Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Romance, Mystery, Romance

A Postcard From Italy – Alex Brown 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @alexbrownbooks #Romance #Italy #WW2 #Mystery #SelfDiscovery #Carers #Family

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930s.

Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

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Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts...

Grace needs to escape from her daily life, she has a broken heart, a controlling mother and a family who take her for granted, no wonder she enjoys her work, where she is appreciated. Finding some letters and treasures in a storage unit whose payments have lapsed, Grace finds a kindred spirit in Connie. She finds both, courage and solace whilst learning her story and tracking down her heirs.

There is a good mystery to solve, romance, but most of all a journey of self-discovery for Grace. The Italian scenes are vividly described and give the story added interest. The historical aspect of the story is well-written and shows the problems faced by women in the 1940s. There are obvious similarities between Connie and Grace’s stories, but some important differences too.

This is an emotion-driven story, you feel for both Connie and Grace as they are constrained by their circumstances, familial demands and society’s expectations.

There is a detailed epilogue, which draws the drama together well, and gives Grace the hopeful ending she deserves.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Romantic Comedy

Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello – Daisy James @canelo_co @daisyjamesbooks #BlogTour #4*#Review #GuestPost #RomCom #MondayBlogs#TuscanTrilogy

When Isabella Jenkins is unceremoniously fired from her fancy London job, she escapes to Tuscany. A few weeks hiding amongst rolling hills and grape vines at Villa Limoncello sounds exactly like the distraction she needs.

But Italy holds emotional memories for Izzy and with a hapless handyman, a matchmaking village matriarch and a gorgeous – if infuriating – local chef named Luca Castelotti, her quiet Italian getaway turns into an unending cacophony of chaos.

Suddenly Izzie finds herself on a mission to pull off the wedding of the century and maybe get her life in order in the process. If only Luca’s gorgeous smile wasn’t such a powerful distraction…

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Guest Post -Daisy James-Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello

First of all, a huge thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s great to be here to tell you about my brand-new book Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello.

Anyone who has read one of my books will know that I love writing stories with a strong sense of place and Villa Limoncello series is no exception. I spent an amazing few days in Tuscany last year and loved it so much I just knew I had to write a story that was set there.

I had a fabulous time researching the area around Florence; the art, the history, the culture, the traditions, the scenic towns and villages, the vineyards, but mainly the cuisine! Italy is famous for its fabulous pizzas and pasta dishes, and its amazing wine – think prosecco and Chianti – but it’s also well-known for its delicious desserts from tiramisu to cannoli, from panforte to the many flavours of gelato – blue cheese and walnut flavour anyone?

In Wedding bells at Villa Limoncello, Izzie is asked to organise a film shoot at a care-worn villa in the Tuscan hills where she meets Luca who is a chef at the local trattoria. This gave me the chance to investigate the recipes particular to the area, as well as the passion with which Italians approach every aspect of their food – after all, Italy is where the ‘slow-food’ movement started as a reaction to the creeping invasion of ‘fast food’. I even read about one family who hadn’t spoken to their neighbours for twenty years because they put parsley in their minestrone – there’s passion for you!

As Luca bakes up a storm in the story, I couldn’t include a culinary scene without having taste-tested the recipes myself, so I set about having a go at some of the many desserts that Italy, and especially Tuscany, is famous for. My attempt at ice cream – apricot and amaretto flavour with crushed biscotti went down very well even though it didn’t set properly. I then moved on the baking a batch of ricciarelli which are oval-shaped biscuits made with almonds and dusted in icing sugar – absolutely delicious.

Image Credit –
Daisy James

However, my favourite recipe has to be limoncello tiramisu. It was the perfect dessert for a summer barbeque and I’ve made it many times because it is so easy to make – no baking required!

Here’s Izzie’s recipe:

Izzie’s Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

100g caster sugar

100ml limoncello

Zest & juice of 3 lemons

50ml water

500g mascarpone

500ml double cream

10g icing sugar

100g lemon curd

200g sponge fingers

Method

Place the caster sugar, water and the zest and juice of two lemons into a small pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add half the limoncello and simmer until syrupy. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone until smooth, then add the double cream, the remaining limoncello, the zest and juice of the remaining lemon and the lemon curd and stir together.

Carefully soak the sponge fingers with the syrup and placed in the base of a ceramic dish, or individual glass dessert dishes, then spoon over a generous helping of the cream mixture and repeat, finishing off with a sprinkle of finely grated lemon zest and a dusting of finely grated milk chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours. Serve with home-made limoncello cocktails.

Buon Appetitio!

I received a copy of this book from Canelo in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A lovely sad heroine, who is unable to come to terms with losing her twin, a cast of authentic Italians and a Summery, vivid setting, combine to make this romcom a must-read summer book.

Izzy is an interior designer, but after the untimely loss of her twin, she is full of guilt, grief and greyness. This reflects in all aspects of her life. When fate intervenes with an opportunity to stage a fake wedding in Tuscany, she decides to live a little and grasp the opportunity to put some colour and zest back in her drab life.

I loved that each chapter began with a little phrase and a colour, it set the scene and chartered Izzy’s moods perfectly. The plot is simple and the pacing gently, both fitting in with a lighthearted, but sometimes poignant romantic comedy, set in a place full of colour and visual imagery.

The balance of comedy and romance is perfect, and the setting is full of sunshine, it makes you feel warmer and happier with every chapter. With the added bonus of lovely food and more complications than you could ever imagine, this book would make a great film.
I look forward to the next in the series of the #TuscanTrilogy.

Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the northeast of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

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Posted in Book Review, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Dreaming of Tuscany – #BlogTour -5*#Review T.A. Williams @canelo_Co @TAWilliamsBooks

The glamour of Hollywood. The magic of the Tuscan countryside. One big decision…

Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.

Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca(and Romeo the dog).

As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.

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Apple Books (UK)

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Bee’s life will never be the same again. After a near-fatal accident on a film set in Siena, she takes the chance to recuperate and rediscover who she is. Her film star companion, is diva-like, and she’s never lived in the country, but she never been physically scarred before and she needs time to come to terms with the new her. A remote Tuscan villa is a perfect place for this.

The characters in this story are complex and authentic and the well-paced plot is full of romance, self-realisation, mystery and humour. Culture, cuisine and celebrity give the story its vivacity and Romeo, the Labrador is perfectly described, and so lovable. The Tuscan setting comes to life in this story and you can imagine the vineyards, hills and history that epitomises it.

A lovely story of food, glamour, history and love with a memorable Italian flavour and setting.

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing. Twitter @TAWilliamsBooks

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Holiday Romance, Romance

5* #Review – Lucy Coleman- Summer on the Italian Lakes – Extract @LucyColemanAuth @Aria_Fiction

Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping – and steamy – love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling… Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.

So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by superstar author Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?

Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after…

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I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

This story didn’t draw me in immediately, the tone was so negative. Since this author is known for her positivity, I decided to read on. After the first chapter, I realised the reader is in the main character’s head, and she is in a bad place. So don’t be put off, read on.

There is a lot to like in the remainder of the story, a stunning setting, which I love. Having visited the Lake Garda region in 2004, I can confirm that the author’s description really does capture the essence of this lovely region. The writers’ retreat is also interesting, interspersed with writing and publishing tips, this gives the story its authenticity.

Brie’s life is nothing like her public persona and she begins to wonder if romance exists beyond the passionate words she creates in her sexy novels. When she meets Arran, there is chemistry but also conflict. They are both emotionally raw and have seemingly incompatible personality traits. 

I liked the realistic nature of their relationship, with two characters that get under your skin, until you really want them to have their happy ending.

An enjoyable romance, full of vivid imagery and believable characters, and for the most part is positive and heartwarming.

Extract

‘All I can think of is that Brianna Middleton. Wow, that lady knows how to write a sex scene. Just thinking about the gorgeous guys she features in her books is enough to get me in the mood to jump into someone’s arms!’ She laughs and for one moment a look of horror passes over my face.

Oh, dear! Am I unwittingly killing the art of romantic love by concentrating on the intense passion and the hot sex? Isn’t that a modern-day disease, anyway? We want everything instantly and it seems that people forget that some things are worth waiting for. Wasn’t it more exciting when couples didn’t jump into bed before they’d had a chance to get to know each other? And then when they did get to that point it held more meaning. How many people wake up the next morning regretting the night before, I wonder?

‘Guess we’re all looking for a hero.’ I smile up at her in the mirror, doing my best to push aside my concerns.

‘Tell me about it! I can’t remember the last time a guy held a door open for me. Or picked up the tab for a meal out without expecting to go Dutch.’

I nod, glancing in the mirror and relieved to see that my face isn’t giving anything away.

Zena excuses herself to go and mix up the colour for the first step in the transformation. She returns wheeling a cart with two black bowls both containing a creamy white mixture. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the colours aren’t too loud.

‘Can you turn up the music, please?’ She addresses the receptionist who is manning the desk. ‘I love this one.’

Relief washes over me. It’s not a record I know but at least it curtails the conversation. I’m not being moody but the less said the better.

Closing my eyes for a moment to rest them, I’m horrified when a sudden jolt rouses me. There’s a buzzer on the shelf in front of me and it’s jumping around. I can’t believe I fell asleep.

Zena returns, and I follow her over to the basin. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be pampered and the head massage alone is a tonic. I didn’t realise I was quite so stressed out and now I’m longing for that full body polish and massage Mel and I have booked for later this morning.

After wrapping a towel around my head, Zena and I walk back to her styling station. She begins by twisting the majority of my hair up on top of my head, securing it with a clip. Scissors in hand, she turns her attention to the first layer at the back and begins cutting.

With my head tilted forward slightly, I look at the growing pile of debris on the floor. The colour looks okay but then it’s still wet and it’s hard to tell how it will look once dry. It’s been a long time since I wore my hair this short, that’s for sure. I glance across at Mel but she’s engrossed, listening to her iPod. Usually, I love thinking time, but my head is in such a mess that what I need now is a distraction. So instead I grab a magazine from the shelf in front of me and read about the latest red carpet event in Hollywood. I can identify with the sadness behind some of those fake smiles.

The cutting seems to go on forever and I lose interest. I decide it’s time to stop looking in the mirror and wait for the reveal. Eventually, the scissors disappear back into the neat little pouch strapped around Zena’s slender hips. She uses a generous squirt of mousse to scrunch up the longer hair at the front, with her hands, then the blow drying starts in earnest. My head is feeling curiously lighter and it’s a fight to avoid glancing in that mirror.

‘I think we’re done.’ Zena takes a step backwards, sounding pleased with herself. The girl from the reception desk walks by on her way to the coffee machine.

‘On fleek, Zena. A hot new look there, Ms Middleton, it’s time for a new author photo! I rang my mum and she just popped in with one of your books, so I wondered if you’d sign it for me? I have them all! I couldn’t bear to miss one of your hot, sexy heroes.’

I feel the heat rising up around my ears as my cheeks begin to burn; Zena’s jaw has dropped. Fortunately, Mel steps in, making a big fuss over my new hairdo and then whisks me off to the reception desk. I do my usual writerly scrawl just inside the front cover of the book lying on the counter while raising a smile and trying to look composed.

It isn’t until we’re out through the doors and walking down the corridor to find the nail technician that I feel I can finally breathe. I stop to catch my reflection in a glass panel and swish my hair from side to side.

‘You look gorgeous, Brie. On fleek, even!’

She looks at me with a big smile on her face.

‘I don’t feel like me. I look my age; I look like I’m ready to party.’

‘Well, after some new nails and a relaxing massage you will be. Tomorrow we hit the gym and I’ve booked us a session with a personal trainer. Tonight, we are dining in the spa’s acclaimed Nature’s Best restaurant. Nude food is the theme, as nature intended. They’ve stripped everything away and it’s all about the quality of the produce and keeping it simple.’

‘You have to let me pay for this, Mel. It’s way too much. Just the fact that you’ve organised all this is more than I deserve. I’ve been a very bad friend, lately.’

I lean in to give her a hug.’

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Book Review

4* Review- Sara Alexander – The Secret Legacy

 

 

Do our secrets make us who we are?
Santina is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito, in the beautiful Italian town of Positano. As she decides the fate of the magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo, she must confront the choices that led her here.

In 1949, hoping to escape poverty, young Santina becomes housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline.

When they move to Positano, Santina joins them, raising their daughter as Adeline’s mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply entwined with the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer―while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows . . .

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Amazon 

My Thoughts…

‘The Secret Legacy’ is a saga of Santina’s life in the twentieth century against a vividly described Italian setting. Varied and detailed with plenty of rich imagery of Italy and its food coupled with historical detail from Santina’s early life there is a pleasing authenticity to this story. The forbidden romance is everything you could wish, and the characters develop believably. Perfect summer reading.

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: A Cold Flame – Aidan Conway- Guest Post and 5*Review

 

 

Play with fire, and you get burned…

Five men burnt alive.
In the dog days of a searing August in Rome, a flat goes up in flames, the doors sealed from the outside. Five illegal immigrants are trapped and burnt alive – their charred bodies barely distinguishable amidst the debris.

One man cut into pieces.
When Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara begin to investigate, a hitherto unknown terror organisation shakes the city to its foundations. Then a priest is found murdered and mutilated post-mortem – his injuries almost satanic in their ferocity.

One city on the edge of ruin.
Rome is hurtling towards disaster. A horrifying pattern of violence is beginning to emerge, with a ruthless killer overseeing its design. But can Rossi and Carrara stop him before all those in his path are reduced to ashes?

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Guest Post – Aidan Conway

Why I write thrillers

I initially decided to write a thriller, or a crime thriller, as the case may be, on ‘Blue Monday’ in January 2014. Until then I had written poetry and short stories and had some success publishing in magazines but writing a novel was a new departure for me.

I had been reading some classics in the genre and enjoying the pure escapism. But then I began to wonder if it was something I might be able to do myself, as a challenge. I say escapism for a reason. Italy, where I have lived since 2001, was going through a rough period in terms of social problems, economic hardship, its growing involvement in the immigration crisis and the government of the day was not doing a great job.

There was the endemic problem of corruption as one scandal followed on the heels of another. Politicians were also playing the race card, and populism was on the rise. So things were tense but interesting, and I felt like I had material for at least a story or two.

Shortly after, I got my big idea, pretty much in a flash of inspiration, and I knew then where the book was going. I sketched out a rough framework, and as the pastime quickly grew more serious, I found myself with a novel that I had to finish.

The Inspiration behind Michael Rossi

I needed a central protagonist, and the name just popped out. Rossi is a very common surname, easy to remember and recognisably Italian to non-Italian audiences. I thought ‘that will do for now’ but it stuck, and I got to like him.

I wanted Rossi to be a bit of an outsider, a little detached from the wheeling and dealing and intrigue, yet knowing its workings. As someone who flirted briefly with the priesthood, he has a familiarity with the powers-that-be but distrusts big institutions and their motivations. He also has Neapolitan origins and, because of an Irish grandfather, is bilingual. As such, he doesn’t quite belong in Rome, but he possesses a certain fluidity and openness to ideas, which means he often sees the bigger picture. All of this gives him a certain superiority that can arouse suspicion and also lead to alienation, but it gives me plenty of plot lines to play with too.

Why Rome makes a good setting for crime thrillers.

The traditional and well-known backdrop provides wonderful depth of atmosphere with the piazzas and fountains, the style, food, and the street theatre but the less familiar parts of the city have an interesting noirish flavour too. There is bleakness and menace in the sprawling concrete suburbs and post-war developments and their inhabitants, which I also like to explore.

Rome is where our legal systems, our philosophy, ideas of beauty and ethics, right and wrong, all come from. With its government, the capital is the power centre of Italy where kingmakers and influencers and obscure forces play out their power games. It can seem very feudal; patronage is often still an effective reality, especially in the ever-present Church, a Moriarty-like character that always has a hand in whatever’s going down.

So there is an ongoing struggle to get close to that power, through favours and bribes, nepotism, and blackmail. And then there are those trying to fight all that, often with the odds heavily stacked against them.

Rome’s strategic position between east and west, Europe and Africa, and straddling the north and south of the country itself means there is a constant flow of influences and stimulating contrasts and compromises. NATO is here, there are US airbases, international NGOs, embassies, multinationals. The middle east, Israel and the Balkans are a stone’s throw away. Anarchism has a long history here; the city was something of a haven too for the PLO in the 70s and 80s. As such, it’s a kind of bridge across the Mediterranean on which you might run into anyone; in the books, they frequently run into each other, often with incendiary results.

My Thoughts…

Rossi and Carrara have to solve a particularly gruesome set of crimes that threaten the foundations of Rome and Italian society. Although set primarily in Rome, there is an international theme with terrorism at its heart. The killings are satanic in nature and like in the first book in the series ‘ A Known Evil’ you question whether the killers are different but connected? This story reads as a standalone but to understand what motivates Rossi and the character dynamics between him and Carrara and journalist Dario Iannelli I recommend reading ‘A Known Evil’.

The well-described setting betrays an intimate knowledge of Rome and its government that make the story believable. The cleverly orchestrated plot has many strands. Different stories explored and painstakingly woven together to solve the mysterious crimes before the city implodes. The politics, patronage and corruption that defines the city make Rossi and Carrara’s job both dangerous and frustrating, always wondering if they can find the guilty before they are sidetracked or stopped by the establishment. Detailed and lengthy this complex story’s pacing maintains the momentum and keeps the reader’s interest, the killings are graphic, but they underline the threat to the city’s population and give the story its menacing ethos.

‘ A Cold Flame’ has everything you need for a thrilling crime read, an enigmatic detective with a dark side and secrets, a set of complicated, horrific crimes and a powerful political infrastructure that thwarts their aims at every opportunity to find the guilty and punish them.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse/ Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Aidan Conway was born in Birmingham and has been living in Italy since 2001. He has been a barman, a bookseller, a proofreader, a language consultant, as well as a freelance teacher, translator and editor for the UNFAO. He is currently an assistant university lecturer in Rome, where he lives with his family. His first novel, A KNOWN EVIL, was published on 5 April 2018 by Harper Collins ‘Killer Reads’. The second book in the DI Michael Rossi crime series, A COLD FLAME, is available as an e-book on 20 July 2018 and in paperback on 6 September 2018.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Chole Esposito – Bad – 4* Review

Alvie Knightly is back . . . and she’s hungover.

When Alvie discovers that her hitman boyfriend has driven off with the Lamborghini and two million euros, she does what any heartbroken, deserted, amateur assassin would do – she drinks everything in the mini-bar and trashes her hotel room. And then she gets to work.

A perilous cat-and-mouse game takes the pair across Rome, leaving a trail of collateral damage in their wake. But as she wholeheartedly embraces her dark side, Alvie will have to figure out if Nino is her nemesis . . . or the only man bad enough to handle her.

Amazon UK

Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

‘Bad’, lives up to its name in the second part of the’Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know ‘trilogy. You need to read the first book in the series’Mad’ to enjoy this book, although’ Bad’ does give a brief plot resume’.

Alvie wakes up hungover(no surprise there then) and finds her lover has taken all the money and the car. This story follows her pursuit of the said lover with flashbacks into her past that illuminates her current state of mind and actions.

Alvie’s character darkens even more in this story, her lack of insight increases and her grasp on reality weakens. Dark humour makes this all seem probable and perhaps not as terrible as sounds, but she carries on a killing spree, albeit accidental for the most part and exploits, drink, drugs and everyone she comes into contact.

There’s enough in this book to make you want to see how it concludes but the plot is weaker in this story, as is often the case in middle trilogy books.

An enjoyable read for those liking erotic romance and dark humour, with larger than life characters and glamorous, richly descriptive settings.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK- Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.