Hotel Portofino

Narrated by Esther Wane
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Pub Date 18 Jan 2022 | Archive Date Not set

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*Hotel Portofino TV Series Coming to the US on PBS June 19, 2022!*

For fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown … welcome to Hotel Portofino, where romance, revelry, and intrigue await.

A heady historical drama about a British family who opens an upper-class hotel on the magical Italian Riviera during the Roaring Twenties.

Hotel Portofino has been open for only a few weeks, but already the problems are mounting for its owner Bella Ainsworth. Her high-class guests are demanding and hard to please. And she’s being targeted by a scheming and corrupt local politician, who threatens to drag her into the red-hot cauldron of Mussolini’s Italy. 

To make matters worse, her marriage is in trouble, and her children are still struggling to recover from the repercussions of the Great War. All eyes are on the arrival of a potential love match for her son Lucian, but events don’t go to plan, which will have far-reaching consequences for the whole family. 

Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera, Hotel Portofino is a story of personal awakening at a time of global upheaval and of the liberating influence of Italy’s enchanting culture, climate, and cuisine on British “innocents abroad.”

*Hotel Portofino TV Series Coming to the US on PBS June 19, 2022!*

For fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown … welcome to Hotel Portofino, where romance, revelry, and intrigue await.

A heady historical...

Advance Praise

"Already slated to air as a TV series on PBS, O’Connell’s (The Ethiopian) historical novel, brimming with drama, romance, and intrigue set on the beautiful Italian Riviera during the 1920s, is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey. It also includes a diverse cast of characters and deftly addresses the prejudices of the era."

-Library Journal

“In the genre of Agatha Christie, Henry James, Edith Wharton, this story delights. The author’s descriptions of Portofino are lovely, the characters fully formed. And the story whispers a warning—beware the subtle ways in which freedom can be lost.”

-Pamela Binnings Ewen, bestselling author of The Queen of Paris

"Already slated to air as a TV series on PBS, O’Connell’s (The Ethiopian) historical novel, brimming with drama, romance, and intrigue set on the beautiful Italian Riviera during the 1920s, is...

Available Editions

EDITION Audiobook, Unabridged
ISBN 9798200816675
PRICE $22.95 (USD)
DURATION 11 Hours, 44 Minutes, 25 Seconds

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (AUDIO)

Average rating from 80 members

Featured Reviews

Surprisingly good -- a nice choice for Downton Abbey fans.

Review copy provided by publisher.


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Set in the Italian Riviera between two World Wars, this is the story of Bella Ainsworth and her grand Hotel Portofino. Bella is caught between her spoiled and demanding guests and a scheming local politician who travels in Mussolini’s poisoned orbit. To make matters worse, Bella’s marriage is in trouble and she’s attempting to see her adult children happily settled down and married, but World War I has left its mark on Bella’s son Lucian and he sees a very different future for himself. As I listened to this story, I couldn’t help compare our modern woes (a never ending global pandemic) with those of the characters in this story (and their real life counterparts), who had to face a pandemic and two world wars in the span of two decades. Luckily, Bella (and our forebears) were heartier folk than we are, otherwise who knows where we would be today?

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an audio copy to listen to and review.

I'll be honest - at first it was a bit difficult to get into the story of this on audio. There are a lot of characters to organize and keep track of. However, the story was so good! A hotel in Italy in the 1920 gives off Downton Abbey vibes - we meet the family that owns the hotel as well as the guests and staff that are staying there during the time of the story. I love the sheer grandness of aristocratic families and I'm finding I like to read how barrier changes at that time. The characters are well written - some are lovely from start to end and some are complete cads that only get worse. A great book!

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Hotel Portofino by J.P. O’Connell and audiobook narrated by Esther Wane is a great historical fiction that takes us into the heart of the glitz and glamour of the British upper class on the Riviera in the 1920s.

Such a fascinating and evocative era…the 1920s took many societies from one extreme to the other. While things were hot…they were hot. The author does a wonderful job taking the reader into the glamorous daily lives of the upper crust among those living and basking in the glow of the Italian Riviera. There were darker aspects as well with a second undercurrent, and those two juxtaposed concepts were balanced nicely.

As a more character-driven novel, we see more of the daily lives, shifts, relationships, and experiences of the characters living in and around the hotel than necessarily an action-packed narrative, and that’s ok. It was wonderful and fascinating to take a peak into this time period…in this location…and into these lives.

The audiobook was also wonderful and the narrator does an excellent job bringing this full cast to life.

4/5 stars

Thank you NG and Blackstone Publishing for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 1/18/22.

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Well.. this story definitely gave me Downton Abbey / Great Gatsby vibes! Let’s just start by saying how gorgeous I find this cover to be.. 😍 I would love to have this displayed on my bookshelf! I appreciated the character names, I found them to be charming and unique. The conversations between the characters were very well-written and had a nice flow throughout the story. The description of the setting and surroundings during this book was elegant and nostalgic. I found this story to be an overall refreshing and vibrant read!

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Readers who are fans of Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey are almost certain to enjoy this sprawling, involving historical novel. It is already set to become a TV series on Masterpiece Theater in the U.S. and on other international networks as well.

The book has a wonderful setting in the town of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. The hotel that Bella runs is exquisitely described. (I am ready to book my room). The time period is pre-WWII and Mussolini is becoming someone with whom to reckon.

There are many characters in the story. Some are family of Bella, some are guests and some are those who work for the hotel. Readers will eagerly read all of their stories and watch to see how the characters interact with one another.

There are too many people to list here. Below are some:

Bella is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and the owner and proprietor of the hotel. Her husband, Cedric, is from the aristocracy and does not really respect her although he enjoys her money. Bella has a connection with Henry. How will this play out?

Bella and Cedric have a daughter and granddaughter. They also have a son, Lucien. Lucien, to his father’s dismay, is a striving artist who may not want the “family pile.” Lucien has been scarred both literally and figuratively by events in WWI. A close friend of Lucien’s is Nish, a medic in the war.

Lucien’s father hopes that he will marry Rose. Rose is the daughter of a former love of Cedric. Will he? What will be the repercussions of his decision?

Some of the many guests are Rose and her mother, a querulous older woman and her niece, and an Italian count and his son.

Staff include the cook, Betty and her daughter. There is also Paola, who unlike some of the other staff, is Italian. Readers also meet Constance who arrives as a nanny.

How will all of these characters evolve over the course of the story? How will they be impacted by life at the hotel and, also, by what is happening in the world? Read this enthralling saga to find out.

I experienced a real treat with Hotel Portofino. I alternated between reading the book and listening to it when I was out and about. The audio book narration was so well done. All of the characters came to life and, as I did chores, I escaped to a fascinating place. Whether the choice is made to listen, read, or do both, give this one a place in the TBR.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Hotel Portofino is a tale of a hotel on the Italian coast in the 1920's with an ensemble cast of characters, anchored by the owner, Bella Ainsworth, and her dysfunctional family consisting of her war-scarred son, bitter and widowed daughter, and rarely present husband.

The hotel guests and staff have significant roles in the narrative, and by the end of the book, many new relationships and bonds have formed. It was a little bit like an episode of Fantasy Island, some found love, some lost it, and others just found themselves. This could easily become a series with different guests in each new title with the family present and evolving. The family is left fractured, each member with their own source of disappointment and we're left wondering if they will continue on these trajectories.

A beautiful story that meanders between characters at a leisurely pace, setting scenes and revealing twists. The audio narration was delightful.

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Thank you to JP O'Connell, Blackstone Audio, and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Bella Ainsworth and her family (her husband Cecil and son Lucien) left the UK to run Hotel Portofino in 1926 after the Great War. Lucien, who survived WW1 after being helped his friend Nish, who is hiding his sexuality.

These are just a few of the wonderfully vibrant characters in this book. I really enjoyed this and I cannot wait to see the series based on this family and their story. The audiobook narrator, Esther Wane, was wonderful at bringing these characters to life.

I really hope this is the first in a series of stories from this world. In the lead up to WW2, I would love to hear how they navigate the changing political climate in Italy and the world.

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The newest Downton Abbey movie has the Crawleys headed to the south of France for a vacation! Which makes me thrilled to have read this charming story of a Hotel in Portofino, Italy during the years just after WW1.

We get to see the new, British owners of the Hotel Portofino settle in to running a hotel with their adult children. The guests are eccentric, there is a mystery around a piece of stolen art, and some romantic relationships coming together and falling apart.

In short, it’s a family drama perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, plus, it’s being turned into a show on PBS as well!

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I read the description that this book has Downton Abbey vibes, but placed in an Italian hotel and boy was that spot on! I loved the different storylines throughout this book, from the maids to the owners of Hotel Portofino. I found the historical fiction aspect of this book to be very intriguing and a nice backdrop to a fun read. I enjoyed listening to this book and thought the narrator did a great job encapsulating each character. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I was captivated throughout.

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This review is for the audiobook of Hotel Portofino.

I want to first note that I thought Esther Wane did a fantastic job narrating J.P. O'Connell's Hotel Portofino, She easily shifted between English and Italian and truly immersed me in this book.
It can be challenging to follow an audiobook that includes so many characters, but I thoroughly enjoyed Hotel Portofino. I know that the story was frequently compared to the style of Downton Abbey or Up the Down Staircase, but I think that Hotel Portofino stood out amongst these by the depth in which each character was drawn, but about halfway through, it took everything I had to not ignore the rest of the world to keep listening. This audiobook was an absolute delight.

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