The Love of Vera
by Alice Magro
Amazon Kindle

"When you are protecting yourself or your family, you have to do things you don’t like to do... even kill."

Faith and love intertwine in this romance novel rooted deeply in family ties and unconditional love. The tale primarily revolves around Vera and Gino, the epitome of high school sweethearts. Magro provides a unique glimpse of New York City from the lens of the young couple. For their age, both of them are unusually multifaceted and well-cultured with respect to their knowledge and appreciation of art, theater, and philosophy. Strong character development drives the narrative. As Vera and Gino progress through their challenges, they learn how to look within and listen to their feelings.

Throughout the novel, Magro juxtaposes polar opposite themes, and the end result is incredibly intriguing. For instance, Gino's family is affluent, and the sway they have because of their mafia background is undeniable. However, Gino is pure of heart, and his religious faith is true. In many ways, parts of this novel are reminiscent of other unrequited love stories. In this story, however, there are no feuding families like the Capulets and the Montagues. On the contrary, the tension initially arises in a somewhat unlikely setting: Jesuit High School, where Gino, Vera, and other high schoolers from throughout the city are present for a lecture on "Evolution and Human Nature." Though both want to be with each other, Gino is seen talking to Sarah, another girl from Vera's School of American Ballet, while Vera herself is speaking to Gino's basketball teammate.

Embedded within the love story is a series of compelling and thought-provoking musings. Gino and Vera are mature far beyond their years, and their insights on life, particularly on love and purpose, are eye-opening. Several of their interactions show not only their poise and demeanor but also their evident love for each other. For instance, in one scene, they are talking about the North Star and Art Deco. In another, Vera is asking Gino what his greatest disappointment is. Surprisingly, he responds, "Other people," as he strongly condemns the selfish and unethical agendas of certain individuals.

Interestingly, nearly all of the main characters share an unfiltered and pure love for Vera, who, in her own right, is emblematic of the truth. Aside from her relationship with Gino, Vera has a beautiful relationship with her aunt, Yolanda, in whom she finds a second mother. A particularly memorable scene to encapsulate their relationship is their trip to the fortune teller—a routine that is less about tarot card readings and more about introspection and understanding the self by looking within.

As a cornerstone of this novel, Gino, Vera, and their friends are tasked with a project for Father Brennan that focuses on ethics and moral platitudes like "though shall not steal." At the same time, audiences will appreciate the sheer joy and passion with which Gino and Vera's families celebrate Christmas, both from the religious and communal perspective. The irony resides in certain family truths and secrets that threaten to alter the main characters' realities and put them in positions to make agonizing decisions. Unsurprisingly, the intent for the main characters is always selfless, as they are thinking about the welfare of their loved one over their own.

As the storyline progresses, the action intensifies, leading to tense and entirely unexpected sequences. As religious as the Alessio family is, they are equally protective and fierce when it comes to their own, a byproduct of their mafioso background. That protective behavior is on full display throughout. Overall, Gino and Vera's love story is the backdrop to numerous insightful themes and subjects that audiences should find meaningful.

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