cover image Lizzie & Dante

Lizzie & Dante

Mary Bly. Dial, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-13482-5

Bly (who writes romances as Eloisa James) delivers an affecting story of a Shakespeare professor with stage 3 cancer and a handsome Italian chef, her first book published without the pseudonym. Dante has a restaurant on the Italian island of Elba, where Lizzie is visiting on a sort of working vacation. When she and Dante meet on the beach, the chemistry between them is undeniable, but Lizzie has given up on men; in fact, she’s more or less given up on life, having given away most of her possessions and informed her doctor she’ll forego treatment after the last, failed round of chemo. But the attraction between the two proves too strong, and Lizzie and Dante become lovers, a situation complicated by Dante’s 12-year-old daughter, Etta, who is searching for a mother figure. Bly renders her characters in pliant and incisive prose; the sex scenes are sexy and the portrait of a woman embarking on the romance of her life while running on borrowed time feels authentic and poignantly drawn, and never mawkish. The nascent relationship between Lizzie and Etta, meanwhile, is especially moving. Bly handles a delicate subject with aplomb. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Jun.)