Book Review: Sultry, Is the Night

Sultry, Is the Night is a haunting love story between two very damaged people forced to live within the confines of circumstances beyond their control. From the opening lines through the touching end, Barbara Avon weaves a timeless, “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” tale that is lovely to read (truly, she’s a gifted wordsmith), thought-provoking and visceral.

Broken after a tragic but inevitable loss, Mario Belotti finds himself facing a familiar struggle with his life’s circumstances. Now alone and jobless, he’s determined to pursue his life’s passion of becoming a chef, thereby fulfilling a dream, and earning much-needed income. He decides to ask his estranged father – a bistro owner on the “right” side of the track – for an opportunity to prove his mettle in the kitchen. As ever, his father meets him with a contempt borne of the long-held bias towards the son he willingly left behind, solidifying Mario’s hatred, and amplifying his desperation.

Fate soon intervenes in the person of Tess Winston, whom Mario meets one night as she lingers along the proverbial train tracks. Their interest sparks a need, a yearning to find connection, peace, and solace in the other, but Tess has secrets in her eyes. In spite of this, Mario can’t deny their connection. The two fall into a passionate affair that screeches to an abrupt halt when Mario discovers what Tess is hiding.

This is where the novel gets truly interesting. Tess is both the literal and figurative embodiment of all that Mario hates. She lives on the “right” side of the tracks and seems to have benefited from better economic circumstances, but Tess teaches Mario that things aren’t always as they seem, that life isn’t always black and white, and that sometimes the choices we make aren’t so much a reflection on us as they are a desperate response to dire circumstances.

Their perfectly imperfect romance is powerful and disarming, and I’m anxious to begin the next part of their journey in A Crack in Forever. Happy also to say that Barb’s writing makes her my latest one-click author.