In her stirring novel, "Sweet Bitter Love," Rita Schiano captures the passion, pain and fragility of modern day romantic relationships. And she does so with the honesty, insight and confidence rarely found in a writer's first novel.
"Sweet Bitter Love" chronicles the relationship of two women. Jenny, a writer, is the main character. Susan, a business professional, is the object of Jenny's passion. This romance evolves from Jenny and Susan's chance encounter in a local coffeehouse, through their platonic friendship, to a blazing love affair that proceeds with wrenching twists and turns. It is through Jenny's eyes that the story unfolds.
It is the paradoxical nature of the relationship that Schiano captures best, it is as intense as it is fragile. Readers will cycle through feelings of joy, bitterness, excitement and anger as they learn how and why the relationship unfolds as it does.
Schiano aptly records Jenny's acute awareness of the personal degradation she suffers in punishment for her love of the elusive Susan. She also surprises us by her ability to have Jenny question her own self-destructiveness juxtaposed by her adeptness to rationalize how increasingly fewer "good times" off-set the anguish from the increasingly many disappointments. Jenny is stood-up, lied to, withheld important information and manipulated. In short, she fell for an alcoholic who is confused by her sexuality.
Schiano is graphic and detailed in characterizing all aspects of Jenny and Susan's relationship. Whether it is from Jenny's revealing and insightful private thoughts (themselves fascinating examples of how the irrationality of yearning can over take one's world weary wisdom), to the explicit descriptions of her and Susan's love-making. The latter may be tough on the modest, gentle reader. But if the realism of honesty fits your reading palate, this is a must read.
Author Schiano presents this dramatic tale of love, pain and soul-searching in clear, easy to read prose with an energizing style that dares the reader to set the book down. Highly recommended!
Full review by Susan Phelps, author of “A Lady Without A Latitude”