Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott

When Jane at Dear Author and Rowena at Book Binge both raised the question of where have all the good contemporary novels gone, I myself wondered the same thing. I, for one, do enjoy a good contemporary romance now and again, but this year I have found the genre lacking, with the exception of one or two novels. Surprisingly, I may have found a new author who has written a contemporary that may change my mind, and yours also.

Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott is about Ramona Elise, a widow with two young boys who is an English language instructor to immigrants who need help with the English language. During one of her classes, she happens to take home Leonardo da Vinci. And, we are told this in the very first line- “I never intended to take home da Vinci.” Da Vinci is the name of one of her students from Italy who has come to Texas as a college student. Leonardo da Vinci, looks more like the statue of David then the painter, and Elise sure does appreciate the young da Vinci even though she is thirty-six and he is much younger. Da Vinci needs a place to live. Ramona feels for the guy, and because he is too cute for words, she welcomes him to pay rent and stay at the studio apartment to in her backyard. The studio she offers to da Vinci was her deceased husband, Joel’s private workspace, and now two years later she lets da Vinci stay there as her way of moving on.

Ramona is taking baby steps and trying to get on with her life without Joel, whom she loved deeply. She has begun to clean out his closets and throw away certain foods he liked to eat, such as peanut butter, which may even be the same exact jar that was still in the cupboard before his death. The two-year anniversary of Joel’s death is upon Ramona and she still has some things to work out, such as Monica, the woman Joel was engaged to before he met Ramona. Monica came to Joel’s funeral and Ramona always wondered why they broke up. Monica is the complete opposite of Ramona in almost every way. Before Joel died, he started working on a project at the law firm where Monica worked. So, in the back of Ramona’s mind, she begins to think that perhaps Joel may have had an affair with Monica. Ramona has decided she will have a nice chat with Monica and ask her all the questions that have been bugging her.

As Ramona tries to figure things out, da Vinci becomes more important in her life. Her two sons come to adore da Vinci, and Ramona does also, so much so that after a lot of going back and forth in her mind, she decides to have an affair with the young Italian, which blossoms into a real relationship. Even though Ramona may feel a bit overwhelmed and self-conscious because of her age, da Vinci makes her happy. Things are going along pretty well, that is, until her so very perfect sister, Rachel, starts dating Dr Cortland Andrews. Ramona and Cortland hit it off very well, where as her sister is only with Cortland because he is handsome, has a nice house and money. Soon Ramona can’t stop thinking about Cortland even though she enjoys being with da Vinci. And if that is not bad enough, Cortland reciprocates her feelings and wants to break if off with her sister, and wants Ramona to do the same thing with her young Italian.

Who would have though a widow like Ramona would have two men lusting after her? Ramona is so confused and even more so because she keeps wondering what is so appealing about her that these two men can’t help but want to be with her. And, the doubts she has about Joel keep growing because she comes to the conclusion that the only reason he married her was because she was safe, and may have never loved her at all because he never got over Monica.

Dating da Vinci is a quirky novel told in the first person by Ramona who really touched my heart. All her questions and self-doubting is the exact way I would have felt if I were in her shoes. She is like any woman you would meet from a loving mother and daughter, to a faithful friend who lends a sympathetic ear especially when it comes to Rachel who can’t understand why Cortland won’t sleep with her. Ramona feels guilty for having the feelings she does for Cortland because she knows he belongs to Rachel for the moment. I would react the same way if I were in the same shoes as Ramona and Rachel was my sister.

Ramona’s relationship with da Vinci is a total fantasy because da Vinci is a hot stud who gives Ramona everything she needs, from good sex to helping her around the house with her sons. But, Ramona knows their affair cannot last forever because they are two totally different people. And as for Cortland, well, Malena can sure write some excellent male characters because you are really torn between both men that Ramona must choose in the long run. Dating da Vinci made me laugh and smile over Ramona all because of how she handles both the little and big things in life. Even with the death of a loved one, Ramona is not all gloom and doom, but is surviving the best way she knows how and I loved how she wanted to find love again and felt Joel would understand.

When I think of a well-written book, including a book such as this, I expect to walk away taking something special from what I have read. I have certainly done that here with Malena Lott's Dating da Vinci. She has written a story about human nature and the ups and downs someone has to go to fully understand life. Ramona must take that next step, hopefully with someone holding her hand, to help her overcome her grief and enjoy living life again to the fullest. That's what makes this a worthy contemporary in my eyes because it is about one woman’s journey to find love and happiness in those places, and people, she would have never thought possible. (Sourcebooks, November 2008)

3 ½ stars out of 5 stars.

Katiebabs (KB)


Malena Lott said...

Thanks so much for the kind review! I really appreciate it!

MaryKate said...

I'm kicking myself for not asking Danielle at Sourcebooks for a copy of this when we talked the other day. It sounds right up my alley!

Great, great review, Kate!

Rowena said...

I really enjoyed this one, glad you did too. =)

Carolyn Jean said...

Great review. This sounds like a good book. I think she may be hurt a bit by the title and cartoony look. It just says chick lit to me.

Katiebabs said...

Malena: Thanks for stopping by! :D

MK: This book will make you smile, for sure.

Rowena: :D Love your avi :P

CJ: It may seem like chit-lit from the cover, but it was more of a contemporary read than the zanny chick lits we are used to. I will definitely keep an eye on Lott's future releases.