Cover Image: The Light Over Lake Como

The Light Over Lake Como

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It has been almost two years since Sarah Zinsi found refuge in Switzerland. Without touching a foreign land, he heard the news of the surrender of his home on Lake Como. Holding her little daughter in her arms, Sarah was forced to cross the mountains to return home to be with the child's father, Luca Benedetto.

Luca defies fate and does one last thing: kill Mussolini, the man who destroyed everything Luca loved and forced the love of his life to flee. Sarah meets a kind-hearted black businessman who later becomes a spy. He vows to protect mother and child as Luca's evil mission escalates and the Nazis' last-ditch effort turns into chaos.

But for Sarah and Luca, the pull of love, the will to live, and the promise of a new family outweighed the challenges they faced.

Writing historical fiction is finding the perfect balance between facts and fiction. This book has effectively achieved. The historical part of the story was smoothly presented and did not feel heavy or dense. That is, I would say, one of the greatest achievements of the book.

Furthermore, the history is narrated from 3 different points of view. Each of them gives the story more context, depth and helps the reader understand better the impact of war on their lives. The writer has archieved a great balance between the narrators, and the combination of their experiences helps create a greater picture.

On the other side, I was lost in the vast scenery of Italy. Sometimes, since the events were happening in different places at the same time, I did not know how close the characters were or where they were going. I feel like a map or a more in-depth description would have been really useful.

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I really enjoyed this take o.n a WWIi historical novel and the history around Mussolini. The setting is beautiful and just felt it was a good book
Thanks for a review copy to Netgalley and publiisher

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The years immediately after 1922 when Mussolini came to power were good in Italy. Large crowds would marvel at his wisdom and embrace his promises of making the Roman Empire a world leader again.

El Duce felt that joining with Hitler would expand Italian territories and strengthen his position in the world. During the beginning of the war this seemed true as the armies swept through North Africa with little or no opposition.

The people became destitute as the war dragged on. Hitler kept Mussolini around to show his support of Italy’s attempts to defeat the allies.

This story deals with the tragedy of war and the hardships that nations endure during conflicts. Even the close confidants of Mussolini began to plot his demise and a total elimination of any support for Germany.

The writing is first rate and the sub-plots are well developed and thought provoking. Enjoy this story. 4.5 stars – CE Williams

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The Light Over Lake Como is a WWII historical fiction novel by Roland Merullo. This book in right in my wheelhouse of perfect blend of WWII history and fictional story. I've read lots of WWII historical fiction about the Nazi's, Germany, Poland, France and England. There are very few that I've read that focuses on Italy and this is the first I've ever read that is set in Lake Como and focuses on the end of Mussolini's rule.
The Light of Lake Como tells a story of the final days of Mussolini and his inner entourage as well as from a young couple (Luca and Sarah) separated by war. The story is told from three perspectives, Luca, Sarah, and Enzo.
Luca is an Italian resistance fighter and Sarah is his Jewish lover. Luca helps Sarah flee while pregnant to Switzerland. The story tells of Sarah's flight with her mother to Switzerland, the birth of her daughter, and the challenges she faces returning to her Italian home looking for Luca. Additionally, the story follows Luca's plight and challenges as a resistance fighter.
From the voice of Enzo, who is working as Mussolini's closest assistant, the story follows his journey and internal battles as he is forced to come to terms with the end of Mussolini's rule and what that means for him personally.
I loved this story and found myself Googling for more information. I hope Hollywood makes it into a movie!
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read the arc. All opinions expressed are my own.

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In 1945 Italy, Mussolini’s days as fascist dictator are numbered. This historical fiction novel is based on the final few weeks before his assassination near Milan. Lake Como, and most of northern Italy, are still German occupied and the hub of partisan resistance during the final days of the war.

Luca and Sarah are lovers torn apart by circumstance. Sarah is pregnant and escapes with her Jewish mother to Switzerland. A priest provides for them and have survived without notice from any authorities for nearly two years. Luca has remained in Nazi-occupied Italy to fight with the resistance. Their child, Lydia, is now a toddler and has yet to meet her father. Sarah is determined to bring their family back together and eventually returns to Italy, though she must overcome abuse and hardship along the way. When Luca is ordered to assassinate Mussolini, he begins questioning his willingness to continue killing.

Enzo, a long-time loyal aide to Mussoulini, is conflicted about his role since his wife left him over his ongoing support of Il Duce. He lives with the dictator in a villa on Lake Como fortified by German security. While he is paid to offer information to the resistance, he wonders how he will ever carve out a life in his beloved Italy after the war ends.


Excellent, detailed plot. An impressive amount of research was required to depict what life was like under occupation in WWII. The characters are highly relatable, with all longing for the war and fighting to end. I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction.

Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC. All opinions are my own.

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Two lovers separated in war-torn Italy struggle to reunite in a riveting and heartrending historical novel

Sarah is pregnant, unmarried and part jewish leaves her home near Lake Como with her mother to escape the Nazi's leaving her lover Luca behind.

The story tells of Sarah's struggles, Luca's work in the resistance and the end of Mussolini.

An interesting read, although a little slow to get going.

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This book tells the story of Mussolini’s last days from a number of different viewpoints. A partisan, the partisan’s girlfriend, one of Mussolini’s aids, and a character whose role in the war is a bit unclear. Hearing the story from four different voices allows the reader a peek into the type of lives these individuals lived and paints a very complete picture of the events. I am fascinated by the description of a small restaurant with a stage that is 2 meters high. I do wonder if maybe there was a mistake in measurement translation. The author writes in an engaging way and uses words I rarely, if ever, come across. The characters are (mostly) pleasant and real. There are some good opportunities to gain some new vocabulary, “caromed off the spigot” or "looking more like self-immolation”. What puzzled me was that there was food available, even pastries and coffee. Were the Italians better off than their northern European neighbors during WWII? It’s a substantial read, but enjoyable because it’s presented in fiction for. Excellent research! There’s a lot of knowledge waiting to be discovered. If you are a history lover and like historical detail over a fast paced story, this is a book you want to pick up.

Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Set in Italy and Switzerland during the last few years of WWII. Sarah is Jewish and pregnant, the Father is Luca, a resistor. Luca helps Sarah and her Mother into Switzerland but won’t go with them. The story tells of the resistance in Northern Italy and the demise of Mussolini. I learned quite a bit from this novel. This book was intense at times. Sarah decides to go back to Italy since the fighting is supposed to be over in Italy. Her daughter is 18 months old. She has to walk a long way over rough terrain. Luca’s mind is focused on his last assignment, assassinating Mussolini. I loved the ending. Highly recommend. I received a free advance review copy, and I am submitting my review voluntarily.

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Roland Merullo has done it again with another captivating novel of Italy during WWII. The Light Over Lake Como is part love story, part war story and a touch of historical thriller. A couple is separated from each other in the final years of the war. The woman is pregnant and forced to flee from her lover and her home in Italy; the man given a final assignment—to assassinate Mussolini. The couple’s struggle to find each other again is assisted by many well-drawn characters. I can’t wait to be able to recommend this terrific story to those that love historical fiction, Italy or anyone that wants a really good story that you can escape into!

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My rating:

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Character development: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for readers of:

Historical Fiction


A fictional story based on real historical fact that describes Mussolini’s final weeks. The story is well written and gives a good overall insight from both a partisan perspective as well as the fascists. As the story is told from the perspective of Enzo, one of Mussolini’s aides, as well as Luca, a partisan fighter, and Sarah, his lover, a Jewish woman who had to flee to Switzerland.

This is a well-written and researched story that has great character development. The characters are interesting and their actions are described in great detail. This made it a very realistic and interesting book to read.

Review copy provided through Netgalley at no cost to me.

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This was a beautifully done story and I was invested in the characters going on through this novel. It uses the historical elements that I was hoping for from the description. It worked with what I was looking for in war in Italy. The love of the characters was beautifully done and I really felt for Luca in this book. Roland Merullo writes a great story with realistic characters that I enjoyed reading this.

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This latest book by Roland Merullo, set in April 1945, gives us an inside look at Mussolini's final, chaotic month. The Allies are getting closer and closer, forcing him out of his safe zone in northern Italy. The voice for this part of the story is Enzo, a senior aide to Mussolini, as he struggles with the ugly reality of the end of Italy's fascist days. The reader also views the life of the partisans through the eyes of Luca, a weary fighter who longs for a quiet, simple life. A third voice is Sarah, a young Jewish-Italian woman who has spent the last two years illegally in Switzerland and is ready to go home.

We have all seen the infamous black-and-white photo of Mussolini, his mistress Claretta, and some of his henchmen hanging upside down in Milan but I didn't know the details of what led to this moment. The author presents an intimate look into Il Duce's mindset at the end, that of a malignant narcissist. I appreciate the amount of research this book required and the beautiful writing that allowed me to absorb all of it painlessly. I highly recommend this one.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the digital ARC. All opinions and the review are my own.

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A truly great WW2 book based in Italy. Wonderful story ,characters and writing You can’t go wrong reading anything by this author! Would definitely recommend. Thank you netgalley for letting me give an honest review of this book.

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