A debut romance novel about a priest’s forbidden love for an aspiring singer.Palumbo delivers a variation on the tried-and-true priest-in-love template that’s been serving novelists for more than 150years, ever since Charles Reade’s 1861 novel, The Cloister and the Hearth. The plot revolves around handsome, newlyordained Catholic priest Matteo da Luca, who’s had a love of singing ever since he was a small boy in Australia and whobrings that love to his first parish assignment in Highgate, Perth, Western Australia, in 1975, as the novel begins.There, he meets a young woman named Emily Grey and is struck by her beauty and her passion for song. In the novel’s early stages, Emily is a law student at the University of Western Australia, but she soon decides to change career paths and concentrate on a singing career, hiring a famous tutor and dreaming of making a living with her voice. When Father Matteo’s superior, the archbishop, notices the pair’s superb vocal abilities, he seeks to arrange a recital for the two of them. However, he’s careful to remind Father Matteo of his relationship with Jesus and the church, which takes precedence over any possible romantic entanglements.Such reminders are always wasted in this type of novel, though, and Palumbo’s book is no different; the passion between Father Matteo and Emily is undeniable, even as they try to sublimate it into their shared love of music. Still, the author manages to shape this recognizable pattern into a leisurely but effective drama. Most of thesecondary characters feel underdeveloped, and there are moments of wooden, unnatural dialogue: “It seems that you and Emily are inextricably bound together by your singing,” says the archbishop, for instance, in casual conversation. However, Palumbo’s dramatic instincts are pointed, and he brings the third act of his story to a gripping and surprising conclusion.Even readers who know this subgenre very well will find this a diverting read. An often familiar but touching story of love and difficult choices.Kirkus
The novel is a story of forbidden love, which takes the reader on a poignant but delightful journey that begins in a little Wheatbelt country town in Western Australia and leads to world-famous Opera Houses. It was a serendipitous encounter between Emily Grey and Father Matteo da Luca, a young and recently ordained Catholic Parish Priest. They were instantly attracted to each other - Emily fell in love with Father Matteo on that very first day. Emily is a strikingly beautiful woman whose effect on Father Matteo is to make him emotionally conflicted between his growing affections for Emily and his Priestly vocation. Father Matteo is seriously affected by Emily's beauty, but he has taken Vows of Chastity. Also, he is already in a relationship with God. God has presented him with a tainted chalice. His dilemma could be solved by deciding between his Priesthood or his relationship with Emily - Or, he could have both. Father Matteo is a very principled, and he would never allow himself to be in two relationships, although he knows priests do have sexual relationships. In his mind, that would be cheating, badly. Emily understands Matteo's conflicted state. Both don't want to 'break up', so they decided to have a Romantic Relationship that is based on music rather than sexual desires. Emily is always hopeful that their relationship will develop to more than that. Regardless, their relationship becomes entwined by their special gift - their singing voices. Emily is an emerging opera diva with a beautiful soprano voice, and Matteo has a God-given tenor voice. The story follows the lives of these two protagonists. Matteo's story begins in a small Wheatbelt town in Western Australia through to him being ordained a Catholic Priest and assigned as Parish Priest to a Perth Parish. Meanwhile, Emily is studying Law at the University of Western Australia. She discovers that Law is a mistaken career choice. With the help of a good friend, she switches to classical voice training under the tutelage of a retired but world-renowned opera diva. The relationship between Emily and Matteo continues to strengthen. Finally, Father Matteo admits to himself that he loves Emily. He wants to marry her and enjoy a lifetime of music with her. In his Church, and under the hanging Crucifix overhead, Father Matteo tells God that he is going to quit the Priesthood. But God has other plans for His disciple. He will decide Matteo's destiny.
Kirkus Book Review