Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Tuscan Child

Rate this book
A novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

336 pages, Hardcover

First published February 20, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

I'm a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I have recently published four internationally bestselling WWII novels, one of them a #1 Kindle bestseller, and the Tuscan Child selling almost a million copies to date. In Farleigh Field won three major awards and was nominated for an Edgar. My other stand-alone novels are The Victory Garden, about land girls in WWI and Above the Bay of Angels, featuring a young woman who becomes chef for Queen Victoria.
April 2021 will mark the publication of THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK--another sweeping historical novel of love, loss and intrigue.

My books are currently translated into 29 languages and I have fans worldwide.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in the 1930s. It's lighter, sexier, funnier, wicked satire. It was voted by readers as best mystery series one year.
I am also known for my Constable Evans books, set in North Wales, and for my award-winning short stories.

I was born and raised in England but currently divide my time between California and Arizona where I go to escape from the harsh California winters
When I am not writing I love to travel, sing, hike, play my Celtic harp.
* Constable Evan Mystery
* Molly Murphy Mysteries
* Her Royal Spyness Mysteries

Agatha Award
◊ Best Novel (2001): Murphy's Law
Reviewer's Choice Award
◊ Historical Mystery (2001): Murphy's Law

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
32,448 (34%)
4 stars
37,059 (39%)
3 stars
18,685 (19%)
2 stars
3,902 (4%)
1 star
1,500 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,627 reviews
Profile Image for Linda.
1,286 reviews1,328 followers
December 23, 2017
"Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you." (Gayle Forman)

Hugo Langley, an RAF pilot, finds himself behind the controls on a bombing mission near the northern hills above Lucca, Italy. December of 1944 brings no choices, only commands from the powers that be. The Germans have taken over the area and Langley and his crew are in a destiny to stop them.

Once airborne, Hugo and his co-pilot have been hit by enemy fire. Too late for the co-pilot, but Langley parachutes and miraculously hits the ground still alive. Desperately, he wraps up the parachute even though he is in extreme agony from a bullet wound to his leg. He crawls behind a tree and passes out.

Hugo's eyes open to what he perceives to be the face of an angel. It is Sofia Bartoli from the tiny village of San Salvatore who was picking random mushrooms in the area. In his broken Italian, Hugo describes his situation and Sofia describes hers. The Germans are a threatening force and both Englishman and Italian woman are in danger of being discovered.

Rhys Bowen fast forwards this story to 1973 and swoops it down amidst the surroundings of Langley Hall Estate. Sir Hugo Langley has passed away and his only child, Joanna, has come to claim his things. She has been studying law and preparing to take the bar exam. Langley Hall had been sold and turned into a private school because of vast debts.

As Joanna packs away and sorts through years of items, she comes across a letter to a mysterious Sofia from San Salvatore. Joanna had no knowledge of her father's plight in Italy during the war. Determined to find out more, she travels to this isolated village to find out what she can and to come to know this man who was her father.

The reader leans in as Bowen tells a story like no other with much detail and laces it with quick dialogue and a shifting storyline from one generation to another. She brings the warmth of Italy with its rich countryside and its hearty people into play. There are curious characters both on the English front and in the Italian setting. But make no mistake, a dead body will find its way to floating in a village well. Those above-mentioned choices will certainly take seed from the past and sprout into the present with consequences both good and bad. A delightful read by the very talented Rhys Bowen.

I received a copy of The Tuscan Child through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Lake Union and to Rhys Bowen for the opportunity.

Profile Image for Liz.
2,140 reviews2,756 followers
March 12, 2018
Barely 3 stars.
I had enjoyed In Farleigh Field, so I was pleased to get an advance copy of this novel. Bowen is again covering the time period of WWII. The book is told in two parts, Hugo Langley’s escape after his plane goes down over Tuscany in 1944 and his daughter Joanna’s return to their home after his death in 1973 and subsequent trip to Italy.

This book starts off slowly. I wasn’t immediately invested in Joanna’s story. For starters, I had trouble identifying the era. The only time the 70s came through was when Joanna was explaining why she was a solicitor rather than a barrister. It took me right back to my own story, back when I was starting off in banking and told I couldn’t enter commercial lending. In both cases what we lacked was down below not up above.

Luckily, Bowen does a much better job placing you in Tuscany than in time. Her descriptions took me right back there. And don’t read this while hungry, she does a great job describing the food.

But overall, the book had trouble holding my interest. Even with a murder, it lacks suspense. I could see where things were going from miles away. Also, there are several implausible scenes in the book, especially at the end. The only good news is that there is a big twist I didn’t see coming in Hugo’s story.

My thanks to netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for an advance copy of this book.

Profile Image for ❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀.
679 reviews144 followers
December 17, 2018
5 Stars. Wonderful.

When Joanna Langley's father Hugh passes away in 1973 she returns home to arrange his funeral and sort out his possessions. Among his things she finds a small box and within it a letter addressed to an Italian woman named Sofia. Joanna wasn't close to her father, a rather cold and withdrawn man who became even more distant after the death of Joanna's mother. The mysterious letter gives Joanna a glimpse into her father's heart, revealing to her a man very different from the one she knew. In an effort to understand her father's past she decides to go to Italy and discover what happened to him there in 1944 and, if possible, to find Sofia.

What Joanna doesn't realize is that not everyone in San Salvatore wants her digging up the past. There are secrets some will do anything to protect and when Joanna becomes a suspect in a murder investigation, who can she trust?

This is such a wonderful story, with beautifully drawn characters and an amazing Italian setting. There's heartache, great food, romance and a satisfying mystery. I'll be reading this one a second time.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of the book in return for my honest review.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,322 reviews2,142 followers
April 10, 2018
I chose to read this because I enjoy Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series so much. This was a very different kettle of fish being set half in World War 2 and half in 1970's England and Tuscany.

A big problem for any book when the author has chosen to write alternately in different time periods is if the two are not perfectly balanced in interest for the reader. In The Tuscan Child I was much more interested in Joanna than I was in Hugo which meant I put the book down and went off to do something else much more than I normally would!

Nevertheless this was still an enjoyable if predictable story. Tuscany sounded absolutely delightful and there was a lot of interesting information about food! Worth a read.

Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews114 followers
April 16, 2018
When Joanna Langley is cleaning out the house of her father after his unexpected death in the English countryside, she comes acrosss a sealed letter. Having beeen stranged for a few years, Joanna realizes how little she knew about him and his past as an English airman in the RAF. The letter is adressedd to Sofia Bertoli and in it there is information that unsettles her. Not being able to contain her desire to know, Joanna takes off to the village of San Salvatore, the address on the envelope. In her attempt to find the truth about her father, she will embark on a personal journey of her own.

I love the premise of this novel. The cover is beautiful. A mix of a historical book with romance and some mystery, this seemed like a book that I would love. But alas, I do not. With a dual narration, that of Joanna and her father Hugo, this novel takes place in 1973 and 1944 respectively. Hugo Langley was a pilot for the RAF and while flying over Tuscany, his plane was hit. Hugo managed to save himself by jumping off with his parachute. But he sustained a serious injury upon landing in a German-controlled area. Luckily for Hugo, he was found by Sofia Bertoli, a local woman who then comes to his aid and helps conceal him. Growing up Joanna knew his father was in the war and was able to return back home but she never knew the details. Thus as Joanna heads for San Salvatore, she hopes to learn of this facet of her father. Once in the village, she meets an array of characters, from the kind woman who rents her a room to the man that seems to control the whole village with his money. While everyone denies having known about her father, Joanna feels something is off. This notion is futher reinforced when a man is found dead.

In the end, this book was nice but not outstanding. There was just something missing. Even with a murder, there was a lack of suspense. I had a hard time believing that events unfolded in the time frame and order in which they did. And the ending? It was just too neat and perfect. Again, hard to believe. The characters were one note and predictable. I did find all those Italian and English countryside vignettes lovely and the food descriptions were a nice touch. I found myself really craving risotto and stuffed zucchini flower. As a historical novel though, it did not deliver. It was not memorable for me, this book. I read quite a bit regarding WWII and this novel was underwhelming.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,912 reviews248 followers
March 7, 2018
*3.5 stars rounded up.

In December, 1944, Hugo Langley is a young British pilot who is forced to parachute from his burning plane over Italy. Hugo has received a leg wound and is sure he will soon die until a young Tuscan woman comes to his aid.

Nearly thirty years later, his daughter Joanna is sorting through his papers after his death when she discovers an old sealed letter addressed to an Italian woman named Sofia. A letter that is marked "Not known at this address. Return to Sender." It is a love letter in which Hugo says "I want you to know that our beautiful boy is safe. He is hidden where only you can find him." Joanna is stunned--did her father have a child with an Italian woman during the war? If so, was that child ever returned safely to his mother?

Since her own life is currently in shambles, Joanna decides to travel to San Salvatore in Tuscany, Italy to see if she can piece together the past. No one there remembers a wounded British pilot during the war but soon a man is found murdered and Joanna becomes the chief suspect.

A nice blend of the past and present (1973) reveals an interesting story. Perhaps the ending is a bit too pat, hence the drop in stars, but it is a heart-warming story filled with descriptions of delicious-sounding Italian meals and pleasant, welcoming villagers.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Rhys Bowen and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read an arc of this new book in exhange for an honest review.
5 reviews
February 23, 2018
I am a big fan of Rhys Bowen for the Royal Spyness series. But I found this book to be cheesy and cliched. There were times when I rolled my eyes at some of characters and typical storylines. It seemed like the book dragged on for a long time -- right about until the last 2 or 3 hours, when things miraculously fell into place (without much explanation as to how such things fell into place). It also seemed too quick for Hugo and Sofia to fall in love. There wasn't much explanation; just seemed like he fell for her after she started caring for him.

Overall, I was disappointed in this as I really love the Royal Spyness series. I kept reading because I wanted to find out how things were resolved at the end, though I did not have strong feelings one way or another because I didn't care much for the characters.
Profile Image for Tiffany PSquared.
494 reviews85 followers
March 11, 2018
Historical novels usually have to be very good in order to capture and hold my attention, and this one fit the bill. In this story, we travel with Joanna Langley from Surrey, England in the early 1970s into the lush, rolling hills of Tuscany and the little village of San Salvatore as she searches for clues about her recently deceased father’s past. Along the way, we are also treated to her father’s story of survival and romance at the end of German occupation of Italy during WWII.

The story was well-written and compelling. The dual timelines were not distracting, but instead lent even more drama and build-up to the story as a whole. Both perspectives were given equal attention and were very well represented by the author. Bowen’s writing was crisp and colorful without being muddled in unnecessary details. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the Tuscan landscape and the delicious food – it made me long to visit Italy.

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this novel for its skilled placement in two distinctly different eras of history. Lovers of romantic fiction will also appreciate the tender love stories that develop as well.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and the author for the opportunity for me to read and review this book.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,898 reviews378 followers
January 7, 2019
Netgalley # 25

Many thanks go to Rhys Bowen, Lake Union, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Joanna Langley loses her father, but gains a legacy that takes her to the Tuscan region of Italy to discover the past. The book flips between the 70s and the 40s (Joanna's time and her father, Hugo's, time). The story revolves around a mystery woman named Sofia and "a beautiful boy." I'm afraid to mention anything else without giving the plot away.
I saw the denouement coming a mile away, not where but who and why. I've read most of Her Royal Spyness mysteries by Bowen, so I was familiar with her writing. Not that the story was ruined for all of that. It was still an enjoyable read. I was a tad disappointed about Sofia's ending though.
I guess I was hoping for a happier ending.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
1,509 reviews249 followers
February 20, 2018
In the Tuscan Child Rhys Bowen has written a novel with a dual time line. One part is set in Tuscany during World War 11 time, where Hugo - an English pilot is forced to eject from his damaged plane. Badly injured he is helped by Sofia - a local young woman. She hides him in bombed monastery and carries food to him when she can.

As well we meet Joanna - Hugo's daughter, in 1973 returning home to Langley Hall on the sudden death of her father. She finds some items amongst his things that lead her on a journey to Tuscany to find answers to her questions. From her we receive a picture of Hugo as an old defeated man, out of touch with his daughter. Yet in the mid 1940's we see a completely different Hugo.

Mystery surrounds what went on in that small village during the war, how did Hugo and Sofia not end up together? The town has one story but is that correct? Joanna finds welcome from some in the village but not from others. Her hostess is lovely and soon has her sampling all kinds of wonderful Tuscany cooking. Yet there seems to be something not quite right going on, a bad force at work.

While Joanna finds the son of Sofia still alive - Renzo, it takes awhile for him to warm to her, however soon they are working together to find the answers Joanna is seeking about her father and his cryptic note he tried to send Sofia.

I enjoyed the Tuscany setting and the description of the food and people. Sofia was a warm, courageous young woman, Hugo a man changed by her, Joanna a daughter kept somewhat at arm's length but still with a connection to her father, that makes her determined to find out what went on here in San Salvatore during the war. And the day of reckoning for some is about to take place.
Profile Image for Annette.
796 reviews382 followers
January 8, 2018
The book has some interesting parts and some parts where story or dialogue doesn’t move the story forward. It’s stagnant and not interesting. I had to start skipping the stagnant parts in order to continue with the story. But after a few chapters of such reading, I didn’t see a point of continuing to read it.
Profile Image for Stacy.
1,004 reviews91 followers
June 7, 2018
Joanna is studying to become a lawyer, and all that is left to do is to take her bar exam, but she has been out of work for a while because of an accident and a boyfriend, when her father, Sir Hugo Langley dies. He has always been a distant father, and Joanna doesn't know much about his life at all. And now she is all alone since her mother died when she was 11. She must go home and settle up his affairs and go through his things when she happens upon some items that seem to have a mystery to them from his past. Italy? To try to learn more about her dad, and unravel some questions that they items have raised, she travels there, and instead of finding more answers, she finds more questions and mystery.
The story shifts from her father during WWII as a downed fighter pilot, and Joanna, 30 years later, so through the course of the book, it comes full circle. I particularly liked the parts of the Tuscan food, scenery and culture. (Needs to have a companion cookbook! hint, hint Ms. Bowen). The only part that disappointed me was that I wanted a happier ending for a couple of the characters (and I won't say who as that would be a spoiler), but given that it was mirroring life at a particular time, I suppose it was realistic. >sigh< All in all, I thought it was a good book.
Profile Image for Simone.
800 reviews24 followers
March 1, 2018
I REALLY wanted to like this book, and I expected I would because I am such a fan of Rhys Bowen, but sadly this was a total flop for me!

It was eye-rollingly cliched, too easy, oversimplified, the ending was too quick and all things were resolved in a snap. Everyone gets rich and lives happily ever after.

I especially disliked all the food talk! It did not advance the story at all and the attempts to slip recipes into the story felt contrived. I realize the point was to paint the scene and make us feel what a Quaint Tuscan Village must be like… but it didn’t, it was just awkward.

I never felt any emotion for the characters, and therefore could not suspend my disbelieve and just go with it. The only character I did like a little was Hugo but not enough to save the book. Too bad.

Still, this sad miss in a long line of hits from Ms Bowen is just a blip, I continue to be a fan and I will still tune in to whatever she writes next!
Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,563 reviews475 followers
February 20, 2018
Having read and enjoyed Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field, I was more than happy to pick up The Tuscan Child. The synopsis intrigued me, and I was excited to see how the story came together.

From the very start, The Tuscan Child sucks you into the story. It pulls you into the past, leaving you turning page after page as two interconnected storylines play out. You know they are linked, you have ideas of how, but it is not until you’ve worked your way deep into the story that everything becomes apparent. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, this is certainly a book to pick up. It may not be the dark and twisted thriller you find in other books set in this time, but this one will keep you gripped throughout.

While there was a lot about this book I enjoyed, I think my favourite aspect was how atmospheric the book was. Rhys Bowen really brings the locations to life, providing so many details that the world comes alive around you. Each and every element is vivid, the detail enough to transfer you to someplace new. Honestly, I was surprised. I tend to find the level of imagery I had with this book usually comes from the author being too detailed – yet, somehow, Rhys Bowen managed it without burying me under endless pages of description.

Another thing I really enjoyed, something I also enjoyed about In Farleigh Field, was the attention given to the dynamics of the characters. There was a lot of fun to be had with the mystery, the world came alive around us, but what I constantly found myself wanting more of was the details pertaining to the individual characters. There were many layers to uncover, and I found myself desperate to know all there was to know about the characters, to see more of the way they played off each other.

The one thing I wasn’t crazy about, though, was the ending. I felt as though it didn’t have the high impact I had been anticipating. I enjoyed it, yes; I was glad to see how everything came together, sure; but I had expected something a bit more. The ending didn’t quite feel up to the same standard as the rest of the book.

Overall, though, I had a lot of fun with this one. I’m certainly interested in reading more Rhys Bowen in the future.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
February 19, 2018
Genre wise this Tuscan Child is a blend of mystery, romance, and general fiction. The setting is stunning set in a fictional town called San Salvatore in northern Italy the action pivotal between 1944 and 1973 and between a gunned down RAF pilot and his daughter. At first I was more intrigued by the WWII story but as things progressed and the mystery heated up I enjoyed the daughter’s tale also.

I can’t say the conclusion was as enticing as the rest of the book but the story zips along so pleasantly that hardly matters. Bowen touches on not only WWII but also art and artists, Nazis, Italy, and cooking that you can almost taste through the pages. Her strongest skill was the setting of post war England and its crumbling class system and Italian culture and the beauty of the area. The two create a nice dichotomy both in time and traditions.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ecopy.

3.5/5 stars
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,252 reviews391 followers
February 15, 2018
WWII romances are so my thing, but this book was so much more than just another romance. It’s story about family, loss, children, and life choices. It’s not very often that I find a book set during WWII that is set in some place other than England or France but this was that unique and rare occasion.

Rhys Bowen is an experienced author with a couple of impressive mystery series under her belt. I have been lucky enough to read a few of the Molly Murphy mysteries in the past and have grown to love her prose and abilities. Recently Bowen has started writing some stand alone novels set in WWII, I read her first one In Farleigh Field a few months ago and while it had a few technical flaws, I liked that she was trying to make a stand alone book for fans of the historical era.

This book sounded similar the In Farleigh Field novel, but different enough to grab my attention and read it. I loved the the novel was set some place other than England or France and I think that the freshness of the location added a lot to the narrative. I loved her descriptions of the locations and landscape. I loved how much of the story took place in the Italian countryside. I haven’t been to Italy but the way that Bowen describes the countryside was exactly how I would imagine it in my mind. I want to visit there even more so than I did before reading this novel. I could almost feel the sun on my skin and all the glorious Italian food mentioned.

Another thing that stood out to me was the intricate plot. I wouldn’t say that it was overly complex or twisted, but delicately intricate. I never felt rushed in the plot nor did I feel that it was too drawn out. I loved how the ‘modern’ (1970s) side of the plot fit right into the ‘historical’ (1940s) part of the plot. The relationship between Hugo and his daughter (or lack there of) was dynamic and made the plot more interesting and so much more than just another ‘war romance’. I thought that it added depth and value to the characters. The romance, setting and intertwining past/present stories made the book so moody and a pleasure to read and it hit me in the all the feels.

While this book had a lot of romance and romantic elements, I thought it had more than just love and a boy meets girl plot. It had family secrets, a great location with vivid descriptions, likable characters, history, and of course love. It had a so much to like and I think readers looking for something to escape into that isn’t frivolous or over done will find a lot t enjoy with this book.

See my full review here
Profile Image for Karen.
503 reviews55 followers
February 11, 2018
I finished reading the ARC of The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen on Thursday night, but I am still in heavy book hangover. This book is one of those rare books that not only sticks with you but that you feel like you lived through. It was undoubtedly brilliant and engaging, and just how Rhys writes it I could see this as a major motion picture with academy award accolaids. I am not usually a fan of historically based cozies, mysteries or stories, at least that was until I discovered everything Rhys Bowen has written. Each book is so rich in history but presented in away that just envelopes the reader. I enjoyed this book in so many ways. The characters are complex and well layered. The setting is unmistakably beautiful even though it doesn't exist you feel like it does. The storyline, mystery and jaw dropping reveal are some of the reasons I could not put this down. This is one of the best reads I have had the good fortune of having on my table and it shall stay forever in my heart. I loved it. The Tuscan Child will be released February 20th. Clear your schedule and turn off your phone. This is a binge read.
Profile Image for Kathy .
698 reviews232 followers
March 14, 2018
Last year, the prolific Rhys Bowen gifted us with a stand-alone book, Farleigh Field. Set in England during WWII, it was a smashing success, and it was just my cup of tea in WWII novels, with mystery and history and shocking revelations. That I had two more novels from Rhys to enjoy last year, too, in her Royal Spyness series and her Molly Murphy series, was incredible good fortune. Well, she has done it again in 2018 with the stand-alone The Tuscan Child, another WWII novel, but set mostly in Tuscany. I knew that Rhys had spent lots of time in Tuscany recently, and I was quite envious, but her meticulous research benefits us all in this new novel, as the fictional village town of San Salvatore comes gloriously alive to our senses while reading this gripping tale. How does this author put out three outstanding books in one year? I suspect cloning, but I don't mind that science would work for my reading pleasures.

The novel is told in two timelines, December 1944-Spring 1945 and April 1973-June 1973. The story begins at its beginning, in December 1944. British bombing pilot Hugo Langley is the sole survivor of his plane when he is shot down over Italy by the Germans. Although wounded, he is able to parachute to the safety of an olive tree orchard in the Tuscany area of Italy. Continuing his good fortune, he is discovered by a young woman named Sofia Bartoli, who, at great risk to herself, helps him struggle to a bombed out monastery on a hill above the village. With the Germans occupying the area and Hugo's leg compromising his ability to travel, he is forced to hide in the shambles of the old monastery and rely on Sofia to bring him food and supplies. It is a life and death situation for them both, as Hugo's hiding and Sofia's assistance could be discovered and reported to the Germans at any time. As time passes, Hugo's thoughts of his half-hearted marriage in England turn to thoughts of love for the brave and beautiful Sofia, and Sofia, whose husband has been missing in action for some time, falls in love with Hugo, too. It is a time and place where love is stripped of its class boundaries and impossible futures, and the aristocratic Hugo and Sofia of simple means dare to tempt fate and probability.

Fast forward to April 1973, and Hugo's daughter, Joanna Langley, comes home to Surrey England from working on her law degree in London to bury her father, who has died at the age of only 64. Joanna's mother had died when Joanna was eleven, and she and her father had continued to live in the gatekeeper's house where Joanna had been born on the Langley estate, an estate that had to be sold after the war due to death taxes from Hugo's father's death. Upon going through her father's possessions that had been stored in Langley Hall's attic, Joanna discovers an unopened letter to a Sofia Bartoli in Tuscany with a "return to sender/address unknown" stamp on it. It is a love letter written after her father returned home to England, and in it Hugo mentions his and Sofia's "beautiful boy." Joanna is thunderstruck at this revelation that her cold, distant father had been in love with an Italian woman in the village where his plane had been shot down during the war, and that here might have been a child from the affair is astonishing. In further examining her father's belongings, she comes across a sketch of a woman and some of his art work that he had never shared with Joanna's mother and her. Joanna realizes that she hadn't really known her father, who had kept himself closed off to her. She suddenly wants to know about the man he had been before he shut the world out, and the only place she feels she can get answers is the Tuscan village of San Salvatore. So, she sets off for Tuscany on a mission to understand the mystery that was her father and see if she possibly has a brother left behind.

With Joanna's appearance in San Salvatore, the bulk of the novel takes place in Tuscany, which now gives readers a look at the present-day village as well as the war-torn village when Hugo hid in its hills. The scenery and food are both luscious and engaging. The woman whose place Joanna stays at in the village is a cook from Italian culinary heaven, and reading about the meals she fixes is a wonderful bonus to the story. But, Joanna's friendly, nurturing atmosphere of Paola's house is not the typical reception she gets in this new place. There are secrets that have lasted far too long to be dug up by a nosy Englishwoman. Tuscany is a place of great beauty and time-honored traditions, but it is also a place where the past can deliver a dangerous present for someone disturbing it.

I'm a fan of different timelines in stories, but there is a skilled finesse to creating a smooth sync between them. Rhys Bowen does that masterfully. Hugo's story in 1944 and Joanna's story in 1973 need each other to tell a complete story for both characters. The Tuscan Child is a great story in showing how people get to be the people they are, and it's an interesting look at the family dynamics of parent and child, making the point of parents as people before they are parents. The historical aspect of this fictional tale touched upon the interesting aspects of the demise of the great estates in England after WWII and the suffering of the Italian people once their alliance with Germany was ended in 1943. I appreciate historical fiction that spurs you on to learn more, and this story does that. Rhys has long been a talented character creator, and the characters of Hugo and Joanna and Sofia, along with an intriguing cast of minor characters, will stay with you long after the last page is turned. This book will be an easy choice for my 2018 favorite reads list.

Profile Image for Bebe (Sarah) Brechner.
399 reviews17 followers
November 26, 2017
This is an excellent, standalone story by the wonderful writer Rhys Bowen. The story is set both in WWII Italy and the 1970s. Bowen is superb at period stories, and in this book, she brings to life the story of a downed British pilot hiding away in the hills above a small Italian village. The more contemporary story follows the daughter of that pilot who is picking up the pieces of her life after her father dies. This is a moody and romantic, and yet realistic, story that is a true pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
191 reviews31 followers
December 29, 2020
Za ukupan jako lijep dojam i uživanje u čitanju, zanimljivu priču koja te tjera da brzo okrećeš stranice da vidiš šta će se desiti, divne opise talijanske hrane uz objašnjenja za pripremu zbog kojih osjetiš glad i želju da to isto to i pripremiš, dajem ovom romanu odličnu ocjenu. Svjesna naravno da to nije neko veliko djelo koje ostavlja trag u književnosti, ali često mi jednostavno treba neka knjiga koja se čita lako i brzo i uz koju ću se dobro osjećati dok je čitam.
Profile Image for Jennifer Ryan.
Author 5 books1,878 followers
August 6, 2019
A lovely, warm-heated read from Rhys Bowen, perfect for the summer. A WW2 pilot parachutes out of his exploding plane over Tuscany, only to find danger, love, and intrigue within the ruined monastery where he hides. After he dies in 1973, his daughter goes to Tuscany to find the truth of the child he left there.
Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
711 reviews451 followers
March 7, 2018
Thank you so much Little Bird Publicity and Lake Union Publishing for providing my free copy - all opinions are my own. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it is a quick and easy read with two very compelling storylines. The chapters alternate between Hugo’s life in 1944 as a bomber pilot, and his daughter, Joanna, dealing with the aftermath of his death in 1973. Joanna is sorting through her estranged late father’s possessions when she comes across a mysterious letter addressed to a woman named Sofia in San Salvatore, Italy. The letter gives Joanna a glimpse to a side of her father she’s never known so she decides to take a trip to Italy to understand her father better by revisiting his past and possibly finding Sofia.

The novel is a perfect blend of historical fiction, mystery, and romance. Above all, the best part of this reading experience is Italy itself. One of my favorite aspects of reading historical fiction are the vivid descriptions of beautiful settings and this did not disappoint. The story is atmospheric with rich, warm, countryside vignettes, and descriptions of Italian culture. Bowen writes a wonderful story with great character development that kept me engaged. My only issue is with the ending. It didn’t quite work for me, but overall I enjoyed the story.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,400 reviews201 followers
May 24, 2023
I have had the opportunity to read this author’s series books on Molly Murphy and The Royal Spyness. This novel was one of her rare stand-alones. In December, 1944, Hugo Langley is a young British pilot who is forced to parachute from his burning plane over Italy. Hugo has received a leg wound and is sure he will soon die until a young Tuscan woman comes to his aid.
Nearly thirty years later, his daughter Joanna is sorting through his papers after his death when she discovers an old sealed letter addressed to an Italian woman named Sofia. A letter that is marked "Not known at this address. Return to Sender." It is a love letter in which Hugo says "I want you to know that our beautiful boy is safe. He is hidden where only you can find him." Joanna is stunned--did her father have a child with an Italian woman during the war? If so, was that child ever returned safely to his mother?
And off we go, to find answers. This is a nice blend of the past and present (1973) that reveals an interesting story and characters.
Profile Image for Judith E.
569 reviews193 followers
December 27, 2019
An easy, breezy, historical fiction romance with luscious scenes of Italian food and landscape. I skim read most of the second half of this fairy tale. At least it was a cheapo Kindle deal.
Profile Image for LJ.
3,159 reviews311 followers
December 8, 2018
First Sentence: He was going to die. That was quite obvious.

Joanna Langley returns to plan her father's funeral at the place which was once the family estate. In going through her father's things, she comes across an unopened letter addressed to Sophia. All Joanna knew of her father's past is that he had been shot down over Tuscany during the war and left with a permanent limp. With the revelation of the letter, Joanna decides to travel to Tuscany in order to learn more about her father, and her own past.

There is nothing more effective than a powerful opening to get one's attention. Bowen's opening is all that and more. It is visual, terrifying, and demands one keep reading. That it then segues from 1944 to 1975 is even more compelling, both due to the transition in time and ambience, as well as introducing the protagonist, Joanna Langley, establishing both the family's, and Joanna's, history, before switching back to Hugo, Italy and the war.

Bowen conveys emotion in a very British manner—"To realize that one has nobody in the world—this is a sobering thought."—and contrasts that with the Italian sentiment—"Don't look so sad,' she said, touching my cheek. 'All is well. We are tested and we survive, and life will be good again.'" She also does a good job of conveying Joanna's shock at learning an unexpected bit of news, and at building one's curiosity about what is to come. Bowen also makes an interesting comparison between Hugo's life with a title, large house, and staff; and Sophia's life with a husband she loved which beautifully illustrates what in life are true riches.

The sense of place is wonderfully done. By the time Joanna reaches Italy, one is ready to pack and join her there, with Paola being the person with whom one would wish to stay. A word of warning; one should not read this when hungry.

This is not a perfect book. There are portents and large, very convenient coincidences. Although there is a mystery, it is rather subtle.

"The Tuscan Child" is a lovely, rather idealistic story. However, it is also a pleasant read with a happy ending, and there's nothing wrong with that.

THE TUSCAN CHILD (HistMys-Hugo Langley/Joanna Langley-England/Italy-1944/1975) – G+
Bowen, Rhys - Standalone
Lake Union Publishing – Feb 2018
Profile Image for Margaret.
504 reviews32 followers
February 22, 2018
I enjoyed The Tuscan Child up to a point. I liked the historical setting of 1944 and the descriptions of Tuscany and Italian food are beautiful. It’s easy reading and the dialogue gives a good impression of people speaking in a foreign language in which they are not fluent. Although I love Italian food I did begin to groan when yet another meal was being prepared and described in detail.

But the split narrative between Hugo and Joanna didn’t work too well for me. I liked Hugo’s story more than Joanna’s and I wanted to know what happened to him which kept me reading. But I thought the book was more of a romance than a historical mystery. And I thought the mystery element wasn’t too difficult to work out with rather too many convenient events that revealed what had happened to Hugo.

My thanks to Lake Union for a review copy via NetGalley.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
926 reviews183 followers
May 27, 2019
Rhys Bowen is one of my favorite writers and I was excited to read one of her stand alone books. This was not a bad story but fell just a bit short for me. I still and will remain dedicated to her series’s.
Profile Image for Deanna.
942 reviews53 followers
October 12, 2018
This was on the meh side of 3 stars for me.

When an author who writes a lot of light, genre books writes more serious fiction, sometimes she can bring her readers along and sometimes it’s more difficult.

I didn’t go into this expecting or wanting a light read despite my experience with some of her other work. And it started out with an interesting enough premise. But I never found any of the characters particular enough to get involved with, or the plot fresh or compelling enough to overcome the character ennui. It wasn’t bad and it had potential, but I wanted more.
Profile Image for Sandra Nedopričljivica.
688 reviews66 followers
July 28, 2020
Realno 3.5 (Goodreads i dalje ne osluškuje potrebe čitatelja)
Ocjena je podignuta zbog Toskane, kulinarstva i umjetnosti... i volim priču u priči.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,627 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.