At the turn of the century, Mario Alfieri, a world renown opera singer, comes to New York to perform. Since he plans to stay indefinitely, he decides to find a suitable home to rent. As he is touring Gramercy Park, a sizable mansion whose previous owner died, he stumbles across the pathetic figure of Clara Adler, Henry Slade, the former owner’s ward. Oddly, Slade left no provision for Clara who still resides there, virtually penniless and friendless.
Alfieri has remained a bachelor all this time, pursued by many women, so he has a less than stellar reputation. But when he meets Clara who is little more than a girl with fragile health, he is captivated and moved by her pathetic state. He makes an offer on the house, with the stipulation that Clara should be included in the home agreement and allowed to reside there. Since this would show a lack of propriety, Alfieri decides it is best to wed Clara, who agrees to do so, but without the consent of the lawyer who oversees the estate. This creates a chain of events that shows the lawyer’s vicious side (he’s quite the villan) and creates the stage for melodrama as dark secrets from Clara’s and the lawyer’s past come out that could tear their happy marriage apart and threaten to destroy Mario and Clara.
Paula Cohen's writing in this novel is superior to the level of many romances. The story has a melodramatic bent reminding me of the old fashioned movies where the hero rushes in to save the heroine who is threatened by an arch villain. At times characters are almost characatures--either too sweet, too forgiving and passionate or, overly villainous. Whether or not Cohen was attempting to make them so remains to be seen. I give this book 4 stars out of a possible 5.