A Rose for Every Month

Sally Stewart, Author
Sally Stewart, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (430p) ISBN 978-0-312-10498-6
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In 1925, Jane Rushton, 31, whose family runs a prestigious wine-importing firm, flees a broken engagement and a rigid home life in London for a tumultuous new existence in the Tuscan countryside. Thereafter, this pleasant if uneven historical romance nicely intertwines two disparate families and two opposing cultures. The highly proper Rushtons are appalled when Jane is hired as a governess by the indolent aristocrat Ottavio Buonaventura. It's bad enough that his vast estate, Castagnolo, is neglected and derelict, but his family is divided between idle scholars and Fascist party bigwigs. Jane sets to reviving the ancient wine-producing estate with new enthusiasm. Making deft use of background material, Stewart lovingly describes the harvest ( vendemmia ), when peasant and aristocrat alike begin the colorful ritual of turning grapes into nectar. As the years move with grim inevitability toward WW II, characters proliferate; the Rushton family travels to Italy and numerous aunts, cousins and maturing adolescents intermingle to create a series of events that unfortunately dilute the story. Yet the author of The Women of Providence portrays a particular time and place with clarity and affection. (Mar.)
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