I Watch You by Irene Cao

If I had not known at first it was actually an erotic novel, I would've gladly said the book was giving homage to the splendor of Venice. The thought keeps floating in my head whenever the heroine Elena walks down narrow alleyways, crossing bridges or being immersed in her admiration of Venetian facades. 

Possibly the romance that remained in me was of Elena soaking in the attractions of her own city. Certainly no one will blame me if Leonardo, for all his dangerous charms, only pales in comparison to the seduction of Venice. But as it happens, Venice merely plays backdrop to the lovers’ whirlwind romance.  

Being an art restorer, a very shy and contemplative Elena was doing work for a Count’s villa when she met Leonardo, a famous chef based in New York and born in Sicily. Before long, she succumbs to her attraction for him and their affair takes Elena into a journey of sensual exploration that couldn't possibly end well for her. On the other side, there’s her close friend Filippo who was back for some time in Venice after years of being away and it seems that he’d like them to become something more.

Irene Cao writes so vividly that it was quite natural to imagine, say, the streets bathed in golden lamp lights as Elena and Leonardo strolls along in their elegant clothes. It felt like watching a delightful postcard film. I have come to realize there’s no one quite like an Italian who could better describe her own land and give to it the love and beauty it deserves.  (See, even here I have forgotten the lovers.) I could only wish I read Italian to read the original book for it must be twice as nice.

Elena is an admirable heroine in that her sensible gestures supported her introspective nature. I’m glad Cao followed through and clung to Elena’s original ways as far as she could go before gradually putting upon the changes in her. It was great that her character did not suffer to be a pawn to the plot in excuse of creating angst. The friendship between Elena and Gaia is also something to admire considering their opposite personalities. A lot of scenes between them are quite a girly-fest and I often end up laughing.

Being the first book of Italian Pleasures trilogy, I Watch You is a great start and hope the rest of the books will be just as good. It does give a picturesque pleasure of what it’s like living in Venice as well as exposes one to the darker desires inside us that we are reluctant to explore but almost wished we could.


What do you do when your greatest temptation is a dangerously handsome and alluring man? Elena works as an art restorer in Venice, and is in the process of bringing an old fresco to light in a historic palazzo. Art is her world, along with her best friend, Gaia, and Filippo, an old pal who she thinks just might be her new love . . . until Leonardo comes along. A chef with a tempestuous spirit, Leonardo is in Venice to launch a new restaurant, and he pushes all of Elena's buttons--good and bad. As Leonardo awakens Elena's senses, she faces the difficult yet exciting choice between the safety Filippo promises and the danger of Leonardo's embrace.

Title: I Watch You (Italian Pleasures #1)
Author: Irene Cao
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Trilogy, Romance, New Adult
Published: August 2014 (first published in Italian in 2013)
Publisher: RCS Libri (Rizzoli in Italy)
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2  (3 and a half cups - With delightful descriptions of Venice, it is both a romance of to the city and of lovers.)