Title: From Sand and Ash
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre(s): contemporary, romance,
Part of a Series: No
Why I read it: Once Upon a Book Club selection
Summary: Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco have known each
other since children. As they grew up, they grew closer—but Angelo has always
been destined for the priesthood, the only profession considered for him since
he had a deformed leg, so their love was never meant to be. The situation became
worse as fascism took hold in Italy and Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany,
for Eva and her family are Jewish. Angelo is ordained and uses the power of the
Church to help save Jewish people in Italy as the Nazis take over. As Angelo
does everything he can to protect Eva, she does everything she can to resist the
Nazis. They play a dangerous game with the Nazis…and each other.
Review: This was a bit difficult to get through, but by
no means through the fault of Ms. Harmon. It’s the subject matter. Of course,
World War II and the Holocaust is difficult to read. There were times that I
could feel my blood pressure rising and myself growing angry. Which is a credit
to Ms. Harmon. Her writing evoked a strong emotional reaction from me.
Let’s start with the characters, Eva Rosselli and Angelo
Bianco. They are like night and day at the start. Eva is outgoing and a
risk-taker while Angelo is more reserved and cautious. He’s been brought up
knowing the priesthood is his destiny and so is obsessed with the sacred while
Eva is more into the profane. She plays the violin and is a sought after
musician, living the carefree life of a young woman born into privilege. Ms.
Harmon shows how the war changes both of them, requiring them to find strengths
they didn’t know they had. It was wonderful watching them change and mature—Ms.
Harmon created two beautiful character arcs.
Onto the romance…It’s one of my favorite tropes, friends
to lovers. And you throw in a dash of forbidden love since Angelo is, you know,
a priest. Ms. Harmon builds it well, laying the seeds in early chapters when Eva
and Angelo are children and tending to those seeds carefully until we have a
fully blossomed romance. There is angst and there is joy and it’s all a delight
Ms. Harmon has definitely done her research. She weaves
in events and people from the German occupation in Rome with ease and seamlessly
adds Eva and Angelo to this world. She also uses description well to create a
setting, including an emotional one. The reader feels the fear and danger these
characters are living with.
Bottom line: A beautifully written romance set against
the backdrop of a horrific war.
Sex: Yes, though nothing too graphic
Have you ever read something that made you so angry
because of what was happening to the characters?