On a journey to Tuscany with her young friend and traveling companion Caroline Abbott, widowed Lilia Herriton falls in love with both Italy and Gino, a handsome Italian much younger than herself, and decides to stay. Furious, her dead husband's family send Lilia's brother-in-law Philip to Italy to prevent a misalliance, but he arrives too late. Lilia has already married the Italian and becomes pregnant again. While giving birth to her son, she dies. The Herritons send Philip again to Italy, this time to save the infant boy from an uncivilized life and to save the family's reputation. Not wanting to be outdone—or considered any less moral or concerned than Caroline for the child's welfare—Lilia's in-laws try to take the lead in traveling to Italy. In the public eye, they make it known that it is both their right and their duty to travel to Monteriano to obtain custody of the infant so that he can be raised as an Englishman. Secretly, though, they have no regard for the child; only public appearances.
Similarly to A Room with a View, both Italy and its inhabitants are presented as exuding an irresistible charm, to which eventually Caroline Abbott also succumbs. However, there is a tragic ending to the novel: the accidental death of Lilia's child, which spurs a series of drastic changes within the story. Gino's physical outburst toward Philip in response to the news makes Philip realize what it is like to truly be alive. The guilt felt by Lilia's sister-in-law Harriet causes her to lose her mind. Finally, Philip realizes that he is in love with Caroline Abbott but that he can never be with her, because she admits, dramatically, to being in love with Gino.
- Forster, E. M., Where Angels Fear to Tread, ed. by Oliver Stallybrass (London, 1975).
- Winkgens, Meinhard, 'Die Funktionalisierung des Italienbildes in den Romanen "Where Angels Fear to Tread" von E. M. Forster und "The Lost Girl" von D. H. Lawrence', Arcadia, 21 (1986), 41-61..