The Last Promise

In Richard Paul Evans’s novel, The Last Promise, wanderer Ross Story arrives in Florence, Italy, hoping to escape his former life as the art director of a Minneapolis advertising agency. He is obviously struggling with a terrible secret. He applies for a position as an assistant tour guide at the famed Uffizi art gallery and is hired, despite being an American, because he has memorized everything in the gallery. Soon he finds an apartment in a nearby villa, where a stunning American painter, Eliana Ferrini, lives with her asthmatic six-year-old son. It is love at first sight for Ross.

Eliana’s Italian husband Maurizio manages the family’s oil and wine business, traveling three weeks out of four. The villa is also shared by Maurizio’s divorced, outspoken sister Anna, who has little use for her brother. When Anna goes off to the seaside for three weeks, Ross, Eliana, and the boy Alessio are left alone. The results are hardly a surprise.

Anna and Eliana’s friendship is warmly rendered, but the characters themselves are scarcely credible. Maurizio is an overt philanderer, indifferent towards his wife and son. Ross likes to pontificate, exhibiting a certain snide superiority. Poor Alessio’s chief function is to keep the sodden plot moving.

The author inserts himself in the framework of the novel through his chance encounter with the real-life Eliana, a fellow artist from Utah. Evans’s website offers recipes for the grape pie and spaghetti carbonara featured in the book; in addition, frequent brand placements mar his descriptions of the lush Italian scene. The Last Promise is clearly a commercial love story, predictable as the script of a B movie, and like a B movie, not for everyone.