The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley- book review: The Lemon Tree Hotel offers fabulous feel-good fiction for summertime reading

The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley
The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley

If you can’t afford a holiday in glorious Italy this summer, then bask in its sultry heat and unrivalled beauties alongside master storyteller Rosanna Ley.

The Lemon Tree Hotel is a captivating, sun-soaked tale focusing on four generations of women whose destinies have been shaped – in one way or another – by a warm and welcoming family-run hotel that sits amid the breathtaking splendours of the Italian Riviera.

Ley, author of a string of gorgeous novels that have taken us to some of the world’s most stunning locations, has the gift of blending enthralling family dramas with lush landscapes to deliver heaven-sent, holiday beach reads.

Here she sweeps us away to the real-life Vernazza, one of the five picturesque, centuries-old villages that make up the famous Cinque Terre on Italy’s rugged and colourful Ligurian coast, a place famous for its history, mountains, and steeply terraced olive groves.

For decades, the women of a local family have invested their time, energy and love into the elegant Lemon Tree Hotel, an old convent which stands proudly above the beautiful village of Vernazza on the glamorous Italian Riviera.

The building saw violence and suffering during the war but it was bought by Chiara Mazzone’s parents in the 1950s and transformed into a hotel, and now 59-year-old Chiara likes to think she has helped the place to recapture its old sense of peace and spirituality.

Many years ago, when she was only 16 years old, Chiara fell madly in love with a young man called Dante Rossi from one of the neighbouring Cinque Terre villages but it was an ill-starred match because her father had already marked out Alonzo Mazzone, the son of good friends, as her future husband.

And now, in true family tradition, Chiara’s daughter Elene and her 20-year-old granddaughter Isabella have joined her as the driving force behind the running of the hotel, but Elene, head chef, is not close to her mother and is harbouring plans to make big changes to the Lemon Tree that Chiara will not like.

Meanwhile, two men have booked into the hotel and both are set to rock the boat. Isabella is intrigued by the arrival of Ferdinand Bauer, a mysterious young German who seems to know a lot about the history of the old convent and the people who live there, and Chiara is shocked to meet up again with Dante Rossi, the love of her life who she gave up out of a sense of duty.

As the secret past of the hotel unfolds, the lives of the Mazzone family are set to see more changes than they could ever have imagined…

The Lemon Tree Hotel is a sizzling summertime treat, brimming with secrets, mystery, lost love and new beginnings, all played out against an alluring backdrop of shimmering sunshine, mountain slopes graced by olive and lemon groves, romantic coastal bays and turquoise seas.

The ups and downs of family relationships lie at the beating heart of this beautifully written and extensively researched story; it’s a tale of powerful emotions… an Italian odyssey bathed in sunlight but with some dark corners that explore gritty real-life issues like the impact of loss, and the legacy of war.

And Ley has a golden touch when it comes to creating memorable characters… from Chiara – who has made the hotel her life’s work – to Elene who has plans to shake up the Lemon Tree, and Isabella whose heart is torn between her home’s past and present, these are three vibrant and authentic women.

With mouthwatering food on the menu, guaranteed sunshine, and a story with an unexpectedly dramatic dénouement, The Lemon Tree Hotel offers fabulous feel-good fiction for summertime reading.

(Quercus, paperback, £7.99)