The Last Promise
Eliana’s friends in Vernal still spoke of her fairytale life—the hometown girl who made good, swept off her feet by an Italian lover and taken to a beautiful foreign land, where the language was spoken like poetry and the food was their daily sacrament. A land where immortals like Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Botticelli had gilded the lily of a country God Himself had already painted. She understood their fantasies, clichés and all, as the fantasies had also once been hers.
Back in Vernal they didn’t know how things had changed: how her “lover” was usually away from home six days out of seven; the lonely times she called her husband on the road only to have the phone answered by some strange woman, followed by a covered mouthpiece and muffled talking. They didn’t know about the days and nights of solitude spent caring for her son, Alessio. She was the lucky one, they still said of her, the one that got out.
When Eliana, still called Ellen by her close friends back in America, moved to Italy the future was bright with promise. Tuscany held magic in its sprawling vineyards, great food, and centuries of art. It was a life of the senses, perfect for a blossoming, talented young artist such as Eliana. Her family and friends back home all thought she had made the right choice in following her heart, and the man she fell in love with and married, back to his native country. In America, Eliana’s story was that of a fairy tale.
But in Italy, in the small, rustic village nestled in the Chianti countryside, Eliana found her husband to be a very different man. Over time he distances himself from her, leaving Eliana to care for their young son, struggling with the asthma that threatens to take his life.
Although she longs for the romance she’d known in America, Eliana is happy as a mother and with the time she spends with her child; yet when fellow American Ross Story, a deeply thoughtful man with a mysterious passion for art, arrives at the same villa, a chance encounter causes Eliana and Ross to look at their lives anew. And with their discovery that individuals may change and grow, they can never forget that the bonds of family last forever.
Published November 11, 2002
“The Tuscan setting of this new novel by the bestselling author of The Christmas Box is as beguiling as its heroine. Ellen, now called Eliana, has been living in Italy for several years. She’s a talented artist in her 30s, originally from a small town in Utah. She came to Italy to study art and soon met and married Maurizio Fernini, the head of a large family agricultural enterprise. What seemed like a fairy tale quickly soured-Maurizio now spends much of his time traveling and philandering, leaving her to care for their severely asthmatic son, Alessio. Eliana knows that in her adopted country she’s expected to shrug philosophically at her husband’s cheating, but she remains furious and desperately lonely, and even considers illegally fleeing back to America with Alessio. Then she meets American Ross Story, an art lover and tour guide who knows everything about everything in the Uffizi Gallery. Eliana asks Ross to sit for a portrait, and soon she’s not nearly as lonely as she used to be. But as the two fall for each other, she faces a tormenting choice between romantic love and her love for her son. Evans paces his story skillfully and plays up the Tuscan landscape to maximum effect. His literary devices can be a bit stale (the first paragraph of the book’s first chapter has Eliana studying her reflection in a mirror), but he does offer a gender-bending twist on the age-old story of romance between artist and subject. Those who enjoyed The Christmas Box are in for another treat.” –Publishers Weekly
I wrote The Last Promise shortly after our family moved to Florence, Italy. The woman I wrote about meeting at the swimming pool actually was real, though she was Canadian, not American. As she told me her situation I thought “what an awesome idea for a love story.”