In “The Bellini Bride” by Michelle Reid (2001), you have a rich, sexy, Italian hero and his mistress, who’s a beautiful, penniless English “nobody” with a scandalous past. Can love transcend money, class and family expectations? Why, yes, it can. It was entertaining to see how this all came about, too.
Marco Bellini is a prideful, arrogant Italian male who is the sole heir of the Bellini fortune. He’s apart of the “elite.” His mistress is 25 year old Antonia Carson, a woman who’s beautiful yet infamous for posing nude in a painting and this has caused her some notoriety. Marco blithely admits that having Antonia as his mistress hasn’t exactly hurt his reputation. It’s secretly amusing to him that his friends are envious of the fact that he managed to snag her as his mistress.
Marco considers Antonia to be very beautiful and he finds himself “obsessed by her” but admits that he doesn’t love her. He loves being with her and enjoys her as his “mistress” but wife? No. You see, Marco is the only son and heir to the Bellini fortune. Family name, lineage and all of that is important to the Bellini family. Antonia’s past would reflect poorly on the Bellini name according to Marco but he’s not willing to let her go. Ohhhhh, no. With Marco’s father in ill health, there’s added pressure on Marco to marry and produce an heir.
The story picks up after Marco and Antonia have been living together in Milan for a year. Antonia has the great distinction of being Marco’s longest affair ever. This observation pointed out by Marco’s friends isn’t flattering according to Antonia. I liked Antonia. Even though Marco lavishes her with beautiful, expensive gifts, she’s not in love with his money. She is in love with the man. She knows that Marco doesn’t LOVE HER. Feeling vulnerable in their relationship, Antonia doesn’t trust Marco with the things that matter most to her heart. She knows his parents disapprove of her and it’s a taboo subject for them to even discuss.
Most of the story is angst ridden. I LOVED THAT. Both characters are flawed. Starting with Marco, he’s arrogant, rude and has a quick temper. He loves Antonia but just won’t admit to himself that he loves her. It doesn’t help matters that he feels threatened by Antonia’s past and he’s jealous of the men she knew, well of one particular man she knows. Also, he’s conflicted over his parents disapproval of the woman he can’t seem to let go of.
For a 138 page category, the story is somewhat emotionally meaty with external as well and internal conflicts to keep you rapidly turning the pages. I love romance stories that feature the whole class thing. You know, the rich cute guy who goes against his parent’s wishes and marries the penniless girl that nobody knows. Antonia has a lot of strikes against her but the biggest one of all is her past. Will she ever be a Bellini bride? I think we know the answer to this even before the first page is turned but it’s the journey there that is the mystery. The road to the HEA is NEVER EASY. It’s all hard work.
Quite a few scenes were tense between Marco and Antonia. The couple argued a lot and you can just feel the frustration roll off them both. There’s a lot of power play and games going back and forth. Marco seeking every opportunity to throw his money and his power in her face and she, using her beauty and sexuality to remind him why he was with her in the first place (giddy up, baby). It was like watching a soap opera.
Antonia has secrets. Big ones. Marco spent most of the book trying to convince himself that he wanted Antonia despite what his parents thought of her. He admits that he’s not going to let her go. Antonia spent most of the book debating if she should just leave because he doesn’t think of her as nothing more than his “mistress.” She fears that their relationship has gone as far as it’s gonna go.
I took a breather after reading The Bellini Bride to see how I felt about it after a couple of days. Verdict is this: this was a good story. It’s not a perfect story. I liked the characters, I liked the conflicts. I didn’t care for the long, drawn out, sappy ending that most people loved. That’s just me though. This book broke me out out of my reading funk where romances are concerned. There was just so much angst, emotion and conflict and passion (!) that kept me engaged and turning the pages. These two had a lot of stuff thrown in their way: jealousy, half-truths, secrets, different social circle…
See, romance is about the journey for most of us. I thought Antonia and Marco’s journey was a turbulent ride but to be with them to the end was enjoyable. Confession: I didn’t think I’d like this story. Reason was that I thought the story would be predictable. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. The author’s voice pulled me right into the story. The drama between the pages kept me reading. So, with that said, I’d rate this one a B+. I didn’t need the Disney ending. Seriously. Thought it was really too much quite frankly. I believe less is more but that is my personal quirk. I’m just a cynic when it comes to love I guess. Overall, good romance. Think I feel a little more confident to try another category. Wish me luck.