Sexy is sexy, whether it’s 2010 or, as in this hot, fast, witty little novel, 1808: "Carolina held fistfuls of his jacket in both hands, waiting for the heat to pass. Instead, it grew stronger, singing louder than the violins. She lifted her face. Again,’ she said." Carolina, the contessa of the book’s title, is a 19th-century Italian noblewoman whose encroaching blindness moves an eccentric neighbor to fashion a "writing machine"-aka a typewriter-to liberate her from her isolation. Emboldened, she embraces the dreamy darkness of her landscape-and the man who set her words, and body, free. -Meredith Maran
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