After her Aunt Penelope dies, historical researcher Penny Nichols is astonished to learn that not only is she a bona fide heiress-but she's also been invited to put her research skills to work. This time, the history she's researching happens to be her very own. What she discovers about Aunt Penelope-a pair of wills, double lives, secret histories, and a family tree of vultures-is about to sweep Penny and a long-lost relative across France, over the hills of Italy, and throughout half of Europe on the adventure of several lifetimes.
Belmond gets her story off to an appealing start by tapping into the near-universal fantasy of a distant, elderly relative leaving behind a pile of loot. Penny Nichols (yes, she hates her silly name) is toiling as a low-paid historical researcher on film sets when she learns her Great-aunt Penelope--whom she met only once--has died and left her, well, something. Her parents dispatch her to London for the reading of the will, where she is reintroduced to her dashing cousin Jeremy. Penny gets left the contents of a garage adjoining her aunt's villa in the south of France and travels there with Jeremy to discover it contains a rare antique car. It doesn't take long for the family to split into factions competing for greater shares of the estate, which provides the narrative with an oversize share of twists and turns, especially concerning Jeremy's true parentage. It's evident from the moment of Penny and Jeremy's first encounter as adults that they will end up together, and the thin obstacles the author places between them quickly become tedious. Luckily, Belmond's spirited heroine is likable enough to guide readers through the wobbly plot. (Jan.)
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January 01, 2007
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