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Friday, November 7, 2008

Dating da Vinci

Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Review by Xeranthemum

A gorgeous young Italian, with nowhere to go . . .

His name just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci. When he walks into Ramona Elise's English class, he's a twenty-five-year-old immigrant, struggling to forge a new life in America - but he's lonely, has nowhere to live, and barely speaks English . . .

She knows she shouldn't take him home . . .

Picking up the pieces of her life after the death of her beloved husband, linguist and teacher Ramona Elise can't help but be charmed by her gorgeous new student. And when he calls her "Mona Lisa" she just about loses her heart . . .

Dating da Vinci is a character driven book that made me think and even affected my feelings towards my spouse afterwards. This story deals with a young widow and mother who finds herself facing the reality that life, her life, does go on. I found it very emotional and at times uncomfortable.

By the time I read the first two chapters, I was committed to Ramona, the lead female character. She’s written so well, her emotions painted so clearly and her world so easy to identify with, I could not put the book down.

Ms. Lott writes with intricate detail to the point I could relate and enjoy Ramona’s quirky nature with words. The love of Scrabble between Ramona and her two kids and the role it plays sent me back in time to my own youth, when the women in my family gathered to play. There were many references in the story that I personally could understand and relate to that it seemed that Ramona told the story directly to me. It’s written in first person POV and it worked like magic. Ms. Lott has me curious; what inspired this story, who does she know that inspired this book? The in-depth look into the struggles a surviving spouse must deal with after the loss of a loved one was incredibly convincing. The journey from ripped sweats to pressed slacks is bumpy yet optimistic.

Some of that optimism comes from Leonardo da Vinci. Oh, what an intriguing and hot male character. He’s almost too perfect yet he’s very human and very likeable.

I admit that I judged this book by the cover blurb-- and was I ever in for a surprise. I admit to even reading the last page in the book to see how the HEA came about and, I warn you, it’s an exercise in futility. I’ve never read a book where I couldn’t get a handle on the outcome. I never had a sneak peek leave me more confused and wondering as this book did. It ensured that I read the book from cover to cover, and am I ever glad I did!

Dating da Vinci is a rich world populated with secondary characters that enrich, enliven and bring to glorious Technicolor the portrait of life Ms. Lott brings to her story. The family dynamics between Ramona and her sister, her mother and mother-in-law and her students from her job were woven with an expert hand throughout the telling of this inspiring tale.

I am focusing on the Ramona’s character in this review because it is her story, her journey and she touched my heart. The HEA is a gentle and dignified embrace filled with a mature focus and a welcome message. There are Christian elements that add depth and meaning to the story but by no means is this book preaching; it’s a romance of passion, exploration and some sensual skin on skin that is brief but powerful.

There is one moment towards the end, one quick piece of dialogue filled with a pivotal revelation and it had me bawling. I felt for Ramona, cried in sadness for her past and in joy for her future. I have goose bumps even as I write this because, for me, the short scene was that powerful.

Dating da Vinci is a special book that balances the pain of loss, the pain of letting go with the pains and pleasures of self-discovery, hope and the forgiving of oneself. The story deals with Ramona’s coming to terms with being a widow, and reading about her journey of growth and optimism gave me cause for self-reflection in my own marriage. Laundry may not always be viewed the same way after reading this book.

I would highly recommend this book to readers who look for tasteful, intellectual and emotionally moving stories. Add to that an HEA filled with rich and mature sentiments, humor and true romance heightened by sensual tension and promise and you will find yourself reading a winner.