The Tuscan Child

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

Rhys Bowen has captured me with a marvelous book from page one. I loved this novel sweeping between two eras in Italy. 
She is remarkable in her ability to form a well crafted story . 
All expertly researched placing the reader in Italy with the characters. 
This book is  giving two stories -the WWII experience of the main character's father in Italy and the 1970's daughter trying to find out more about his war experience and his love of his life. 
It is wonderfully done and quite engaging. I loved it and read it cover to cover. 
Thank you for the ARC which did not influence my review .
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The Tuscan Child is a book I read a few months ago that I had been wanting to write a full-length review for…and never got around to it. I still want to gush over it, however, so a mini review it is! Back in November, I FINALLY discovered Rhys after falling hard for a Christmas-themed mystery, The Ghost of Christmas Past. When I saw a standalone WWII novel available on netgalley, I couldn’t request it fast enough.

The Tuscan Child is a dual-era novel (SWOON) telling the tale of a woman in the early 1970s who returns home to her family’s once lavish country estate (since turned into a girls’ boarding school) upon the news of her father’s death. While cleaning out Sir Hugo’s belongings, Joanna discovers a small box, a box that holds a letter – written in Italian?? – along with several small artifacts. As she digs into the box’s contents, she learns much more about her father than he ever let on, his time during the war, his stay in Italy, a woman and child (his?) he cared for. It’s clear to me that Rhys Bowen is no one hit wonder – I loved this story and am eager to dive into more of her work! On a side note, while reading Laura Madeleine’s Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I couldn’t help but compare the two: foodies will delight in both of these stories. While Cherries is centered in southern France, The Tuscan Child features pages upon pages of mouth-watering descriptions of Italian dishes.
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In 1944 an English pilot is shot down over San Salvatore. Badly wounded, he seeks shelter in a bombed-out monastery. With the aid of a beautiful woman, he hides from the Germans. 30 years later, his daughter finds an unopened letter to the woman among her father's effects.

Determined to ferret out the truth, Joanna Langley goes to Tuscany to seek out anyone who can help her find the woman who helped her father, but everyone denies any knowledge of her father or the woman.

Bit by bit she unravels the mystery and the final shocking conclusion. Along the way she finds healing for herself and love.
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The Tuscan Child marks my first experience reading one of Rhys Bowen’s adult novels even though she’s written many, primarily mysteries. However, when I was in middle and high school, I was a fan of the Sweet Dreams teenage romances and have fond memories of them, including the ones written by Bowen under her real name. 

Both foodies and anyone dreaming of a vacation in scenic Italy should be drawn to The Tuscan Child. It fits in with two historical fiction trends – multi-period novels about secrets from the past, and World War II – and its locale and plot twists add originality. 

In 1973, following some personal trauma, Joanna Langley returns home to Surrey after getting notified of her father’s unexpected death. Sir Hugo Langley had been a baronet, but financial hardship had forced him to sell the family estate, Langley Hall, years ago. Now it’s a girls’ boarding school, which Joanna attended growing up; Sir Hugo had worked as the art master there while living with his wife and daughter in the gatekeeper’s lodge. A mystery unfolds when Joanna goes through her father’s effects and finds a love letter he wrote, in Italian, addressed to “Mia carissima Sofia” and referring to “their beautiful boy,” whose whereabouts he kept secret. The letter had been returned to sender. 

Joanna knows that Sir Hugo, a former RAF pilot, had flown WWII bombing missions and was injured after being shot down but never spoke about it. Needless to say, an unknown half-brother is quite a surprise. Joanna has little to go on but, determined to find him, she packs up and travels to Italy for answers. Her story alternates with Hugo’s nearly thirty years earlier, as he parachutes out of a damaged plane, conceals himself in crumbling monastery ruins near the Tuscan village of San Salvatore, and is aided by a young mother, Sofia, whose husband is missing in action. 

Bowen made feel I was there alongside Hugo—cold, feverish, and creatively devising sources of shelter and food—and Joanna, experiencing a sense of freedom in the sun-dappled Tuscan hills. Both father and daughter find themselves in life-threatening situations: he from the Germans, and she because soon after she arrives, she learns someone doesn’t want old secrets uncovered. 

The suspenseful aspects are counterbalanced by the mouthwatering recipes (Joanna’s landlady is a talented cook who wants to fatten her up so she'll find a husband) and depictions of the picturesque Tuscan countryside, with its rows of olive trees, rocky crags, and ocher-colored roofs. The Tuscan Child isn’t a mystery by genre; the plot is rather sedate at times. Still, Bowen’s deep roots in the genre are noticeable. I admired one plot twist, since I would have found it nearly impossible to predict. 

Despite some stereotypical personalities, I enjoyed spending time in San Salvatore and recommend the book to anyone who wants to “travel by novel.” 

(Published at Reading the Past)
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Set in two time lines, 1973 and 1944.  Flash back to Tuscany 1944, before his plane crashes and burns, Hugo Langley parachutes down in an open field, surrounded with olive trees.  In 1973 Joanna Langley, is called back to her home from London upon the death of her father.  She is the sole survivor of his estate, which is now a school for girls and even though her father was titled, there is nothing much left of his estate.  Except for a mysterious letter found among his belongings.  With nothing left to keep her there and with what little money was left to her, Joanna goes off to Italy to clear the mystery left by the letter.

I find it interesting to read a story divided by different decades, it's what keeps a book interesting.  There is always one story that takes over, that is more interesting.  This was not the case here, both kept me glued to the book.  What I find most true of today's novels is the used of dual timelines, as it seems the norm these days.  There are many readers who are not in favor of this method, for me it is enjoyable, especially in the historic genre.

This is a 4 star review and happily so.  Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a honest review.
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The pace was too slow for me on this particular book.  While I love her Georgie series and In Fairleigh Field, I was not as enamored with this story.
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This was a very good story set in two time periods, one during WW-ll where a British pilot, Hugo Langley is shot down over Tuscany and the other in 1973 and of Hugo's daughter Joanna Langley, who when told that her father had died, goes back to her old home to take care of any arrangements and to sort out his few belongings. She and her father had been estranged but while going through his belongings, she finds a letter which he had written to a woman by the name of Sofia Bartoli in Italy, but which had been returned unopened, many many years ago.
Her father had never really talked about his time in Italy and when Joanna, finds that letter she has an urge to see what happened to him in his time there, and to get a better picture of who he really was.
Going through her own tough time in London, she decides she will make the trip, to the small town where his plane went down.
This novel has a good story line on both ends, we meet some very memorable characters and experience, the feel of a small Italian town, with all of its warmth, food, love and mystery. This was a fun read.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC of this book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Rhys Bowen for allowing me to read and review The Tuscan Child. I really enjoyed this book!
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The Tuscan Child follows two stories, that of Hugo, a WW2 bomber pilot who crashes in Tuscany in 1944 and the woman who helps him survive, and then Joanna in 1973 just after her dad, Hugo, has died. From Hugo’s possessions she finds out about a woman called Sofia Bartoli that had helped him during the war and that they apparently had a child. Joanna decides to travel to San Salvatore in Tuscany, the village near the place her father crashed, to find out more about her father, Sofia Bartoli and the brother she never knew she had. Once there she rents a room from a motherly woman called Paola and her daughter and starts to ask around about her father. When a man is found dead in the well outside her room the police suspect her of the deed and there seem to be parties in the town that deseperatly want her and her questions gone.

I did find it a tad slow paced as  nothing much really happens in the first half of the book. Overall, it was a decent story. It was a much better effort than Bowen’s earlier novel, in Farleigh Field, in terms of characters and story.
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I had enjoyed In Farleigh Field, so I was pleased to get an advance copy of this novel.  Bowen is again covering the time period of WWII.  The book is told in two parts, Hugo Langley’s escape after his plane goes down over Tuscany in 1944 and his daughter Joanna’s return to their home after his death in 1973 and subsequent trip to Italy.   

This book starts off slowly.  I wasn’t immediately invested in Joanna’s story.  For starters, I had trouble identifying the era. The only time the 70s came through was when Joanna was explaining why she was a solicitor rather than a barrister.  It took me right back to my own story, back when I was starting off in banking and told I couldn’t enter commercial lending.  In both cases what we lacked was down below not up above.  

Luckily, Bowen does a much better job placing you in Tuscany than in time.  Her descriptions took me right back there.  And don’t read this while hungry, she does a great job describing the food.  

But overall, the book had trouble holding my interest.  Even with a murder, it lacks suspense.  I could see where things were going from miles away.  Also, there are several implausible scenes in the book, especially at the end.  The only good news is that there is a big twist I didn’t see coming in Hugo’s story.  

My thanks to netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for an advance copy of this book.
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Rhys Bowen is a new-to-me author so I didn't know what to expect when I started The Tuscan Child. I loved everything about this book; the story line, the wonderful way the author writes, and the way she made me feel like I was there with her characters—characters that I came to care about.

The story is told from two different time frames, going back and forth as Joanna digs into her father's past and learns about the mysterious Sofia. There is enough mystery, intrigue, and suspense to keep the story moving forward and kept me wanting to read 'just one more chapter'.

I am definitely going to be reading more of Rhys Bowen's stories, now that I have discovered her!
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Historical novels usually have to be very good in order to capture and hold my attention, and this one fit the bill. In this story, we travel with Joanna Langley from Surrey, England in the early 1970s into the lush, rolling hills of Tuscany and the little village of San Salvatore as she searches for clues about her recently deceased father’s past. Along the way, we are also treated to her father’s story of survival and romance at the end of German occupation of Italy during WWII.

The story was well-written and compelling. The dual timelines were not distracting, but instead lent even more drama and build-up to the story as a whole. Both perspectives were given equal attention and were very well represented by the author. Bowen’s writing was crisp and colorful without being muddled in unnecessary details. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the Tuscan landscape and the delicious food – it made me long to visit Italy.

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this novel for its skilled placement in two distinctly different eras of history. Lovers of romantic fiction will also appreciate the tender love stories that develop as well.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and the author for the opportunity for me to read and review this book.
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If you read me, you know I love Rhys Bowen’s mystery series (Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness, to name two of them). Every now and then she steps out and writes a stand alone (e.g. In Farleigh Field). THE TUSCAN CHILD is just that – a stand alone novel that tells the story of a WWII lost love, a young woman looking for part of her past, and the beautiful Tuscan countryside that is the setting for it all.

I really enjoyed this one (no surprise), and I think readers who enjoy mystery and family relationships and WWII will connect with this novel.
I received this e-copy via Ms. Bowen’s publicist and Net Galley – thank you!!
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This book pulls you into its tale of mystery, romance, and historical fiction.  I found the WWII story wonderfully written and look forward to more from this author.
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I am reviewing this book for Rhys Bowen, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley who gave me a copy of their book for an honest review.
I really enjoyed how the story is told in the past and present. An easy read which tells the love story of a woman’s father – on his death she finds a love letter and begins to investigate. Perfect
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*3.5 stars rounded up.

In December, 1944, Hugo Langley is a young British pilot who is forced to parachute from his burning plane over Italy. Hugo has received a leg wound and is sure he will soon die until a young Tuscan woman comes to his aid. 

Nearly thirty years later, his daughter Joanna is sorting through his papers after his death when she discovers an old sealed letter addressed to an Italian woman named Sofia. A letter that is marked "Not known at this address. Return to Sender." It is a love letter in which Hugo says "I want you to know that our beautiful boy is safe. He is hidden where only you can find him." Joanna is stunned--did her father have a child with an Italian woman during the war? Is so, was that child ever returned safely to his mother? 

Since her own life is currently in shambles, Joanna decides to travel to San Salvatore in Tuscany, Italy to see if she can piece together the past. No one there remembers a wounded British pilot during the war but soon a man is found murdered and Joanna becomes the chief suspect. 

A nice blend of the past and present (1973) reveals an interesting story. Perhaps the ending is a bit too pat, hence the drop in stars, but it is heart-warming story filled with descriptions of delicious-sounding Italian meals and pleasant, welcoming villagers. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, Rhys Bowen and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read an arc of this new book in exhange for an honest review.
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I really loved this novel. It takes place during World War ll in Italy.. 
I enjoyed how each chapter told a part of the story from that past and then the present, making it an easy read to follow, and kept my interest and heart jumping.
I was quickly absorbed by the beautiful findings within the monastery, the wonderful recipes shared, and the scenery of Tuscany both in the past and in the present times.
This was truly a love story and will be long remembered by all!
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A pleasant, cozy book, despite the war-time setting and the hint of a murder mystery.
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Thanks Lake Union Publishing and netgalley for this ARC.

This past/present novel balances the story perfectly. Loved seeing Tuscany thru Rhys Bowen's lenses in this story. Learning about her distant father, taking control of her chaotic life, and learning to keep a open mind makes this a quick goodie.
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In search of the truth of her father's experiences in WWII Italy, his daughter returns to the Tuscan countryside to try to find out what happened during those tumultuous times. Attempting to understand her own emotions and those of her father will stretch her acceptance of what life dishes out to us all.
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