It is quite often said that there is “someone for everyone.” That we all have a soulmate somewhere on this planet. A person that you simply could not possibly imagine being without. Someone who understands you and can visualize your thoughts by merely looking into your eyes. A wonderful notion is it not? However, do you believe such deep connections are possible? Do we all have a soulmate? In her novel, The Secret Language of Women, author Nina Romano explores just such a concept. Set in late Nineteenth-Century China, the novel explores the powerful and deep-seated love between two individuals. Not only that however. It also reveals what inevitably occurs when such a love is torn asunder. The chain of events which follow in a desperate attempt to reunite. For lovers of historical romantic fiction, which is entrenched with powerful human emotion, The Secret Language of Women should be a top pick!
Essentially, the story takes place in China in the late 1800’s. It was the time of the Boxer Rebellions which sought to expel foreigners and crush Christianity. It is in this backdrop where we are introduced to Lian. She is the biracial daughter of a Swiss Doctor and Chinese woman. Seeking to follow her father’s path as a healer, Lian accompanies him on many medical visits and inevitably meets an Italian sailor by the name of Gicoma Scimenti. For those who believe in love at first sight, this is the proverbial case study! The pair fall madly in love. However, their time together is swiftly and cruelly ripped apart by circumstances beyond their control.
Giacomo is suddenly forced to leave port and Lian has ultimately been promised to marry another. Having to follow through and marry against the true will of her heart, Lian is forced into a life of misery and abuse. Due to her biracial background, which is easily revealed by her appearance and “horribly” unbound feet, Lian experiences many hardships as a factory worker and virtual servant of her in-laws. Also, the birth of a child, who is ultimately her own and Giacomo’s daughter, does not improve her position with the abusive in-laws. Be that as it may, as time passes, Lian struggles against all odds and heartbreaking tragedy to find her true self again. She also never abandons the idea of reuniting with her lost lover who he himself only has thoughts for his soulmate. The love for one another are ultimately what keep the pair going. Will they actually ever find one another again? Or will they spend the rest of their lives in solitude, only able to remember what once was in their most treasured memories.
There can be little doubt that this is a top-notch historical romance novel. The plot of the story is entirely engaging and keeps the reader continuously guessing as to what is coming next. The theme of “love conquers all” is prevalent throughout the tale and supports the story’s emotionally packed action. The reader will find themselves full of hope and anticipation that the long lost lovers will reunite in one moment, only to have such prediction bring forth a new emotion as the plot goes in an entirely different direction. These twists and turns keep the reader gleefully turning page after page in hopes of seeing this tearful reunion. The author very capably manages to tap into the innermost emotions of the reader as they become wholly emotionally invested in the story.
The characters in the story are quite rich as well. While Lian and Giacomo are obviously developed in the most detail, there are a number of very interesting and intriguing supporting players. For instance, I found Zhugong to be an entirely captivating character and we were able to explore his present and past which allowed him to resonate even further. For me personally, Lian was my favorite character who was explored in the most depth. She revealed genuine strength and resolve as she continually struggled to improve her situation. She is a perfectly developed character who I would love to read more about in Romano’s other work.
The author also has a beautiful and poetic flow to her writing. It is essentially “art with words.” This is shown throughout the book, but is the most obvious in the setting description. Nina Romano undoubtedly spent a great deal of time researching the time and place of her novel. For instance, past cultural norms are explored and can be presented in contrast to present day. More than anything however, she manages to describe the setting in such a way that it can be visualized and deeply appreciated, but not lose the reader’s attention with endless details.
Overall I loved this novel and would give it my highest recommendation. While it is perfect reading for lovers of romance and history, it is also recommended for connoisseur of the written word which is transformed into an intriguing fictional tale.
5 out of 5 Powerful Stars for this one!