I feel that I should have liked this book a lot more than I did. Indeed, I liked the first half a lot, but became disenchanted with the role they played in the book as it went on.
Lady Cassandra St. Ives and Count Basilio Montevarchi have become pen pals of sorts after the Italian count read one of her essays. He invites her to his villa, believing her older than she is, and is immediately attracted to this young woman who seems to understand his poet's soul. Although Cassandra has vowed never to fall in love or put herself in a man's power again, she can't help but fall in love and desire this gentle man who recognizes and appreciates her intelligence. However, Basilio is engaged to another woman which prevents them from immediately acting on their attraction for each other. But after several days in each other's company, they can't help succumbing to their mutual feelings. Basilio vows to break off his engagement, but because of a series of unfortunate events, ends up marrying the young woman.
The second half of the book is dedicated to the struggle of Basilio, Cassandra, and Basilio's wife to come to terms with their present while wishing for a different future. Basilio's wife has always wanted to be a nun and was forced in to marriage by her ambitious father. Basilio wants to write poetry more than run his father's business interests, and Cassandra wants to get back to the independent life without emotional attachments she had before she met Basilio.
I liked the premise of this book, for it is somewhat different than the usual totured hero who needs to be saved by the heroine. Cassandra and Basilio actually heal and free each other from their emotional pasts before they are eventually forced to part. But the book went downhill after that. I am not sure why the book failed to engage me after that, it may be that a book that had been intensely intimate in the first half, failed to be so in the second. I felt that I had lost the Basilio and the Cassandra that I began to know when they were in Italy. In the end, I urge you to try the book for yourself, for it is definately better than a lot of the novels out there today.