The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino


This book of The Villa Girls is wonderful and a joy to read.  Nicky Pellegrino writes about life, beautiful landscapes and gardens, olive trees and celebrations.  The story involves four girls who become life-long friends and take their holidays together.

Rosie is alone in the world without a family and much of the story is about her interaction with Addolorata’s  family and Italian restaurant, Little Italy.  Rosie makes her own way in the world with a love of photography and works in this field in London.

On one of the holidays to Italy Rosie meets Enzo whose life evolves around his family’s estate of the olive trees.

I found the descriptions of the olive estate, the harvests, the celebrations, food and wine and family of Enzo, especially his Nonna  with her words of wisdom beautiful.  There was beauty in the olive groves and it was a life which seemed to be determined by the state of the trees and the weather.  However, at one time, Enzo’s grand-mother spoke to Enzo and told him to forget the trees for a moment and that if she had made him believe that the olive trees were the most important thing of all then she was sorry.  Nothing is more important than love.  Perhaps counsel such as this and wise words from his sister Concetta, may have made him see sense before he embarked on a marriage of convenience.

This story is well recommended and it is wonderful to read each new chapter with anticipation as the story unfolds.  The settings in London and also Italy with its winding little cobble stone lanes and pizza parlours, coffee shops  and pastries are quite beguiling.  Lovely descriptions of the scenery , the flowering gardens of fruit trees and blooms in the summertime, coastal roads, the villages, beaches of Triente and Amalfi  are also wonderful.




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When in Rome by Nicky Pellegrino

This wonderful story set in Rome by Nicky Pelligrino is enjoyable reading.  I loved the descriptive writing of the streets of Rome. The fountains, the squares, the coffee bars and ice cream parlours.

This story of a woman, Seraphina, who was brought up in Rome with her three sisters by her mother is a fascinating tale where she eventually works in the Maria Lanza house-hold  and befriends his wife, Betty, during their stay in the villa in Rome, where the house-hold was based.

It is also  a tale of romance and the beauty of romantic meetings by the Trevi Fountain in the hot Rome sunshine with the cooling spray of the fountains and the tourists mingled and listened to the young street singers, including Seraphina’s sister, Carmela, who dreams of being a singer.  A charm of the story is the nostalgia of the setting in 1950’s Rome, which is described s as wonderful place to be during these years.

This story which is twinged with sadness regarding  Maria Lanza and his wife and their tribulations and troubles is also enhanced by the high points of the story with celebrations and happy holidays with the Lanza family.  This book is well recommended and seemed very authentic of the times and the people, the staff at the villa, Seraphina’s own family in Rome and the beauty of the times.

I have previously enjoyed reading The Gypsy Tearoom by Nicky Pellegrino which is also published under the title of Summer at the Villa Rosa and now look forward to reading another book by the same author, The Villa Girls.

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Mistress of Beauty

Mistress of Beauty

Mistress of Beauty is the story of Agnes Sorel, a

demoiselle at the court of Isabelle of Lorraine

who subsequently became a mistress of Charles VII

of France was given the Castle of Beauty, also the city of

Vernon and other beautiful estates. I enjoyed

reading this book for the wonderful descriptions of life

at the French court during the Valois era and the magnificent

pageantry of the knights and the colourful royal processions

in which even the horses were richly caparisoned in the colours

of the owners with rich braid threaded through their manes and tails.

This story is quite unique in its telling with the majesty of the royal

castles of the time, the story of Good King Rene and his mother, Queen

Yolande of Aragon, who lived at the Castle of Saumur and the various

members of the royal court and the courts of Lorraine and Anjou. Styles

of dress, entertainments, jousting and the politics of the time are all

included in this epic story.

Charles VII’s son, the Dauphin, who later became Louis XI

is a character in the book as is the well known merchant, Jacques Coeur, who

had his beautiful palace at Bourges. The story of Agnes Sorel is quite poignant and

told from a unique perspective. It is quite a beautiful story.  The King, Charles VII,

became a more assertive and stronger king more sure of himself from earlier times.

He also became successful and claimed territories from the English with

his new found confidence.

Mistress of Beauty is the second novel in a renaissance trilogy written by

Princess Michael of Kent. The first book is the Queen of Four Kingdoms

the story of Yolande of Aragon, which I have not read as yet. I have previously

read The Serpent and The Moon by Princess Michael of Kent which was set during

the time of Henri II of France and is the story of Diane de Poitiers and the king and also

Katherine de Medici. This book is also gives wonderful detail of renaissance France and

the life-style of the time.

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One Summer in Venice

One Summer in Venice

Nicky Pelegrino has written a wonderful book about a woman who visits Venice initially for a week’s holiday and decides to continue her stay in the city over the summer months. The author brings the city of Venice to life with the whimsical characters Addolorata (Dolly) meets and also the atmosphere of the beautiful city by the sea which is built on a lagoon.

There is a Countess in a once imposing palace but which is now badly in need of maintenance and furnishings, an eccentric friend, Coco, who may influence Dolly in some respects regarding her outlook on life and the beautiful dog, Boris, whom Dolly takes for walks around this fascinating city.  The reader actually sees another Venice altogether from the Venice of the tourists.

There is the wonderful architecture, the dancing in the moonlight and the setting sun by the magnificent churches which give an added appeal and also a beautiful glow to the city, the joie de vivre of the populace and the wonderful neighbourhood get togethers. It is a unique insight into the beauty of Venice where the people gather for morning coffee and there are wonderful descriptions of the Venetian food, travel by gondola and magnificent celebrations and religious festivals of which Venice is renowned for with masques, balls and fireworks over the lagoon.

There is also romance in this story and also the story of Dolly’s other life in London. Sometimes she appears to be caught between the two different lives (one in London and one in Venice) and she has to choose what is important for her.  Dolly also has an interesting list of happiness and every so often she will write on her list what makes her happy.

This is an inspsirational book and also one which is well recommended. I have previously read a Nicky Pelegrino book which was also set in Italy.  This was “The Gypsy Tea Room” also published under the title of The House at Villa Rosa which I also enjoyed reading.

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Pegasus by Danielle Steel


Pegasus is a wonderful novel by author Danielle Steel. It is a beautiful story of two families, who left familiar homes and country to start a new life in USA and also England.  The war years intervened and the story continues to the following generations.  This novel is very inspirational and also gives the reader a sense of belonging to this story.  It certainly is an achievement as the characters of the novel seem so real.

I loved the story, which opens in the beginning chapters in Bavaria, Germany and continues the narrative in USA and gives the reader an understanding of the lives the people led before the intervention of the war years and how lives were disrupted and also how fortunes could change.

This book is also a beautiful story of the Lipizzaner horses, beautiful horses which were trained for the Spanish Riding School. This aspect of the novel is also quite beautiful and very poignant to read of the bonds which were formed between the horses and their owners, in particular, the beautiful white horse, Pegasus, and Nicky, a main character of the novel.

This book is a wonderful story of life and love, friendships which endured and a story of the main characters and how their lives panned out over many years, which entailed even working in a circus in USA,which in itself, was a revelation for the wonderful descriptions of circus life and the animals as well as the life in the circus for Nicky and his two sons, Tobias and Lucas. The story of Pegasus and the links formed between the two families, of which Pegasus is a saving grace, is a recurring theme of the novel.   A wonderful story and well recommended.

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The House by the Dvina by Eugenie Fraser

The House by the Dvina, A Russian Childhood by Eugenie Fraser

This is the most wonderful book describing the beauty of living in Old Russia during the author’s childhood. A fascinating insight into a beautiful era which is now lost.  The author’s parents were Scottish and Russian.  Her mother left Scotland as a young bride to live in Archangel, Russia with her husband.  The author was born in Russia.

Included in the story are relatives, friends and family and what a story it is! So beautiful initially with sometimes holidays also to Scotland.  The wonder of the fairyland of beauty during the winter when all was cold and still and the river froze over but yet there were incredible scenic delights and splendours.  Wonderful sleigh and reindeer rides, travelling on sledges and memorable Christmas and Easter celebrations.  Midnight Easter services with lighted candles and laden Easter tables with Easter eggs and wonderful delicacies.

However, this idyll was not to last as the Bolsheviks even came to Archangel eventually with their policies.

So many changes and disruptions to the families and people who had lived and worked all their lives in Russia.

The stories of the people are quite incredible and also beautiful. There is also wonderful romance and fascinating detail regarding life in Old Russia, even stories from the earlier generations, of a great-grand-father who married a serf and of long journeys through the snow.

There was the beauty of life by the River Dvina which was a source of much needed water, vital for washing and also wonderful during the summer time for bathing and boating.   A beautiful garden and summer houses and a house with balconies overlooking the river whereby could be seen the glow of the sunset at the end of a summer’s day.  This was the last the author saw of this beautiful house from a boat which crested a wave and she could see the house bathed in a beautiful sunset glow.

This book certainly is a book to think about afterwards. So much beauty and fascination within its pages and the tragedy of events for many of the characters in the story which finally followed are not revealed until the end of the book.

An excellent story and well recommended.

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The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

This book by Ruth Rendell gives an interesting perspective of England in the days of the 1930’s and 1940’s. A crime is not resolved until many years later when the children and adolescents of the 1930’s and 1940’s who are now older look back to a time when they were young and used to play in the qanats or tunnels on the outskirts of London.   It was also a time when they often had to take shelter underground during the air raids.

What appeals to me about this book is that it is such a wonderful portrayal of life and characters and how they choose to live their lives, the dilemmas they have faced and how they go about resolving their differences. The story is quite unusual and also complex in the beginning as there are many characters to keep track of initially.

This book has a charm and a quality quite unique which I enjoyed for the eccentricities of the main characters who seemed very human.  Ruth Rendell is writing about life in this regard.  Rosemary and Alan, children and grand-children and the dilemma and shock Rosemary has to deal with, Michael and his children and elderly father who had sent him away at an early age.

This book is quite an unusual story but wonderful for a portrayal of the early years in England during the war years and also for being able to understand the qualities of people in different circumstances and an uncanny knack of knowing how people will react to certain situations. A very good book to read.  This book also seemed very real to life with the interesting portrayals of the characters.

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