After Hilde (Amma to her family) dies, her lawyer gives her great-granddaughter Peri a locket and a mission: find the woman in the picture with her. Her enquiry takes Peri, a newly minted private investigator, to Italy but the woman’s great-granddaughter, Camila, gets in her way, in an attempt to protect Isabel, her Bisnonna. Once the truth comes out, so does Isabel, who then takes the two young women on a journey through time, by way of the letters Hilde sent her until her wedding day.
Always is an emotional book, a bittersweet story of love eternal. Isabel and Hilde’s love story is both beautiful and frustratingly sad, and helps Peri and Camila see how lucky they are and not throw away what they have in each other.
I thought the beginning of the story was rushed. Peri gets to Italy and the town of Sequina much too quickly. I understand wanting to have the MCs together on page as soon as possible but if that’s an example of what she can do as a PI, she’s extremely talented. That said, I’d rather have a rushed beginning that will be erased by the rest of the book than a rushed ending I’ll be stuck with.
The main characters are lovely, as are Isabel and Mateo, Camila’s best friend, a sweetheart who brings both comic relief and real emotion. Once Camila stopped being so obnoxious, I loved her and Peri. They’re extremely different, each charming in her own way. We only get to know Hilde through her letters and Isabel’s comments and I like how the two couples of the story mirror each other but not necessarily in the ways I expected.
The chemistry between Peri and Camila is the best part of this book. Even before they like each other, they are attracted to each other. Their chemistry is the first sign that their love is meant to be, as if to honour their great-grandmothers’ love.
One character isn’t treated fairly, I think: Francesca, Camila’s grandmother, Isabel’s daughter. When Camila worries about her grandmother’s reaction, it’s because she perceives her as conservative, never because what she’ll find out will change everything she thinks she knows about her parents’ marriage. Learning that your mother’s first love, the love of her life, wasn’t your father, despite what you were led to believe your whole life, can’t be easy to digest and she deserved the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, I’m not sure how Bryant manages to convey the Italian atmosphere but it really worked for me, without overly detailed descriptions, with just a few well-chosen words here and there. I’ve been to Italy many times but I’m not Italian so I won’t be so bold as to think I know whether it’s accurate or not, but it made me travel and that’s all I can ask for.
Finally, if you’re a lover of epilogues, rejoice! You’ll get two in this book.