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Feature book: The Right Place

15 May 2019

The Right Place by Carla Caruso

Subgenre: women’s fiction
Release date: 1 Sep 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Format: ebook and print
Length: 332 pages
RRP: $9.99 (ebook); $29.99 (print)

Every now and then a very special book comes along, and this is one of them. My first by Carla Caruso, and I guarantee it won’t be my last! What a delight it was to read.

Nella Martini has inherited her Nonna’s market garden in Adelaide, Torrente Blu, and returns from the high fashion world of Melbourne to empty out the house to sell. She’s leaving her failed fashion shop behind (but not the mountain of debt!), and also a failed relationship. But, if she can sell the property and pay off her debts, she’ll be able to start again in the fashion industry. It’s just a question of getting her feet under her again and going about things differently.

Distressingly, she feels guilt about not visiting her beloved grandmother as often as she ought to have done, struggling as she was to fulfil her own dreams in Melbourne. Nella’s mother will eventually join her to help her with the house, but it falls on Nella’s shoulders to start the mammoth job of clearing out. Such a poignant task.

She knows her decision to sell will create terrible conflict with her neighbour, Adrian Tomaso, who is using her land for his market garden. His disdain for her and what he’s seen as her neglect of her grandmother is painfully obvious. It almost cripples Nella and she really doesn’t want to see him again, but she steels herself to visit him as soon as she arrives. Good move, Nella. She’s a lovely heroine.

She and Adrian played together very happily as children, when Adrian’s parents had the market garden next door. But then came the teenage years and beyond. Much to Adrian’s disgust, Nella had a relationship with his difficult and moody twin brother Davide—which made everything very awkward. Then Adrian’s parents separated. Davide left with his mother while Adrian was left at the market garden with his father. Families ripped apart—and twins ripped apart—can never end well.

To Nella’s credit, she quickly realises that Adrian relies on the land he leases from her estate for his market garden. If she sells and the place is developed, like so much land around this old area, Adrian’s business, which is already faltering a bit, might fail. She doesn’t want that on her conscience, and tries to figure out how she can bind any potential buyer so that Adrian can continue to lease the land.

He’s unaware of her plans and is still fairly prickly with her. They’ve never managed to recover their happy childhood days, especially after Davide loved and left Nella. Could it be that Adrian has feelings for Nella, and resented the ‘wrong’ choice she made so many years ago when she chose his twin instead of him?!

Slowly, gradually, Nella and Adrian begin to forge tentative moves to reconciliation. She’s surrounded by overwhelming memories, but it helps that Adrian’s aware how sad it is as she comes to terms with the house and everything. Nella’s grandmother was almost like his own, after all. He’s grieving too. And it helps that Nella is also full of fabulous marketing ideas for his organic produce, dragging him into markets he’s never considered before, and social media!

When Nella finds her grandmother’s old recipe book, Adrian shows her how to cook. Believe it or not she’s never really made the effort, always having her grandmother around to cook for her with traditional Italian recipes. For that alone Adrian can come live with me, please. His skill was amazing, producing mouth-watering meals that sounded divine. It was almost like he wooed Nella with food. Ooh.

The descriptions of the beautiful produce and traditional recipes makes reading this a virtual feast. Carla’s included some special recipes in the book; what a fabulous bonus.

I loved the way the book flashed between Nella’s life and that of her grandmother, bravely following her husband to Australia post WWII. Adelaide seemed like a very alien landscape after Italy, and the true courage Nella’s Nonna displayed is inspirational.

As the story bounces between Nella’s roots and the tentative but deepening romance between Nella and Adrian, you’ll fall in love too. The question is, where is it all leading to? How can they both find the happiness they want when they seem to be heading in different directions? Easier said than done.

This is a lovely book, and a tribute to all those with Italian heritage who arrived in Australia post WWII—and beyond. Thank you, Carla, this is obviously written from the heart.

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

One Comment
  1. 15 May 2019 11:29 am

    Tickled pink by this review. Thanking you!

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