I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Jo Thomas’s new book My Lemon Grove Summer. It’s a book that couldn’t be more summery if it tried! Not just because of the title but just look at that gorgeous cover. Does that not look the perfect place to spend a summer’s afternoon?
Zelda is fast approaching 40 with a failed business and failed relationships behind her. When her best friend Lennie reminds her of a pact they once made to marry each other if they were both single at 40, and the opportunity arises for them to make a fresh start, a new life in Sicily, she decides just to go for it. But right from the start, things don’t go well. She and Lennie have been friends for so long that moving their relationship on just seems a bit, well, odd. And the new life in Sicily sees them sharing a large farmhouse with an assortment of other people also looking to start a new life in Italy. As they wait for their promised homes to be made habitable suddenly the farmhouse doesn’t seem so big after all and Zelda wonders if she has made the wrong decision. And then she meets gorgeous trattoria owner Luca…
I really took to the character of Zelda. I admired her determination and the way she resolved to overcome any problems which came her way. I liked the way she could rally and encourage the other would-be settlers just when things seemed at their most bleak. She’s the kind of person you would want to have as a friend, the kind you know would always have your back and be sticking up for you.
The only problem she didn’t really know how to overcome was the thorny little issue of her relationship, a situation where she really didn’t know what to do for the best and where she just didn’t want to hurt anyone. Under the heat of the Italian sun, passion grows and Mount Etna rumbles away. Local legend has it that there must be a wedding in the town every ten years or Etna will show her displeasure by erupting. With the volcano towering over the town, an ever-present reminder of its potential danger, Zelda eyes it nervously as she tries to do the right thing.
Oh the food descriptions in this book! Research must have been such a chore for this book Definitely don’t read it if you are hungry as you will be drooling at the thought of all the simple but delicious Italian food You will want the prosciutto, the pasta, the cheese and honey, the pine nuts, the ripe juicy tomatoes, the olives, the wine. And of course the lemons and the limoncello. I was in Italy on holiday a couple of years ago and was amazed at the size of the lemons – they were enormous. Almost all the lemon groves in Città d’Oro have been deliberately neglected and need tender and loving care to help them recover, flourish and reach their full potential. Just like Zelda really.
This book will leave you with a warm glow inside, as warm as a Sicilian evening. It’s a perfect holiday read or perfect just to transport you to warmer climes if British Summer Time isn’t living up to its name, which is certainly isn’t this week in Edinburgh. I’ll definitely be trying out some of the lovely lemon based recipes at the end of the book to bring a little bit of Sicily to Portobello. My Lemon Grove Summer is a gorgeous romantic read and I recommend you should add it to your summer reading list.
My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and for arranging a review copy of the book from the publishers Headline Review. My Lemon Grove Summer is available now in paperback, audiobook or ebook format. It should be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer or you can order a Kindle copy online here: My Lemon Grove Summer
From the back of the book
When life hands you lemons … is it ever too late for a second chance?
Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?
But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…
Could a summer in Sicily help Zelda learn to trust her instinct and follow her heart?
About the author
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.