Length: 55,000 words approx.
Cover Design: Tiferet Design
Sébastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he's haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry's notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb's there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.
Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb's case of the sulks. But Seb isn't sure he's ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.
Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb's wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over?
Scent of sea and palm,
Craggy and ancient, a world
Bathed in saffron
- #17, In Blue Solitudes, S. Wilson-Osaki
“A. S’okay.” Bleary eyed and bone weary, Sébastien stared at the sign for two minutes before it registered. He kept his distance, glanced around the bushel of sun-ripened cab drivers and chauffeurs waiting to squeeze every last euro out of their charges, but no.
This was him. Smile so bright it blinded, like glare off a windshield. Footballer’s frame decked in team colors and too-tight shorts. Face Bernini could have sculpted. Hair black as an oil slick, greased into a neat, perfect slope. His tortoiseshell eyes twinkled in Seb’s direction when he took a cautious step forward.
“Osaki. O-sak-i. Japanese.”
“You fly from Japan?”
“No. Canada. Montreal.”
“Si, si, Signor Osaki. Sebastiano.”
Seb opened his mouth to correct him but nodded instead. “That’s me.”
“Andrea Sorrentino.” He thumped a hand on his chest. “You want I take your bag?”
Before he could decide, the driver clacked down the handle on his extra-fee-heavy suitcase and hefted it under his arm like an unruly toddler. “Vieni, vieni.” He dove into the crowd before Seb could get his bearings.
Spotting the clean line to the exit, Seb set his own pace, his tipsy head still mired in a post-flight fugue. Thirty-two sleepless hours, plus a morning spent tracing and retracing his path through the labyrinthine halls of the Rome airport to make his connection, left him listless. With exhaustion but also nerves. What had he been thinking, shipping off to a country he’d never been to and where he didn’t speak the language?
The answer, of course, was Henry. Who should have been there, propping him up with his rock climber’s arms, but also with his wonderment, the kid-in-a-candy store way he’d seen the world. Henry had puffed all his energy and excitement and fire into Seb’s lead balloon and—in his latest impossible feat—made him fly.
Clutching his backpack like a life preserver, Seb practiced his deep breathing as he waded through the stream of travellers. More of a trickle, really, now that he was in the flow. One foot in front of the other, he reminded himself, looking for a focal point. A taut jean-clad ass, with a carefree swagger all its own, lured him the rest of the way. Seb staggered out of the airport terminal…
… into a whole new world. The hazy afternoon sun swaddled him like a warm blanket. Ripe with the scent of palm trees and petrol, the parking lot was more social gathering than frantic hub, with drivers chatting, smoking, and laughing as they waited for clueless travellers to wander by. Stoic mountains—silent sentries at the gate to paradise—shadowed the horizon, rings of mist crowning their crater heads.
Woozy with relief, Seb lowered his lids to half-mast and basked in the moment. This was Henry’s world. He was safe.
A hulking black SUV screeched to a halt in front of him, blocking the view. Before Seb could decide whether to be terrified or outraged, his driver slid open the side door, beckoning him into his luxury air-conditioned chariot. Too polite to give in to the urge to collapse across the seats and zonk out, Seb stumbled into the nearest chair. His hands shook as he fought with the seat belt. Something about that fateful click brought the reality back home—he was trapped in a jet-fuelled coffin with a man who could barely pronounce his name, soon to be zipping down a highway where speed limits weren’t even guidelines, thousands of miles from home, by a world-famous volcano that once scorched everything for miles—
Hand on his knee. There was a hand on his knee.
“Signor Osakay? You want I get you espresso? Water? Food? Is no trouble.”
“No.” Seb shut his eyes, sucked in all the air he could. “I… I’m just tired. Didn’t sleep on the plane.” When he opened them again, he met soft eyes shimmering with kindness. His exhalation came easy. So did his smile. What was his name again? Andrea Sorrentino. A gentle name, full of music.
“Granita al limone. Un momento.” A squeeze to Seb’s knee, and he hopped out the door.
I love when an author uses descriptive writing so well that I feel like I’m wherever in the world they’ve set the scene for their story. Selina Kray did a great job with this for In Wild Lemon Groves—to the point that I’ve added the Amalfi Coast to my “must visit” bucket list. Now add in main characters that make you feel…and supporting characters that make you smile; what you get is a lovely read that I can guarantee I’ll be re-reading in the future.
In an attempt to finally heal in his grieving for his late husband, Seb travels to the Amalfi Coast, a place his husband had visited and written about, and where they both had planned to travel to together. This story serves as his journey toward living life for himself again, instead of continuing to pine for the past he can no longer get back. His driver Andrea is a lively character, the kind of guy everyone knows and likes. Things between them develop slowly, but build in intensity, particularly in the second half of the book.
The story flows well, and as I mentioned previously the descriptive writing really made it easy for me to feel like I was right there alongside the characters. It’s the kind of book that draws you in and keeps you absorbed in the location and in the characters’ journeys without the need for big action or tons of explicit sex.
A story of grief and healing, as well as learning to live for oneself again, In Wild Lemon Groves was a solid 4-star read for me, and is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.
Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children's television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd). A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.
Selina's aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.
If you're interested in receiving Selina's newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website: www.selinakray.net
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