Title: In Wild Lemon Groves
Author: Selina Kray
Length: 200 Pages
At a Glance: In Wild Lemon Groves is a love letter to Amalfi, Italy, wrapped around the equally lovely story of a man who learns to live and love again.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A telltale knock on a quiet winter night is a sound no husband wants to hear.
Sébastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he’s haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry’s notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb’s there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.
Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb’s case of the sulks. But Seb isn’t sure he’s ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.
Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb’s wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over?
Review: Selina Kray’s In Wild Lemon Groves is several things at once: It’s the story of a man who travels halfway around the world to rediscover passion and the simple joy of living again. It’s a celebration of newfound friends and a potential new romance. And, perhaps most of all, it’s a love letter to Amalfi, Italy—the people, the food and drink, and the surrounding countryside illustrated in breathtaking detail. In fact, it’s the author’s obvious love for her setting that shines bright throughout the book and at times even eclipses her characters, as if she’s dipped a brush in a pallet of memories and then painted the landscape for her readers. While she might not have intended it to be so, this was my favorite thing about the book. The vibrant and descriptive elements of its setting made me want to pack a bag and hop a flight to Italy right this minute.
Sébastien Osaki is in a recovery and rehab phase, though not from drugs or alcohol. It’s been three years since the death of his husband, Henry, and in that time, Seb lost the one thing that had made life the joyful thing it was in the ten years he’d spent with Henry at his side. Gathering together the notebook filled with details his husband had logged as a travel writer, Seb sets off to Amalfi to follow in Henry’s footsteps, to see Italy not only through Henry’s recommendations but with Seb’s own senses, to make his own memories. Little did he expect to encounter someone with a connection to his deceased husband. It is a small world after all.
Andrea Sorrentino is Seb’s first taste of Amalfi. Fresh off the too-long flight from Montreal—stale, exhausted, and wanting nothing more than to get to his lodgings—Andrea hits Seb like a burst of pure energy. Andrea happens to be Seb’s mode of transportation to his home-away-from-home, and thus begins their story—Seb’s determination to follow Henry’s advice and connect with the locals, and Andrea’s penchant for being in the right place at the right time to facilitate, if not to be, that connection.
Part Seb getting his groove back, part his eating and, eventually, loving—without the deep navel gazing part—In Wild Lemon Groves is about not only a journey of miles but one of baby steps as well. If you’re looking for a novel with loads of action and chaos, that’s not this book. It’s a quiet story, at times introspective of Seb’s loss and the resulting grief, but is ultimately a story of building new friendships, embracing each moment for what it is, and finding the courage to move forward, whether that moving forward means going it alone or grabbing hold of what’s right in front of you for the taking. From the American women Seb meets, who draw him in and take him under their collective wing, to Andrea and his family, Kray builds a cast of characters who support Seb on his quest for a new beginning while still holding on to the love he shared and memories he’d made with Henry.
Impassioned is the word that kept popping into my head as I was reading this novel. Sentimental, stirring, romantic, passionate are each synonymous with this story, and I’m happy with where Kray elected to leave Seb and Andrea at the end. To have tied everything up with a neat bow of happily-ever-after would have been tough to buy into, so the simple hint of possibilities worked for me. And I just loved Andrea—his eloquent shrugs, his pride, his love for his gorgeous corner of the world, the surprising little reveals, and even his running away from his feelings out of fear of being hurt—they all came together to make him embraceable.
I picked up this book because I was so impressed by the author’s Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo that I wanted to see what she would do with a category romance in a contemporary setting. In Wild Lemon Groves couldn’t be more different from Stoker & Bash if it tried, and while I can’t declare that different is better in this case—I have an exceedingly soft spot for Timothy Stoker and Hieronymus Bash, after all—I can say that I’m glad I got to experience Seb and Andrea’s story, because it is an experience, and enjoyed playing armchair tourist through Kray’s visionary storytelling.
You can buy In Wild Lemon Groves here: