Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review - Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott

Dating da Vinci
Author: Malena Lott
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released: November 1, 2008

Synopsis

A linguist and English teacher, 36-year-old widow, and mother of two, Ramona Elise starts to fall for one of her students-a gorgeous 25-year-old Italian immigrant whose name just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci. She knows she shouldn't take him home, but he has nowhere to live and barely speaks English.

She helps him forge a new life in America, and he helps her to find joy again after grieving her beloved husband. Complications soon arise and Ramona finds her life shaken up a good deal more than she'd ever bargained for.

Review

I rather liked this story of a woman rising above her grief and coming to terms with not just her husband's death but also re-learning how to live and be her person after being half of a whole for so long. It’s somewhat inspiring and enjoyable. There were some things I didn’t like, but more on that later. Let me focus on the main issue – the Italian hunk (mamma mia!).

Da Vinci here is a sexy young man with a lovely accent who makes this older woman, a widow with 2 children, feel like the sexiest woman alive. And it was lovely to see how that changes Ramona for the better. Heck, just reading it cheered me up! And like da Vinci of old, he’s a jack of all trades. There’s also a clever play on words which da Vinci capitalizes on since you can find Mona Lisa by rearranging the words of Ramona Elise, sort of like finding the Mona Lisa in Ramona. This is apt since Ramona is a linguist and the whole story has countless mentions of words, their origins, meanings, Scrabble games, etc, which makes for enjoyable reading.

Before Ramona knows it, she and Da Vinci are considered a pair. But without resolving the doubts she has about her deceased husband’s love and fidelity, Ramona finds herself unable to move forward in her new relationship. This was particularly intriguing - Ramona's internal struggle; for she idolizes her husband and fears to find his feet of clay. Since this is something she feels she can't share with anyone, it's a burden she has to carry alone.

Oh, and let’s not forget the other man who professes romantic interest in Ramona, leaving her with two hot men to contend with! There are also some interesting side stories involving the Evangelical Moms, a fitness-guru of a narcissistic sister with her pageant-weary 5 year old, the Russian mail-order bride, a friend who finds herself saddled with her grandkid, and many more. So, it's just not Ramona's story but all theirs woven together with hers. Overall, the journey, filled with growth, love, sex, hope, sorrow, children, friends and family makes for some pleasurable reading.

Cons

I say “some pleasurable”, not totally or utterly. That’s because, as I’d mentioned above, I didn’t like some things. It’s mainly with the way narrative progresses, which it does in unexpected fast-forward jerks between consecutive chapters. What I mean to say is:  in one chapter we see Ramona bemoaning her weight issues. In the next chapter, things suddenly begin from a point of time 2 weeks (or some such) forward, all of which time Ramona has apparently spent jogging daily with da Vinci. It left me quite bewildered initially. But I soon got the hang of it, and didn't bother to assume the time line again between chapters as this keeps happening again and again.

Another thing that was initially understandable and which even had me sympathetic for a while was the difference the author makes between "The Grievers" and "The Normals" all through the story. Yes, I fall in the 'Normals' category and so perhaps, I don't "get" it, but after a while this constant labeling of people got on my nerves. While this is a story of a woman rising above tragic circumstances, I felt too much was made of this difference than I could personally digest.

Surprisingly, Ramona’s young sons take to the new hunk in their Mom’s life with little to no hostility which I did find quite surprising. The way they soon become one cozy family is to be read to be believed. But I still have my doubts. There could have been an interesting twist to the story there, but sadly, nothing is made of it.

In Short

Despite its heavy subject and some flaws, this is a sweet story with a positive message.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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