Thursday 20 May 2021

Guest Review: The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas

Escape to Italy with The Olive Branch - the irresistible summer novel from Jo Thomas, author of ebook bestseller The Oyster Catcher.

You can buy almost anything online these days. For Ruthie Collins, it was an Italian farmhouse.

Yet as she battles with a territorial goat and torrential rain just to get through the door of her new Italian home, the words of Ed, her ex, are ringing in her ears. She is daft, impetuous and irresponsible.

But Ruthie is determined to turn things around and live the dream.

First, though, she must win over her fiery neighbour, Marco Bellanouvo, and his family... Then there's the small matter of running an olive farm. As the seasons change and new roots are put down, olives and romance might just flourish in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

Review: Having recently finished reading and thoroughly enjoying Jo Thomas’s latest book, Chasing the Italian Dream, I thought I would go back to one of her earlier novels, also set in Italy. As I begin one of her books, I am always confident of a trip to somewhere new and interesting, where I will meet up with a collection of diverse characters. This was certainly the case with this book; once begun, it was hard to put down.

When Ruthie Collins, slightly inebriated, buys an Italian farmhouse on eBay, her friends, family and especially her ex, Ed, think she must be mad to leave her current life behind to start afresh in Puglia. When she arrives at her new home she begins to wonder if they are right as she has to battle with an unfriendly guard-goat, shocking weather and the unpleasant Bellanuovo family who are contesting the sale. She also discovers that the house requires a considerable amount of work to make it habitable and that it comes with land that needs attention. As she sets to, she begins to make some friends in the area who can give her advice, including how to manage the olive farm attached to the house. However, she is still crossing swords with the Bellanuovos, in particular eldest son Marco who seems determined to send Ruthie back home to the UK. Despite his initially unpleasant manner, Marco begins to grow on Ruthie and she wonders if she could actually be attracted to this ruggedly handsome man.

I have really enjoyed this entertaining story and can confidently recommend it. It has a wonderful mix of drama, humour and romance along with some very strong characters, not all of whom are instantly likeable. I admired Ruthie’s spirit in leaving her life behind after splitting with Ed to build a new future, and then having the strength to take on the Bellanuovo family, in particular the formidable mother. She also showed great character in standing up to Marco in the face of his initial criticism of her efforts at every turn. The text is peppered with descriptions of the lovely Italian countryside and some wonderful fresh produce and Italian dishes. There is even some interesting information about harvesting olives and producing fine olive oil - hard work that becomes more fun as the community joins in. All in all, I thought this was a well-written and heartwarming story that I could sit down and read all over again.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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