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Title: The Cameo
Author: Lorraine Shelstad
Rating: Four and a half stars
About the Book
The Cameo is set in Italy, during the Victorian Era, and deals with a Protestant falling in love with a Catholic.
James Marsh is living in England after WWII when he finds a brooch hidden on a window sill in his rented house. The owner of the house claims that it belongs to him, and they meet with his lawyer to discuss the issue. The lawyer points out that according to the law, if someone finds something of value, they must take reasonable steps to find the real owner before they can claim it as their own. They agree to post an ad in the paper and see what happens.
After several false claims, a woman contacts James to say that the pin belongs to her grandmother. She correctly identifies the pin, a rare portrait of the Virgin Mary. When asked for proof of ownership, all she can offer is her grandmother’s diary that mentions the pin. She marks the page and loans him the book so that he can see for himself.
But instead of reading the marked page, James begins to read the entire diary.
It tells of a trip to Italy at the turn of the century that was made by two young women from England. They stay at Porto al Prato and go to tourist spots and churches. A romance begins between the girl, Claire Ashford and her Italian tutor, Signore Bartole, a Catholic. As they flirt in a Victorian proper manner, they begin to discuss the difference between the Church of England and the Romanists.
The promotional literature for the book said that it would expose the tensions between the Protestants and Catholics in England. I feared the War in Ireland. I’m a preacher’s kid, so I grew up around men who love to argue about religion in depth. This book, however, is about a lay person’s perception of the church. Claire is a polite girl who knows that she is not supposed to join the men’s discussion according to Victorian manners. Instead of asking questions to the men, she explains her point of view and perceptions to the diary. Her questions are the same as any convert asks. The opinions on both sides are stated in a conversational style. The discussion is just as mild and proper as the Victorian characters are themselves.
I have a storybook that belonged to my grandmother that was written during the Victorian Period. Comparing the style to that, I was pleased with the way the author captured the writing style, manners and conversations of the time. She painted adequate pictures of the places they visited, presented likeable characters, and motivated and foreshadowed the ending in a logical and acceptable way.
The pace of the book is slow. It is a good book to read before bed because it lacks any of the page-turning, spine chilling hooks of contemporary novels. Women who lived during the WWII time frame would also enjoy the book because of its proper and pleasing style, and because it discusses issues that they may be familiar with. Women who enjoy sweet or mild romance would enjoy it too, because it is very, very mild, without a single kiss.
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This review was submitted by: Paula Hrbacek – please visit their website at http://www.examiner.com/book-review-8-in-panama-city/paula-hrbacek