The Tuscan Child
by Rhys Bowen
Lake Union, 2018
I’m a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, so when I saw that she had written a “story within a story” one of my favorite literary devices, I had to buy the book.
The Tuscan Child takes place alternately in 1944 and 1973, and the narrators are a father and his daughter.
Hugo Langley, a British pilot, is shot down over the Tuscan countryside in December of 1944. He’s the only survivor of the plane crash, but his leg is badly injured. He is discovered by Sofia Bartoli, a young woman from the nearby village of San Salvatore. She helps him to hide in the ruins of a nearby monastery and brings him food and whatever medical supplies she can find.
Then the action moves to 1973 when Joanna Langley goes back to her ancestral home to deal with her father’s sudden death. Joanna is in a bad place herself, but grateful for the small legacy Hugo left her. Among his things she finds a letter to Sofia that was returned after war in which he declares his love for her and makes a cryptic reference to their “beautiful boy” being hidden. Intrigued and without work, she uses his legacy to travel to San Salvatore to find out what happened back in 1944. Once there, she meets Sofia’s son Renzo, but finds that the past mystery is not easily uncovered, and that someone wants it to stay buried. Someone who is willing to kill to keep his or her secrets.
I really enjoyed this book. I felt sympathy for Joanna’s predicament as well as Hugo’s. The subplot involving Paola Rossini, who rents a room to Joanna and teaches her about Italian cooking, is charming and heartwarming. And then there’s the handsome but mercurial Renzo. Can he be trusted or not?
If you enjoy Susanna Kearsley’s books, you will probably enjoy The Tuscan Child. In the end, the main villain was a bit obvious, but there was an interesting twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming. The pace is fast, the characters engrossing, and the description of both countryside and food is lovely.
(My apologies to regular readers of my blog for my absence this last month. I’m happy to report that my remodel is almost finished, and I should have more computer time in future.)
As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.
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Today I’m hosting Jana Richards for her Love at Solace Lake Blog Tour, including an interview with Jana.
Secrets and Solace Love at Solace Lake Series (Book 2)
By Jana Richards
Jana is giving away some wonderful prizes during this tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below for your chance win Ebook First and Again, Ebook There Goes the Groom, Ebook A Long Way from Eden, $10 Amazon gift card, or $5 Amazon gift card. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.
Blurb for Secrets and Solace:
No matter how deeply buried, secrets rise to the surface.
Scarlett Lindquist has agreed to help her sisters rebuild the dilapidated fishing lodge in Minnesota they inherited from their grandparents. Although the lengthy restoration is bringing the three sisters closer together, Scarlett’s support is temporary. Her leave of absence from her job in Chicago is temporary and she has no intention of staying at Solace Lake Lodge, where the lake holds dark secrets. When frightening childhood memories resurface, they are tempered by her fascination with an irritating contractor. If only she could trust her feelings for him. If only he could trust her.
Cameron Hainstock meets Scarlett at his brother’s wedding to her sister and their attraction is instantaneous. But Cam avoids the beautiful marketing executive. All his efforts are aimed at battling for custody of his only child. When the unimaginable happens and Cam faces the biggest challenge of his life, he’s reluctant to accept help to halt his downward spiral. Can they learn to trust each other and fight for a future together or will they go their separate ways?
Genre: Contemporary Romance, small town romance
Keywords: contemporary romance, small town romance, mystery, touch of paranormal, murder
ISBN: Ebook ISBN 978-0-9952791-1-7
Heat Level: Spicy, fully described love scenes
Release Date: March 21, 2018
Cover Artist: Angela Waters
Interview with Jana Richards:
Why did you choose this genre?
Jana: I love the hopefulness of romance. All things are possible, and unlike real life, there’s always a happy ending. I write mainly contemporary romance, but I love romantic suspense and have also dabbled with a bit of paranormal. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I like to include a touch of the paranormal, which is what I did with the three books in the Love at Solace Lake series. I’m also fascinated by the World War Two era and have written two novellas set in this period. In another series I’m working on that I call Twice in a Lifetime, I’m combining my love for World War Two stories with contemporary romance and paranormal/time travel. And angels!
The new series sounds fascinating. Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Jana: Sort of. When I was working on this series, I plotted them out at the same time so the stories, and the mystery, would flow between the stories. At the end, I was working with my editor to polish the first book, LIES AND SOLACE, while still finishing the actual writing of the third book, TRUTH AND SOLACE. I usually have to concentrate on one book at a time, but in this case, working on the three books at the same time helped to keep the flow between the books. Not to mention keeping the details of each book fresh in my mind!
What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
Jana:A LONG WAY FROM EDEN was one of the easiest books to write, and I think it was because I knew the characters, especially the hero, so well. I just knew what he would do and feel in any situation. The same was true for the second book in the Love at Solace Lake series, SECRETS AND SOLACE. I had vision for Cameron Hainstock that carried me through the writing. I knew he’d need a strong woman like Scarlet Lindquist to love him.
One of the most fun books I’ve written is CHILL OUT, my Valentine themed story. It’s light, and I hope funny, and one of the characters is a giant English Mastiff – it’s always fun to add a dog to a story. This novella-length book is part of the Candy Hearts romance series from The Wild Rose Press. All the novellas were named for sayings on conversation hearts, those little pastel colored, heart-shaped candies with things like “I love you” and “Be Mine” written on them. I had a lot fun using the candy hearts to predict love between Renata and Noah.
The hardest book? In some ways, the Love at Solace Lake series was the hardest. The writing itself wasn’t so bad, but it was the size of this three-book project (all full-length novels, by the way) and the fact I published it myself that made it hard. It was a very steep learning curve.
Do you have any pets? What do you like best about your pet?
Jana: We have a dog named Allu, or Lou for short. She’s a Pug/Terrier cross, and we’ve had her since 2004 when we got her at a year and a half of age. That makes her about fifteen and a half years old now. These days, she’s a little slower than she used to be and she can be a cranky old lady at times, but we still adore her.
I can see why. She looks like a little darling. Maybe someday my puppy will calm down enough to let me dress her.
How do you choose the names and physical characteristics of your characters? Do you base them on real people?
Jana: In the Love at Solace Lake series, I knew the Lindquist sisters were given names of Southern writers (Harper for Harper Lee), or characters in Southern-based books (Scarlet for Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and Maggie for Maggie Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). I felt it was something their mother would have done. The male characters’ names, Ethan, Cameron and Luke, just happen to be three of my favorite men’s names!
Sometimes I’ll use a picture of a real person to inspire me, but mostly I see my characters in my head, fully formed.
Names can be very tricky. Sometimes a name will pop into my head and it’s absolutely perfect – no changes necessary. In other cases, I’ll test-drive several names before one feels right. I use baby naming websites, or sometimes historical lists of names to find the one I’m looking for. If I need a name appropriate for a certain country, like Norway or Portugal, I’ll find a list of those. I often use an old phone book to find just the right last name.
When their grandfather dies, the Lindquist sisters, Harper, Scarlet and Maggie, inherit the northern Minnesota fishing lodge that had been in their family for three generations. The inheritance is bittersweet. They were raised at the lodge by their grandparents. The natural beauty of the place hasn’t changed, but the building itself is crumbling and desperately in need of repair. The lodge also reminds them of what they lost. Twenty-two years previously, their parents died there in what was ruled a murder/suicide.
As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com