Why I can’t write a Book Review for “Hotel Portofino” by J.P. O’Connell.
Summary: “Hotel Portofino has been open for only a few weeks, but already the problems are mounting for its owner Bella Ainsworth. Her high-class guests are demanding and hard to please. And she’s being targeted by a scheming and corrupt local politician, who threatens to drag her into the red-hot cauldron of Mussolini’s Italy. To make matters worse, her marriage is in trouble, and her children are still struggling to recover from the repercussions of the Great War. All eyes are on the arrival of a potential love match for her son Lucian, but events don’t go to plan, which will have far reaching consequences for the whole family. Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera, Hotel Portofino is a story of personal awakening at a time of global upheaval and of the liberating influence of Italy’s enchanting culture, climate, and cuisine on British “innocents abroad,” perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown..”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Historical; Italy – Portofino; Other Categories: Novel, Romance, Mystery, TV Series Tie-In.
I was really excited to read this book, since it takes place in a part of Italy that I’ve never had the chance to visit, and I love a good historical fiction novel. I’ll admit that I was also drawn to this by the cover as well – all sea shore and golden – really nice, don’t you think? Plus, soon after I was accepted for the ARC I heard that it was going to be a TV series! Well, if it is good enough for BritBox… right?
Sadly, however, the book didn’t live up to its promising blurb or cover. In fact, I hardly even started reading this when I realized I was having a problem. You see, first of all, it was confusing, for several reasons. This included that the POV kept changing, but without some kind of title or label, you couldn’t tell who each of the bits were about. That might have worked if they were first-person, but when using the third-person voice, it felt disjointed. Furthermore, with such a large cast of characters, I was already having a hard time figuring out who was whom and what was what. Add to this the fact that each guest and every staff member seems to have their own story arc, very few of which seem to connect to anyone else, and you’ve got far too much going on here to keep track of everything and everyone.
There were also a few things that didn’t make sense in how some of the characters acted. For example, this new nanny has to walk most of the way from the train to the hotel. When she meets someone on the road who gives her water, she doesn’t even say “Hotel Portofino?” in hopes that the local woman would be able to say if she’s on the right road or not. You don’t need to know Italian for that. Also, it felt like at one point, people were worried about her, and then it seems like she was forgotten completely – even by the cook who was worried about her at the beginning of the day. So… that’s when I decided I would wait for the TV series instead (because sometimes a confusing book is better when it is adapted for the screen).
Well, I hate to be the bearer of even more bad news, but… the TV series ALSO let me down. To my credit, I actually made it through two of the six episodes. I might have quit sooner, but oh… the scenery! I mean, this is probably one of the most picturesque places, with the candy-colored buildings built into the wild, mountain hillside cliffs, and the deep blue, sea shore below. Oh, it was just luscious to watch! Plus, the building they chose to be the hotel was really lovely, and had an amazing view of the coast.
But… oh… the confusion I felt with the book came back to haunt me, and usurped the vistas almost immediately. Again, that poor nanny walked all the way from the train to the hotel without ever stopping to ask for directions or help (she didn’t even get any water this time). Plus, just like the book, no one at the hotel seems to even think about the poor girl’s arrival until she gets there. Furthermore, there were a bunch of anachronisms in the dialogs that bothered me, not to mention how one character was sleeping with the maid and getting drunk, but the next day he was this sweet, kind, and pliant guy suffering from “shell shock” from the Great War. Mind you, there were some really good actors in this, and they did the best they could, but even they couldn’t overcome the stiff script, and the dozens of story arcs that kept bumping into each other.
But the thing that pissed me off and made me write this review is the deception here. Now, I thought the TV series was based on this novel by J. P. O’Connell. However, when you look on IMDb you’ll see that it was written and created by Matt Baker, and there’s no O’Connell credited anywhere! So, I’m thinking, maybe they published this book to promote the TV series, probably after they’d already finished the script of the series – neither of which are very good. Obviously, this doesn’t solve the mystery of who this O’Connell person is, although I see two other books to their credit on Goodreads, one fiction, and one about thermodynamics! I just felt cheated that I was getting the ARC of a book that was SO good that it was bought up to be made into a TV series, when that just couldn’t be the case. I’ll put down two stars here but one of them is for the cinematography of the TV series!
My apologies to Blackstone Publishing, for my inability to finish reading this novel, but thanks anyway for the ARC via Edelweiss. If I haven’t convinced you not to read this book, you can still purchase it through the publisher’s link, above.