Author: D.M. George
Fifty-five, frumpy, and flung to the curb like an old floral sofa…
Losing her Silicon Valley job to a younger woman was bad enough. Catching her husband in the arms of one is the final straw. Something’s gotta give, like the last threads of Perla Palazzo’s sanity.
Then, a plan so wild and reckless it’s just an inch to the left of self-destruction.
With a bank foreclosure hanging over her head and staring at the last of her savings, Perla books a trip to the Amalfi Coast in the hope of fulfilling her dreams to become a travel writer. But Capri’s deep azure waters are home to more than old wrecks and lost sailors, like Parthenope, an embittered, hard-drinking mermaid who believes the only way to enjoy men is crudo, with a sprinkle of salt and a generous squeeze of lemon.
When Parthenope gives Perla an enchanted cameo just days before she meets a dashing Italian tour guide, it seems the divorcée’s fortunes have turned. Timeless beauty, self-confidence—perhaps even love—are suddenly within tantalizing reach. But the siren’s song is both seductive and deadly, and a moment of weakness will leave Perla facing unthinkable consequences.
This novel blends mythology with a contemporary women’s fiction style novel to create a very original story! There are elements with the mythological characters that have been written about millions of times and give a new twist on their life in the modern world in Italy on the Amalfi Coast. In this tale, mermaids and sirens are interchangeable terms for the same type of being where they look more like the mermaids we think of, like in the Little Mermaid, and mixes them with the powers of the sirens, like in the Odyssey. In fact, Parthenope, the siren in the Odyssey, and Circe are both characters in this novel. I knew about the siren’s portion since it is mentioned in the synopsis, but it was a pleasant surprise to have a new take on Circe.
Perla is on a trip to Sorrento, Italy to write articles for a travel blog that she is interviewing for. She has to write and submit different articles that illustrate why she would be the best choice for the blog. She is fresh off a divorce from her second husband, who left her for a younger and richer woman. Her first marriage did not work out when her husband passed away suddenly. You learn about both of the men that have been in Perla’s life throughout the story and you can see, especially with her second husband, why she is jaded and not extremely open to finding love again. She is not against it, but she is weary of new romantic encounters. At 55-years old, she is very self-conscious on her aging appearance and is self-deprecating when it comes to her looks as she believes the world will treat her different based on the fact that she is no longer young. It was very relatable as no matter your age, you can become self-conscious about your own appearance whether it is an external comment/behavior (done by someone else), it could just be an internal conflict, or a mix of both. You can understand Perla’s point of view with this as she is like everyone in the world at one time or another that criticizes their own appearance and she just went through a divorce where one of the main reasons he left was because she longer was young and attractive to him.
While in Italy, she forms three major friendships that all intertwine in one way or another. First, she meets Luca, a blind man in his mid-thirties. They strike up a friendship one day while they are both at a café. Even though they have a difference in age, I like that they were very open with each other and communicated freely about what was happening in each of their lives. It was a very pure friendship. Next, there is Teddy, a richer woman that randomly encounters Perla and they instantly become friends. Teddy is a total sweetheart and has a very outgoing personality. She looks out for Perla and tries to help her as much as she can. Finally, while at the beach, Perla meets the mermaid, Parthenope, who is a heavy drinker when she can get her hands on liquor and has an aversion to relationships with men. Parthenope is a semi-protector of the coast and she gives her cameo (a type of pendant on a necklace) to Perla as it is magic. The cameo is said to help Perla feel better about her; in this case, it is her outer appearance as she feels in her mid-thirties on the inside, but her outer reality is still mid-fifties.
It is while wearing the cameo that Perla meets her love interest, Vito. The two of them have a great relationship where they speak openly about almost everything and they both are very respectful about the other’s choices and their backgrounds. Each of them opens up about past relationships and they have great communication to strengthen their bond. While the two are building a relationship, Perla remembers that it is also important not to forget the other friends that she has made along the way. Although Parthenope is not a fan of men, she does respect Perla’s decision to have one in her life and I love how the two of them open up more and the readers discover more about why Parthenope thinks the way she does. In fact, some of the chapters go all the way back to 32 AD where we learn more about her background and learn more about her as a character.
Overall, this novel is a very fascinating mix of genres as you have the contemporary and fantasy worlds interacting together in a central story. Although there is a lot of heart in this book, there is a lot of humor included along the way. The very last page with the image (you’ll know what I’m taking about when you get there) actually made me laugh out loud, which is very rare when I read a novel. The setting is gorgeous and makes you want to visit the Amalfi Coast ASAP! The story wraps up really well and I love all the articles included at the end as it was a refreshing twist on the standard epilogue. It includes pieces of both the main and some of the side characters, which was an interesting take as most novels only include the aftermath for the main(s). I would gladly read more from this author!