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This is a review of the 2011 book 'The house by the Sea' by Santa Montefiore. At 478 pages it is also a big paperback book (with large pages) so it was a little heavy to hold late at night when you get the hand droops. But I soldiered on... A bit about the story The book focuses on 1960's Tuscany with ten year old Floriana, a little girl who has been abandoned by her mother and lives with her drunken father. She wanders the village and local beach and the locals keep an eye on her. A rich family invite her into their posh villa to swim in the pool with them and she falls in love with their son Dante who is older than her and loves her like a little sister. He leaves to go to University in America and she prays every day that he will come back and marry her. Interwoven between these chapters is modern day Devon, hotel owner Marina with her husband Gray and Step son Jake and step daughter Clementine live and work together. A summer artist-in-residence arrives called Rafa who is from Argentina. Clementine and all the other women at the hotel fall for Rafa's immediate charm and spend the Summer fantasising about him. Characters Marina is a cool and confident woman but she is really troubled by her past. Having step children can't make up for her childlessness, her biggest regret in her life. Gray is a faithful and loving husband who treat Marina with great respect, providing comfort when needed and not probing too deep into her closet's skeletons. At first, Clementine appears to be really childish with a huge resentment towards her step mother Marina (whom she calls submarine). Although she is in her mid twenties and has been living with her father and step mum since she was three years old, Clementine can't get over her bad feelings until Rafa shows her how to redirect her thoughts and see things from another point of view. All of a sudden Clementine is full of the joys of Spring and sees beauty in everything. Jake is not really covered much but he is jealous of the effect Rafa has on women and seems to be lurking in the background a lot of the time. Rafa is a sexy and talented man that weaves his magic wherever he goes. He is kind and understanding and treats his older ladies (who are at the hotel to paint) with the greatest of respect and has drinks and dines with them out of hours. Floriana and Dante are sweet children and you are intrigued to see where their relationship will go in the seemingly endless Summer. Their surroundings are beautiful and romantic and yet tragic at the same time. Sub plot Baffles the gentleman thief is working his way around the hotels in Devon, stealing the silver and valuable paintings and leaving a polite thank you note. Who is Baffles and why is he so polite? This side story is an amusing diversion from the main story lines and comes to a quick conclusion near the end of the book. My thoughts At first this book was so slow in moving on I nearly abandoned it but around half way through it the story line picked up and became more enjoyable to read. There are lots of clues you can pick up on in the book and in the end I was guessing what would happen. I enjoyed the last half a lot more than the first half and wonder if this book needed to be so long to reach the same conclusion. The characters include plenty of comedy and diversion and my favourite bit was imagining Clementine and Rafa going to their secluded and private beach for a swim despite the fact they forgot their costumes, shocker!! Final word I immediately thought of a friend who would like to read this book as she is fond of travel and would appreciate the story line. It may be a little slow for many readers and not enough happening within. It was paced ideally for the typical Devon holiday where not a lot happens and would make great holiday reading.