Revenge at Bella Terra
Since I am a big fan of contemporary books, I requested to review the second book in Ms. Dodd’s Scarlet Deception series. Within the first chapter, I ran into concerns, and by the second I knew that this was going to be a problematic book for me.
Eli Di Luca is ruined and about to lose the thing he loves best, his winery. His best friend and company accountant Owen Slovak embezzled a large amount of money, leaving the business vulnerable to foreclosure by IRS. Needing a large influx of capital, he plans to marry for money rather than approach his affluent family for capital and admit his failure. Tamosso Conte, a wealthy Italian businessman, is willing to bail him out if he will marry his American daughter and give him grandchildren. There is a catch though; his daughter must never know that he bought her a husband.
Chloe Robinson didn’t meet her Italian father until she was twenty one years old. Her assertive mother ran away without telling him she was pregnant, fearful of his domineering personality. After finding out about her, Tamosso is obsessed with getting her married. It doesn’t matter that she is a successful author, he believes she needs a man, an Italian man at that. Chloe is wise to his ways and even though she agreed to use Eli Di Luca’s guest cottage, she not going to be sweet-talked by another one of her father’s choices. The only reason she is taking Eli up on his offer is because she has a bad case of writer’s block related to second book syndrome.
The book opens as Eli’s grandmother, sister-in-law, and other women are watching Australian football and the men are in the kitchen cooking. As a humorous scene, it fell flat, leaving me doubting that Ms. Dodd and I share the same type of humor. Then Eli sees nothing wrong deceiving a young woman into marriage. His justification is that she never will want for anything and will never realize that she is his cash cow. And finally there is Chloe’s virginity.
Thirty-four year old Eli’s first impression of the skinny woman with white dandelion puff hair, sporting two pomegranate red strands, and a blue stud in her upper ear is that she is a juvenile but within thirty minutes, magic develops. Unable to impress Chloe with his personality or wealth, Eli lures her into an afternoon together by promising to show her a newly discovered still hidden in an old brick water tower. Once there they discover the body thought to be Massimo Bruno, a master vintner and 1930s thug who disappeared eighty years ago plus a flawless pink diamond.
Twenty-three year old Chloe is in her element, impressing both Eli and law enforcement with her powers of deduction. From just looking at the mummified remains she can tell that he didn’t push his shirt sleeves up, someone else must have, since he is a dapper dresser. His expression shows that he was tortured, and she is able to determine that someone used cigarettes to burn him and that he was stabbed with a knife. There had to more than one person involved in this ambush because no one man could take him down, since he was both intelligent and a fighter. Who needs forensics science when Chloe, mystery writer of one book, is around? After this outing, Chloe’s suspicion about Eli and her father consorting together is eliminated. Eli has money, so he doesn’t need to marry her.
There are many incidences where the characters’ emotions just seem peculiar. As example, after discovering the body, Chloe meets with Eli’s grandmother Sarah to gather information about Massimo. Even though Sarah never met him, she heard stories from Chloe’s mother, who stated he was a man that made a deal with the devil and the community. When Eli and Chloe tell her about discovering the body, she starts crying leaving both Eli and me bewildered. Supposedly it is because she viewed him as Robin Hood and a legend.
This review would be pages long if I listed all that didn’t work for me. Suffice to say, I found the plot overly melodramatic, the characters stereotypical, and caricatured, the humor flat and the romance corny. Finally, the author’s use of one sentence paragraphs like exclamation points drove me crazy. It is possible though that will change with the actual book, since I read a galley.
I reserve “F” ratings for books that make me want to throw them across the room. While that urge didn’t quite happen with Revenge at Bella Terra, I still didn’t find much to like either.