• Publication date: June 16, 2010

Up at the Villa Up at the Villa

Mary Panton is a widowed British expat living in Mussolini-era Italy, accompanied by ...

Mary Panton is a widowed British expat living in Mussolini-era Italy, accompanied by other aristocratic Brits and Americans in a beautiful villa. World War II is approaching, and the possibility of evacuation is incredibly high. Until then, however, these superficial foreigners will soak up their final days of luxury, and Mary is no exception. There is a slight twist, however, career diplomat and childhood friend Sir Edgar Swift has proposed to Mary. If she accepts, she will accompany him to Bengal, where he has just been appointed governor. This prestigious position will guarantee her a life of stability, long after her potential husband passes. Despite her lack of sincere love for the man she tentatively agrees to the arrangement, especially after a chat with Princess San Ferdinando, a gold digging widow who happily reminisces upon her extramarital escapades and lavish lifestyle. Mary is content with the Princess’ outlook and heads off to a social gathering later that night, where all of the villa's swanky occupants will be in attendance. There she meets Rowley Flint, an American playboy who she is immediately attracted to – and the feeling is mutual. While Rowley is not going to become a diplomat any time soon, he is not a poor man by any means, and his youthful appearance certainly outshines Edgar's. Nevertheless his abrupt and unapologetic advances cause a premature rift between the two, and any chance of romance between them appears unlikely. On her way home Mary nearly runs over Karl Richter with her car; once exiting the vehicle she recognizes him as the violin player from the party. Feeling pity for Karl, she invites him into her home and discovers he is an Austrian refugee. Following in the Princess’ promiscuous footsteps, Mary decides to make love to the displaced man for the entire night – though she makes it clear to the man that the encounter is merely a one-night stand. Unfortunately Karl fails to take the hint, and returns to her place the next day begging for another date. When Mary repeatedly refuses he puts a gun to his head and kills himself. The resulting scene is ugly, and difficult to explain to local authorities. With that in mind she reluctantly enlists the help of Rowley to dispose of the body. This strange reunification naturally leads to much more, and the two begin meeting regularly. Soon it becomes clear that there is genuine love between Mary and Rowley, and the bride to be begins doubting the wisdom of marrying Sir Edgar. Inevitably she must decide which is more important: Sir Edgar's stability and prestige, or Rowley's good looks and compatible personality – even if his future is uncertain. Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements