From Sand and Ash Book Review

I would love to say that we live in a world in which we are free to love who we love without prejudice or fear. But I know better.

Amy Harmon‘s 2016 novel, From Sand and Ash, takes place in Italy during World War II. Batsheva “Eva” Rosselli and Angelo Bianco have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early 20’s, they are madly in love with one another. But there are two obstacles to their potential union. The first obstacle is that Eva is Jewish and Angelo is a Catholic priest. The second obstacle is the German invasion and the fact that Eva, like all Jews in Europe, has a target on her back.

Angelo is doing everything he can to keep her alive. The only way he can keep Eva alive to send her to one of the many hiding places in Catholic Churches, Convents, and Monasteries. But she is not one to contently stay hidden until liberation. When they are discovered and forced apart, Eva and Angelo will fight to be reunited and have the life they have always wanted.

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I can only describe as a historical romantic drama with all of the heart racing moments of a thriller. The question of the novel was whether or not Eva and Angelo would end up together. From the first page to the last page, I was waiting on baited breath for the answer.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Beyond the Ghetto Gates: A Novel Book Review

A woman’s brain is a fearsome thing to behold. Especially when she is not afraid to use it.

Beyond the Ghetto Gates: A Novel, by Michelle Cameron, was published last spring. The books tell the story of two different women. Though they are separated by religion, they are brought together by fate and the French invasion of their home city of Ancona, Italy.

Mirelle is Jewish and like all Jewish residents of the city, she lives in the ghetto. Though she has a mind for numbers, it is inconceivable that she could join her father in the family business. Her only goal, as she is told over and over again, is marriage. She could agree to say “I do” to the older and wealthy businessman that everyone is telling her to marry. Mirelle could also run away and elope with her French Catholic lover, but the consequences of such a union would be disastrous.

Francesca is Catholic and lives in the Christian part of Ancona with her husband and children. To say that he is not Prince Charming is an understatement. When he gets involved with the wrong crowd and helps to steal a miracle portrait of the Madonna, Francesca has a hard choice to make. She could do her wifely duty and support her husband, even when she knows what he did was wrong. Or, she could speak up and create trouble for herself.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I was drawn in by the premise of the novel, the well drawn characters, and the detailed description of the world late 18th century Italy. I also loved the ending, which is atypical for the genre. But if there is one major flaw in the narrative, is that the romance. It is supposed to be the high point of the story, but it falls flat.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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