problems stemmed from miscommunication and lack of communication, which was frustrating as it seemed to be at every downward turn in the story. But I really adored the scheming that went on behind the scenes to push Sarah and Eduardo together. They were a lovely couple that clearly belonged together from the time they meet. I appreciated the starts and stops they encountered throughout the story as they felt realistic. Overall, this story just flowed and I never felt anything was out of character, so reading it made me feel like I was just going along with the flow and instead of having to stop and ruminate with a frown.
Amazing and Distinct Characters Blending Perfectly
Each character was distinct and they blended together really well. There was the stern, yet caring Sister Maria; the fun-loving, midnight-escaping Anna; the sweet, yet shy student Lucia; and Lucia’s incredibly irresistible father Eduardo. They each added something to Sarah’s life in Italy, each giving her a piece to her puzzle as she healed her heart through art and love.
I loved that Sarah was a bit older. She’d been married and tried to become a mother. Creating and maintaining a romantic relationship isn’t new to her. But she’s also a bit uncertain about herself, exacerbated by her husband leaving her. I liked that, even though she’s not in her twenties, she’s still a bit hesitant, still trying to figure things out, still doesn’t have it all together. Being about the same age as her, she really struck a chord in me.
The relationship between Sarah and Eduardo, while sweet, wasn’t easy. I loved when they were together because I, as the reader, couldn’t help but feel the spark between them. It pained me when something tore them apart. Yet I felt it was largely due to a lack of communication. Sarah didn’t always feel clear with him, didn’t always try hard enough to communicate. Eduardo felt like he was quick to jump to conclusions and shut down way too fast. But, considering both are divorced, it’s easy to explain away as scars from their failed relationships. But, seriously, when Eduardo wasn’t acting the dense manly man, he was really quite sweet and fun, and even a bit dreamy.
The Art of Rome
Bella Cigna is set mostly in Italy. It’s romantic and beautiful and the perfect setting for this story. I did struggle a bit with actually visualizing Italy, but I loved that it was seen through the eyes of an artist. The focus of the setting was on the art Rome has to offer, which was so fitting considering Sarah is an artist who practically lives and breathes art. It gave me a different sense of the city, one that made it feel real and vibrant to me through her. Instead of describing how the buildings looked and how the roads were laid out and so forth, it really brought the art of Rome to life, tying in perfectly with the characters and the story. The world building in Bella Cigna could not have been more perfect.
I was a little disappointed at first when it seemed that Sarah wouldn’t have any time to explore Rome since she had to start setting up for the start of school right away. But the girls’ school was equally interesting. Sister Maria runs the school with a firm, yet understanding hand. She, too, has experienced life, and it comes through in how she does everything. The school did feel a little austere, which was to be expected. But I felt like I was walking the halls with Sarah. Most of all, I loved the attention to detail Sarah put into her classroom and, as I read this during distance learning with my own elementary school aged-child, it made my heart ache a little, and made me appreciate all the time and love teachers put into their students. As austere as the school felt, it was also full of care and a love for the students.
Failures to Communicate, But Still Sweet
Bella Cigna, as I mentioned, is a sweet story. It has it’s bumpiness as all stories do, but the road was always winding towards it’s inevitable conclusion. I loved reading about a woman in her thirties who’s back to having to figure things out, and adored reading about her growing love for Italy while also trying desperately to have as many options as possible. This was a lovely, easy read. My only issue was the mass amount of poor communication, which felt a bit at odds with a teacher whose job it is to communicate, but it was otherwise a beautiful novel full of love, friendship, and hope. Listed as the first in the Foreign Endearments series, I’m hoping for a second novel, especially if it’s as sweet as this one.
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Thank you to author Wendi Dass and publicist Penny Sansevieri for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.