Diana Harrison is a suburban wife and mother who’s dreading the approach of her 39th birthday. With the ‘big one’ not far behind, she’s starting to realize that she’s not where she’d like to be at this point of her life. She has been married to Carl, her high school sweetheart (and one and only boyfriend) for twenty years; he’s a successful doctor and a perfect husband; but she’s become painfully aware that she doesn’t feel any passion toward him…and perhaps even love. In this state of mind, she accidentally bumps into Adam Parisi, the high school heartthrob whom she only admired from afar. He’s incredibly attractive, charming, separated from his wife, and has dedicated his life to painting and living in Italy. It doesn’t take more than a couple of stealthy meetings for shy and proper Diana to embark into a very intense affair. Caught in the whirlwind of her first passionate love, Diana interacts rather distractedly with her family; thus, she has no idea that her husband is discontented with his profession, nor that her nineteen-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who is in college, is going through a personal crisis which might have devastating consequences. At the same time, Diana’s mother, a quiet but judgmental woman, has an unpleasant surprise waiting in the wings. As Diana’s neatly organized world begins to unravel, she recognizes the need to make some serious decisions about her future. Will she be able to save her family and curb her new-found feelings for Adam (who, in his turn, turns out to have a few little secrets of his own)? Will she want to?
Reviews for Dreams, Lies and a Touch of Smoke
This novel of adult love takes place in Westchester County, New York. Diana, a woman who married her high school sweetheart meets a high school classmate, Adam, who moved to Italy and is a fine arts painter. The narrator immediately falls in love with the artist, experiencing passionate love for the first time. This novel shows how humans can live for many years and be unaware of their own emotions. Extreme emotional attachments to the man and to her religious upbringing makes for a difficult period. Coaching from a married woman friend – who regularly has affairs – does not help this emotional wreck make any sense of her life. The excitement builds as her doctor husband also has his own life epiphany. Her college student daughter’s social problems add to the tension. All dissonance is conveniently wrapped up in the last pages. Nothing is unnatural in this portrayal of modern life in the suburbs of New York City. Mara di Sandro De Matteo shows that the more things change the more they stay the same.
– Roy Bercaw (journalist & blogger, enoughroom.blogspot.com )
An emotional story, very true to the heart
Dreams, Lies and a Touch of Smoke is a book I appreciated so much, representing the life of a woman having an apparent perfect life. Right before two crucial events, her fortieth birthday and the twentieth anniversary of her wedding, an apparent trivial event changes her life forever and the façade around her fades away. The thoughts of Diana Browne flow through the pages of the novel, and the reader inevitably is projected into the story, participating in the events, even in the landscape perfectly described by the writer. I found the book so true and sentimental, a journey into the soul of a woman fighting to save herself, establishing, page after page, a deep connection to the reader.
– Maria Rita Latto (journalist, www.i-Italy.org )
Beyond “Women’s Fiction”
Mara di Sandro De Matteo’s novel, Dreams, Lies and a Touch of Smoke is adeptly written. She captures the nuances of the English language and those of her protagonist, Diana, who is undertaking a soul-searching metamorphosis. Mara’s style has a breathless quality here, magnificently reflecting her character’s doubts, conflicted feelings, fears and most of all her newly discovered passion.
Mara places us in each scene and quickly takes us along in Diana’s emotional roller coaster, hardly allowing us to put her book down. Diana is the centerpiece, but the other characters are also strongly portrayed, from her French friend Justine with her flippant attitude toward men, to Father Santiago who knows Diana’s secrets.
Since I have attempted writing, although only short pieces, never a novel, and I have taught college-level literature, I appreciate Mara’s gifted writing, with its captivating descriptions and realistic dialogue, that penetrates the soul of the protagonist and presents the turmoil of this woman and those who touch her.
-Luzmarina Montesinos-Lalli (author, Tides/Marea )