The Tangled Lies of Our Lives – Review of “These Tangled Vines” by Julianne MacLean

As she struggled with her last breath, Fiona’s mother swore her to secrecy. The man who’d raised Fiona, the loving father she adored would be crushed to know he wasn’t her real father. Twelve years later she is summoned to Italy for the reading of her biological father’s will, which is problematic so she lies and tells the only father she has ever known that she is attending a conference in London. It seems the easiest way to avoid hurting him. When she arrives in Italy Fiona is stunned to discover she has inherited a hugely successful winery, a large estate and two half siblings, one of whom is a greedy brother who wants to challenge the will. Connor claims she must have exerted illegal or improper influence on their father for him to favor her as he did. But his accusations are meritless as Fiona had never seen or even spoken to Anton Clark and now he is dead. The fact that both Lillian, Fiona’s mother, and Anton were married to other people is a bitter pill for Fiona to swallow but she is determined to get answers to the myriad of questions swirling in her brain.

But the accusations raise more questions in Fiona’s mind and she begins digging to find out what happened that fateful summer her mother spent in Italy and why she never knew of her real father’s existence until he too was already gone. But Fiona is determined to get answers to her growing list of questions. What follows in “These Tangled Vines” is a heartstopping love story of discovery, devotion, romance, courage, and sacrifice. As I was devouring this engrossing tale I couldn’t help wondering if ‘tangled vines’ is a metaphor for the lies we tell. The ones we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others. Sometimes to spare their feelings and sometimes to avoid facing our own.

In “These Tangled Vines” Julianne MacLean has crafted a true love story as opposed to a mere romance. The difference is not easily articulated but essentially it means giving freely of yourself and putting another’s happiness and well being ahead of your own, with no expectations or strings attached. The characters are fully developed so we understand their motivations, yet they’re never predictable. The dialogue is authentic and I appreciate the subtlety with which MacLean worked in explanations and translations of Italian phrases. Where this novel truly shines though is in the writing itself. It’s clean and uncluttered with a kind of purity that lets the reader absorb it all, soaking it in like the sun. I could even imagine the scent of damp earth after a rain and the fat, juicy grapes ripening on the vines. Prose such as MacLean offers up should be savored. This story is deserving of a second read. A rarity for me. Five stars.

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