A Rather Curious Engagement
by C. A. Belmond

New American Library, 2009. ISBN 978-0-451-22405-7.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 07/08/2008

Fiction: Mainstream; Fiction: Romance

What's not to like about C.A. Belmond's new romantic novel, A Rather Curious Engagement? I was hooked by the end of the first page. The author wastes no time plunging us directly into the action, developing a sense of intrigue, and creating an aura of the exotic. Not until the second chapter do we learn the name of the main character, or how she inherited a huge fortune and began forging plans with Jeremy, a nominal cousin and her co-inheritor.

What fun to get a first-hand view of the experience of Penny Nichols, whose spunk and sass counterbalance pure sweetness as she simultaneously grapples with the logistics of learning to responsibly manage a huge fortune, follow her heart into a developing relationship with Jeremy , determine her professional future, and pursue breathtaking adventure.

Following Penny and Jeremy between London, Nice, Antibbes, VilleFranche, Lake Como, and Corsica, Belmond gives enough descriptive detail to make these places come alive for readers without overplaying the exotic locales. Each delicious vista is intimately connected to the plot, seen through the narrow focus of Penny's dedication to purpose. Belmond uses the same economy of words in scenes featuring Jeremy's upper-crust friends. His ex-wife-from-hell merits more attention, as she connives in ever more creative ways to sabotage the developing relationship, and adds suspense to the story.

I doubt I ever would have heard of aquamanilia, Corsican mazzeri, or corniche roads if I had not read this book. Nor would I have such a clear sense of the work involved in restoring and operating a premium vintage yacht. And I am unlikely to visit the elegant interior of an occupied castle on the shores of Lake Como. Learning about new things is always a bonus in a book.

A Rather Curious Engagement is a delightful summer read—fun, light, and something you can pass through the generations. With the lack of sex scenes (although Penny and Jeremy share quarters, there's no behavior racier than a kiss) and violence (nobody died!), this book is appropriate for anyone from teenagers to great-grandmothers.

C.A. Belmond has published short fiction, poetry an humorous essays. She was awarded the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship and was twice a Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award finalist. Belmond was a writer-in-residence at the Karolyi Foundation in the south of France, and her original screenplays were shortlisted at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference. She has written, directed, and produced television drama and documentary, and has taught writing at New York University. Her debut novel, A Rather Lovely Inheritance, launched the original story of Penny and Jeremy.

Visit the author's website.

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