Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Book Review: Hotel Portofino by J.P. O'Connell

Pages: 330
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 18, 2022
Publisher: Blackstone
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Hotel Portofino has been open for only a few weeks, but already the problems are mounting for its owner Bella Ainsworth. Her high-class guests are demanding and hard to please. And she’s being targeted by a scheming and corrupt local politician, who threatens to drag her into the red-hot cauldron of Mussolini’s Italy.   To make matters worse, her marriage is in trouble, and her children are still struggling to recover from the repercussions of the Great War. All eyes are on the arrival of a potential love match for her son Lucian, but events don’t go to plan, which will have far reaching consequences for the whole family.   Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera, Hotel Portofino is a story of personal awakening at a time of global upheaval and of the liberating influence of Italy’s enchanting culture, climate, and cuisine on British “innocents abroad,” perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown."



Bella Ainsworth wants to change her life, especially after living through the Great War.  She wants to leave dreary London for the beautiful Italian Riviera and open a hotel there.  After the war and the inevitable problems that have crept up, she wants to escape to the coast and bring her family who she thinks could use a new start as well.  Her marriage to Cecil has been uncomfortable lately, her daughter is now a war widow, and her son, Lucian, bears the physical scars of war. Who couldn't use a change of pace in sunny Italy? Once her hotel opens, things don't always go as planned.  Running a hotel is a lot of work; plus, her guests are very demanding.  She hopes that Lucian might find a potential match, but that doesn't go well either. To top it off, there's a local politician who is blackmailing her and even worse, a valuable painting goes missing with her guests being prime suspects.  J.P. O'Connell's Hotel Portofino is a delightful escape to the Italian coast and is filled with drama as well as the enchanting time period of the 1920s.

Bella is trying very hard to start over in Hotel Portofino. She has realized a dream by opening this hotel, but we all know that maintaining a hotel is extremely hard, not to mention the financial burdens.  Things are complicated for her, especially when her husband has his own money issues on top of the hotel's demands.  Some of her guests are beyond demanding and on top of that she can't help but worry about her daughter, Alice, who is now a widow and is clearly depressed.  Bella is also worried about her son who gets into trouble easily and is suffering from some PTSD after the war.  Bella has to deal with a lot (including Mussolini's black shirts giving her problems!), so I felt badly for her in Hotel Portofino.

The secondary characters, in addition to Alice and Lucian, are also very interesting in Hotel Portofino.  The novel had an upstairs/downstairs vibe to it, which I enjoyed.  O'Connell jumps from character to character to showcase a lot of different perspectives, including Betty, the cook from Yorkshire; Julia Drummond-Ward, Cecil's ex-girlfriend; Paola, the housemaid; Anish, Lucian's Indian friend; Lady Latchmere, a demanding dowager, and Count Albani, to name a few.  It made for a very interesting and diverse story, although I wish O'Connell wouldn't have jumped around as much. There were a lot of characters to focus on! Nonetheless, readers get various different points of view, which really brought to life topics such as racial prejudices, upstairs/downstairs issues, politics in Italy during the 20s, complicated romances, and more. 

The setting of Hotel Portofino is what really captivated me along with the time period of the "Roaring Twenties."  I adore the Italian Riviera and O'Connell brought it to life beautifully. The wine, the fancy dinners, the culture, and the gorgeous backdrops all brought sunshine to my bleak winter day.  Obviously, Hotel Portofino is the perfect wintertime escape.

I am most excited for the this book to air as a TV show on PBS, which I believe should be coming this year! I think it will be entertaining as Hotel Portofino has quite the cast of characters.

So, are you a fan of historical fiction? Will you read Hotel Portofino before it comes to PBS? You can watch the show's trailer here. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 



  1. I love the time period and setting! It sounds like it will make a great TV show.

    1. Me too! I can't wait to see it on PBS. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one! I am a historical fiction fan and I love stories that take place in the 1920s. The book cover in particular reminds me a lot of Gatsby.
    claire @ clairefy

    1. Yes, the cover definitely has Gatsby/Roaring Twenties vibes. It should definitely make for an interesting TV show. Thanks for visiting, Claire.


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