When it comes to love and romance it is often said that “there is someone out there for everyone.”  That all individuals have a soulmate waiting for them somewhere on this expansive planet.  While some lovers are blessed and actually find one another, others are not quite so fortunate.  Indeed, they spend their lifetime looking in vain for something which just never comes to fruition.  As sad as that may be, perhaps worse is when such love is forbidden.  Against all odds it is discovered, but something is standing in the way of its ultimate consummation.  In Anna Casamento Arrigo’s novel The Shadow’s Secret, we see a prime example of true soulmates being kept apart by forces beyond their control.  For lovers of intense romantic fiction which is peppered with thrilling mystery and heartbreaking circumstances… this novel will be right up your alley!

Essentially, the novel follows the life and struggles of Nunzio.  He is a cultured and well-travelled young man who ends up serving as the priest of a small parish on the Italian countryside.  Seen as an outsider, Nunzio is not well received by the villagers and has his work cut out for himself if he is to ever earn their trust.  To complicate matters further, it is in this tiny village where Nunzio meets the beautiful Mariella.  The attraction between the two is instantaneous and the epitome of “love at first sight.”  Nevertheless, their chance at happiness together appears futile as Nunzio is committed to the church and Mariella is wed to a violent and abusive husband.  To make things worse, children in the village have been disappearing and later showing up dead and horribly mutilated.  Fingers in the village promptly begin to point in the direction of the new priest.  Will Nunzio and Mariella ever be able to live together in the peace and harmony they crave?  Or has the pain only just begun?

I actually did not know what to make of this novel as I began reading it.  However, with each passing page I became entranced with the story.  The theme of forbidden love, and the actual devastating consequences it can bring is a very powerful motif which permeates the tale.  The author skillfully manages to capitalize on the reader’s emotions of fear, sadness, disgust and even joy at times.  They are all present as the story is rife with feeling.  At times I personally became so worked up that I wanted to virtually jump into the pages so I could confront Paulo!  Also, the addition of disappearing children is no mere tactic or ploy which is devised to generate superficial interest.  Indeed, these events are critical components in the story which are cleverly revealed by the end.  No stone is left unturned in this brilliantly connected story!

There is not much that I would change about The Shadow’s Secret. However, if I did it would most likely be the very beginning of the book.  Personally, I would leave the revelation which occurs at the outset to the ending in order to generate more overall suspense.  That being said, I do understand the technique the author is utilizing with her beginning and there are many merits to that as well.  Also, there were some proofreading issues to address within the pages.  Be that as it may, they were minor in nature and did not distract me from experiencing full enjoyment of the novel.

I found the characters in The Shadow’s Secret  to be very engaging and dynamic.  Nunzio is a complicated individual who the reader is able to see grow and develop throughout the pages.  We are actually able to travel along with him on his journey of self-discovery as the story unfolds.  Mariella remains a tragic figure who easily generates love and compassion.  She is a central character in regards to revealing the true nature of Nunzio and Paulo.  Indeed, the latter is one of the best villains I have seen in quite some time.  He comes across at first as a clumsy, dim-witted bully.  However, as he is developed further, the reader is able to see true evil and pain.  He is undoubtedly a complicated and tragic character within his own right!

Overall I found this to be a beautiful and entirely enthralling novel.  The author writes beautifully and the words flow in a seemingly effortless fashion.  She undoubtedly knows her craft!  I would recommend this book only to an adult audience as there is mature content and scenes.

5 out of 5 Shadowy Stars for this one!