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Expected Release Date: August 7, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher:  Eternal Press
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://monicamarlowe.blogspot.com/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the Author
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Warm

Official Blurb:

When Madeline O’Connor learns that her estranged sister is gravely ill, she leaves behind her life in Manhattan to be at her sister’s side in Italy. There, she discovers an ancient Benedictine monastery that accommodates travelers, and she decides to stay there, among the monks. Everything in her life turns upside down when she falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti, a soft-spoken Italian completely different from the men she knows in New York. Together Madeline and Anthony find love for the first time, and learn that life and love always find a way. When her sister dies, a new life for Madeline begins. A new life that she would never have imagined and yet is perfect for her in every way.

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved the imagery of Italy, with its tranquility and romance, and how that helped to spark the transformation of Madeline from the petty and bitter CEO from New York into something else completely.
  • I really enjoyed the historical sub-plot with Marco and Isabella. While I was able to figure out where it was leading early on, it was sweet and poignant to read.
  • As much as I may have disliked Madeline’s character in general, I had to appreciate the growth that her character underwent over the course of the novel. She went from a bitter, shallow, workaholic New Yorker who held onto her hurt and grudges like a miser holds onto a coin,  to someone who not only learned to forgive past hurts, but to also truly appreciate the small things in life, and the transformation really was lovely to watch.
  • While I may not have approved of some of the twists that the plot took over the course of the novel, I have to admit that I was enthralled and truly couldn’t put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The blurb was incredibly misleading.
  • I don’t like when the hero or heroine has sex with anyone else during the course of a novel. Don’t get me wrong, past experience can be a wonderful thing, and I even tend to like characters who have a reputation for being easy, but there’s just something distasteful to me about having sex with one person while wanting another, and I don’t care to read about that in my romances.
  • The ending. *dies* Ok. I live for HEA’s.  They’re essential in order for me to be happy with a book. I truly felt that there was no HEA in this book.  I’m very disgruntled that I can’t give spoilers, because I truly want to rant about some of it and can’t without absolutely ruining the story for everyone.

I felt like the official blurb was totally misleading.  When I read it, I thought that this would be a fairly straightforward forbidden-type romance between a New York City divorcee slash workaholic and a tranquil yet slightly troubled Italian Monk, and that together they would find a balance and fall in love and ride off together into the sunset or whatnot. Instead, there was a complicated love triangle that ended in painful tragedy and a large amount of melancholy, and while the ending could possibly be considered “bittersweet”, it was in no way in line with what I was expecting going into the story.

I think that perhaps the problem lies in the categorization of this novel.  You see, I prefer to read romance.  And yet, I feel that this book would be better categorized as chick lit. Now, before you pull out the pitchforks and torches, there is nothing wrong with Chick-Lit.  It’s simply not typically my genre of choice. While chick-lit typically focuses on the main female character and her evolution over the course of the novel, learning to forgive and love and accept herself and yada yada, romance focuses on the relationship between two (or more in polyamory, but that’s a totally different topic) main characters. Finding Felicity is about Madeline learning to let go of her hurt and anger at the betrayals of the past and allowing herself to be open to true happiness and inner peace.  But “romance” it is not.

That said, the spiritual elements were absolutely gorgeous.  Several quotes stood out to me, such as “Wars don’t happen because G-d forgets about man, Marco. Wars happen because man forgets about G-d.”, and “We all have our own way of relating to G-d. For some of us, it’s not at all. The beautiful thing, though, is that G-d is always relating to us whether we know it or not.” (the dashes are mine, the book contains correct spelling).  Madeline and Anthony both have a spiritual crisis of sorts, and together, they’re able to see that G-d is truly everywhere, and that there are many ways to celebrate Him and His glory.

In the end, however, the lovely spiritual elements and the gradual transformation and growth of Madeline’s character could not make up for the fact that by the time I was finished, I felt utterly betrayed.  Had I gone into this book expecting a “poignant love story” with a “bittersweet ending” or somesuch, I think this book would have rated much higher for me.  Instead, based on the blurb, I went in expecting that Madeline would go to Italy to see her estranged sister, fall in love with a monk, be there as her sister dies, and then they would both move to New York, face some challenges, but in the end, live happily ever after.   What I read, however, was so far from that as to be considered an entirely different book altogether.

To be completely fair, the BOOK’S TRAILER VIDEO absolutely mentions the love triangle that is present in this book.  I was sent the link to the trailer when I received this book, and it was completely my own fault that I did not watch it before I started reading.

Removing my feelings about the misleading blurb, and looking at the book from the perspective of a character-driven women’s fiction novel, I must admit that Madeline’s story actually did keep my attention.  The entire book focused on love, passion, betrayal, forgiveness, and spirituality, and Madeline is not the only character who evolved over the course of the novel.   When the book opened, Madeline was a workaholic, fairly frozen in time because of the hurt she continued to hold on to from a betrayal several years prior.  Her bitterness, cynicism, and refusal to open herself up to that kind of pain again kept her from being happy, no matter the fact that she was incredibly wealthy, beautiful, and successful.  Traveling to Italy to reconcile with her dying sister changed not only Madeline’s life, but Madeline herself.  Allowing herself to finally let go of some of the anger at her family’s betrayal, but also the anger at herself, Madeline opened herself up to the beauty of not just Italy, but of moving past mere physicality and lust and into something so much more powerful.

So, my suggestion to readers is this: go into this knowing that there is a love triangle, and that Madeline does engage in sexual relations with two different men over the course of the novel. Know that there are some incredibly painful family issues that this book deals with.  Know that there is a bittersweet ending, but also know that the ending really was perfect for the book, based on the journey Madeline’s character took.   Above all, however, go into this knowing that it is not a traditional “boy meets girl” romance (or, I suppose, in this case, “CEO meets monk”), and disregard the blurb entirely.   I think that if readers are sufficiently prepared for these things, they’re going to enjoy this story.

In the end, however, I was not prepared for this book to be women’s fiction, and so my disappointment at the turns the plot took stained my overall feelings in the end.   Were I rating this as a “chick-lit” novel, rather than a romance, I believe my final rating would have been either 3.5/5 or 4/5 stars.  As it was, in reviewing this as someone who had been expecting a more traditional happy ending, my final rating rests at 2/5 Stars.