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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Man Who Could Never Love by Kate Hewitt

The Man Who Could Never Love by Kate Hewitt
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (187 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Vittorio Ralfino, the Count of Cazlevara, is back in Italy to make a business proposition. He wishes to marry a traditional wife, and Anamaria Viale—sturdy, plain and from a good vintner's family—perfectly fits his bill.

Ana is stunned that Vittorio is offering her—an ugly duckling!—marriage. She'd stoically resigned herself to a career and singledom.

But Vittorio is persuasive and Ana would like a child of her own. Although she's under no illusion that this is anything but a convenient marriage—Vittorio will never offer her love. So when the time comes for him to claim her as his bride, she's surprised—and amazed—at the strength of his passion….

I wonder what it would feel like to actually have a man zero in on me from across a room because he’s targeted me for matrimony. The closest I’ll get is watching Anamaria, the heroine. How she deals with it kept me entertained because she didn’t make it easy. In fact, she exasperated the hero, made him work for every little concession and challenged him on many levels. It was fun!

Ana is a pretty complicated heroine with a lot of issues to work out and through. She has a poor self-image and a bruised heart. Although she is well loved by her father, and she’s devoted herself to him and his well being after her mother died, she’s pretty sheltered which prevents her figurative wings from ever completely unfurling to explore the world beyond the vineyard. That means at times she is na├»ve, vulnerable and persnickety. Yet, for all those stumbling blocks, she has a passion for her grapes and wine, a professional demeanor and confidence in the work she does. She’s resigned herself to never being married and has closed off all her hopes and dreams and settled for what she thinks is her fate. That kind of character is who I like to see get shaken up, challenged and end up with a happily ever after better than they ever dreamed. Ana certainly fits the bill.

Vittorio is arrogant, cocky and controlling, initially. The author slowly fed me snippets of information that explained why the hero is so controlling, why he had an arrogant demeanor, and the reasons he acted so self-assured. His self-assuredness was on the verge of being annoying, so it was interesting to slowly understand it. The ironic thing is, he over does it and ends up eating humble pie, making mistakes he never did before and being totally flummoxed. Vittorio, not knowing what to do? What to say? Inconceivable! And yet, Ana has him rethinking his approach and realizing that she is not like other women, nor does she want to be. He has to take her as she is and not jump to conclusions. Of course he does, which of course presented many opportunities for entertainment; I enjoyed every one of them.

The conflict is two-fold. There are internal conflicts they both need to work through, and then there is the Cazlevara family conflict. At first it starts off sounding like all the other dysfunctional family scenarios but Ms. Hewitt threw me for a curve and created a very emotional and surprising hook. Ana isn’t a push-over after all, nor does she wear blinders. Her insight and her willingness to take a chance, a huge risk in fact, almost blew up in her face which lent a significant amount of emotional drama and depth to the story. Betrayed trust and regained trust are also highlighted themes in this book and certainly those factors in any relationship, either strengthen it or weaken it. For a brief period, I didn’t know which way it was going to go.

The secondary characters are family members to both Vittorio and Ana. What makes this book stand out was the author’s choice to bring an emotional and very human reasoning to all that dysfunction. A reader has a hard time staying angry in the face of the revelations about the Cazlevara interpersonal dynamics. Ms. Hewitt reminds readers quite effectively that there are two sides to every coin and nothing illustrated that more than when Ana stood up to Vittorio, despite the high cost of doing so.

The only complaint I have is about Vittorio’s stubbornness. It lasted pretty much through the entire book. It’s the classic scenario of him fighting tooth and nail all the way in an uphill battle with convenient suspicions fed to him to heighten the suspense. Then right at the very end he catapults into an emotional scene that segues into the happily ever after. Even so, I did notice and appreciate how Ms. Hewitt imbued one single phrase with romantic and sentimental overtones that wrapped up this book like a warm and tender hug.

The Man Who Could Never Love touches the heart with its earnest portrayal of two people who didn’t believe dreams could come true. The book entertained me and I read it in one sitting because the pace and storytelling voice wouldn’t let me go. I could relate to the heroine and I enjoyed her personality. It’s a sweet romance and well worth spending time with.