BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – BLEEDING HEART BY STACI TROILO

bleeding heartOn Author Wednesday this week, Staci Troilo wrote about her choice to write multi-genre novels. After reading Bleeding Heart, her first venture into suspenseful romance, I can attest that she’s made a wise choice to branch out from mainstream fiction and mystery. She titled it Bleeding Heart for a very good reason (you’ll find no spoilers here), but I can tell you it was heart-stopping, heart-throbbing, and heart-pounding as well.

The novel, the first in her Medici Protectorate series, never allows the reader a moment to relax and take a breath for a variety of reasons. It’s a novel that crosses genre lines in a fascinating cross-pollination of lives, eras, and continents. There’s suspense, mystery, intrigue, and history. But overriding the whole thing is a romantic sensuality that tops anything I’ve read of late.

I’m impressed with what Ms. Troilo accomplished in this book. It’s intelligent and explores an area of mystery that has plagued generations from the United States to Italy. But she’s also written some of the steamiest sex scenes I’ve ever read. I’m embarrassed when I read some steamy romances because the plot line can delve into cheesy. Not so with this novel. She matched the personalities of her main characters–Franki and Gianni–perfectly. Both proud, stubborn, and with streaks of anger that are down right frightful. Even Franki’s sisters and Gianni’s adopted brothers fear that anger. What a combustible combination when the two meet and then eventually collide into one another on an explosive sensual ride.

It’s a roller coaster of a book that takes the reader from a city in the U.S., loosely resembling Pittsburgh, to the past of Michelangelo’s Italy.

But there’s more, if that’s not enough. There’s the paranormal aspect of the Medici line that’s been passed down to Gianni and his family tribe. Franki only begins to understand her family’s role in the whole Medici mystique after her father’s murder. That’s right–there’s murder, too. And the threat of murder always overhanging the sisters who are beautiful, talented, and devoted to their mother and dead father.

Be forewarned–not everything is solved at this end of this novel because Book Two is now being readied for release in 2016.

I highly recommend reading this book to add lots of spice and excitement to your life! I know my heart is still bleeding all over the floor after my voyeuristic visits with Franki and Gianni through all their trysts.

Blurb for Bleeding Heart—Franki, secret legacy of the Medici, is prophesied to return Italy to its former glory. Targeted for assassination and ignorant of her enemy’s identity, she is protected by Gianni, the warrior destined to defend her. He must conquer her fears and his demons to save them both.

Purchase Links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

 

 

SNEAK PREVIEW FROM CHRISTMAS BOX SET – DANTE’S GIFT

I had the privilege to beta read this novella from the upcoming Christmas Pets and Kisses by Aubrey Wynne. Dante’s Gift is a lovely contemporary romance with bits of history and a trip to Italy in the mix. I loved all the characters, but really fell in love with the grandmother in this story. Sweet and romantic, Dante’s Gift crosses oceans and generations to melt even the hardest of hearts.
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?

Excerpt

~ Anne Landers
Chapter One
The piles of discarded clothes resembled the glorious Chicago skyline at dusk. The deep sunset colors cluttered the floor and the bed as Katie James systematically emptied out the huge walk-in closet. She shook her head in frustration each time she gazed at the mirror in a new outfit.
This was the night. The night Dominic would pull a dazzling ring from his pocket and ask her to become his wife. He had been like a kid with a big secret for the past three weeks: distracted, smiling for no apparent reason, and cracking stale jokes. All sure signs that he plotted with the “happy gods.” Several times when she’d texted or called, he told her he was Christmas shopping. Ha! No man bought holiday gifts in October. He said to dress up because he had something special planned. There could be only one explanation—a proposal.
Looking out the window from her Lake Point Tower condo, she watched the sailboats bob in Lake Michigan and played out the evening in her mind. Dominic would be dressed in a tailored suit that hugged his wide shoulders. His long fingers would betray his nervousness as they combed through his thick, dark wavy hair. She would shiver delicately when those smoky eyes caressed her face. He would reach for her hand—
Good grief, get a hold of yourself. This is real life not some sappy chick flick.
A loud buzzing announced company had arrived. She waded through the sea of outfits and pushed the intercom.
“Jazzy? Is that you?”
“No, it’s Cinderella. Hurry up and let me in. The creepy doorman is staring again.”
Katie pushed the button with a laugh. Her best friend had a love-hate relationship with Thomas. He would smile at her, she would call him a lecherous old man, and he would respond with a wink. If he didn’t smile at her, Jasmine rushed to check her make-up. He must not have flashed a grin because she made it up to the forty-fourth floor in record time and pounded on the door.
“Come in, it’s open.” She watched the slim blonde rush to the hall mirror for a quick self-inspection. “You look fine. He does it on purpose, you know.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. He’s lucky he’s not bad-looking for an older guy or I’d have slapped him by now.” Jasmine plopped onto the couch. “What are you wearing tonight? I came to give my approval. I have a better sense of romance than you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her friend snorted. “You’re a CPA. Accountants are efficient not romantic.”
“I’m a tax consultant but I could use another opinion. My room looks like a tornado hit it. I’ll pour you a glass of Merlot and put on a fashion show.”
An hour later, both women stood in front of the full-length mirror with huge grins. Katie turned from side to side, watching the vibrant jade dress sway under the black silk jacket. A hint of cleavage peeked out from the scooped neckline. “You are brilliant. I would have never put this together.”
“That’s why I design clothes and you add numbers. See how the darker colors showcase that deep auburn hair?” Jazzy said as she arranged the mass of waves into a loose chignon, leaving long curls to frame her oval face. “I wish you would show more leg, but this is subtly sexy. Now where are the green topaz earrings and pendant your parents bought you last Christmas? They’re the exact color of your eyes.”
An hour later, after a professional make-up session, she gave her friend a hug. “Good luck tonight. I hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were girls.”
Katie laughed. “No, you hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were young. ”
“Same thing. I admit I always thought I’d find my soul mate first, though.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know I don’t believe in that. Love, yes. True love, love at first sight, fate? No. Compatibility, similar backgrounds and interests, friendship—those are the things that determine lasting love.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you can’t tell me your stomach never flips when he looks at you a certain way, or your legs get wobbly during a particularly passionate kiss.” Jazzy waggled her finger and ignored the second roll of eyes. “Now remember to get at least a little teary-eyed when he pops the question. Pinch yourself if you have to but let him know how much this means to you. We both know you’re lousy at saying what you feel.”
“You make me sound like a cold fish,” she said with frown. “I don’t ooze emotion but I can show affection. Besides, I didn’t have much practice in my family.”
“When was the last time you gave me a hug?”
“Just now.” Katie bit her lip, knowing what was next.
“No, I hugged you. There’s a difference. I’ll get off my soapbox if you promise to try to make tonight as special for Dom as he is making it for you. Throw sensibility to the wind and kiss him in public.” She headed for door. “And for god’s sake, don’t forget to tell him you love him. He should not have to take it for granted when he puts a ring on your finger.”
“Time out! I promise to wear my heart on my sleeve and follow all the rules of Miss Jasmine’s School of Romance, if you promise to leave now,” she agreed and pushed her friend toward the door. “Go pretend you hate Thomas and leave me in peace. I’ll call you first thing in the morning.”
“Call me from the bathroom afterwards. I want to know all the details.”
Katie shut the door. From the other side came a muffled, “And text me a picture of the ring.”
She chuckled as she heard the ding of the elevator and pictured her friend adjusting her hair and taking a quick peek in the mirror before the door opened. The handsome doorman would give her a sly smile. Jazzy would glide past as if she hadn’t noticed, but Thomas would know better from the exaggerated sway of her hips.
Checking her makeup for the umpteenth time, she thought about what her friend had said. Overt affection had never been part of her upbringing. It’s not that they didn’t care for one another. Her parents just didn’t talk about it or physically show it. A nanny had raised her until she turned thirteen. Katie had thrown a tantrum at the mention of a boarding school. She finally won the public education battle and met her best friend the first day of math class.
It wasn’t until her teens that she began to build a genuine relationship with her mom. Her father often absent, she began to accompany her mother to some of the local charity events and volunteer activities. Her mother’s popularity surprised her. She watched Eleanor use her gracious manner and good looks to charm the most tightfisted businessmen to open their checkbooks. Her fund-raising abilities were legendary; she gathered the most prominent guests and always met or exceeded the goal.
Her parents exposed her to the arts and entertainment provided in Chicago, adding a sophistication beyond her years. She could spot a rare painting out of a collection of copies, identify any classical piece of music, and knew an excellent wine from a mediocre vintage by the time she turned twenty-one. She also knew right from wrong, grey from black and white, and that everyone must give back in some way. Her business education began on her sixteenth birthday with extensive travel that led to internships with foreign finance companies. She would soon be ready to take her place as CEO at James’ Financial Services.
But was she ready to share her heart and her bed with a man? Dominic Lawrence checked off all the must-haves on her list. He had a thriving organic food business that provided fresh produce to the best restaurants in the city and suburbs. Successful, check. Her family approved of his background; he had a similar upbringing and the same values. Shared ethics, check. They loved the cultural activities Chicago offered: plays, opera, museums, and festivals. Both physically active, they enjoyed biking and running along the lake, hiking and skiing in the winter. Compatibility, check.
His Italian descent gave him the tall, dark good looks she’d always preferred. Handsome, check. He was devoted to a grandmother in Italy and wanted children but did not insist on having them right away. Family man, check. There would be no issues with in-laws and holidays since his parents had died in a car crash ten years earlier, and he was an only child. Not that it was a plus, but she had heard horror stories from her friends about their monster-in-laws fighting over which side had more time with the grandchildren.
On the other hand, they were complete opposites in so many ways, which she considered a plus and minus. He appreciated comedy and musicals and tolerated her docudramas and incessant reading. Adds variety, check. She liked to have a plan for everything but enjoyed his spontaneity. Flexible, check. He believed in being frugal throughout the week but letting loose on vacation. She balanced a checkbook to the penny and weighed the importance of every expenditure. Minor flaw #1. She considered punctuality a virtue, while he considered time an approximation. Minor flaw #2.
In general, they complemented one another. He softened her black and white outlook; she gave some edge to his grey areas. Katie found herself enjoying his unexpected surprises. His love of people drew her into unexpected and delightful conversations with perfect strangers. Dominic ticked each box. He wasn’t perfect but his flaws defined him as much as his strengths.
No, she didn’t throw her arms around him in a passionate hug each time he walked through the door. No, she didn’t gush, “I love you” every time he made her heart skip a beat. But he did make her heart skip a beat, and her body responded each time he wrapped his arms around her in a passionate hug. His huge heart and Italian affection had been overwhelming at first but thought she had come a long way in the past year. Dominic called her “a work in progress.”
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played on her cell phone. “Dom” appeared in bright letters and she quickly swiped the screen. “Hey there. Not cancelling on me, are you?”
“Not a chance. Finished up the week’s orders and cleared some days on next month’s calendar.” He paused then continued in a low, caressing tone, “I miss you, Kathleen James. It’s been a week since I’ve held you in my arms. No more extended business trips if you want me to remain a gentleman.”
Her pulse raced as his deep voice flowed through her like a rich cup of coffee. “Don’t threaten me, Mr. Lawrence. You’re the one working twelve-hour days. Besides,” she added, getting into the spirit of the game, “maybe I like an old-fashioned rogue once a in awhile.”
The moan on the other end made her chuckle. “Are you still picking me up at seven?”
“What time is it now?”
“Grrr. It’s six-fifty.” She tapped her foot on the hard wood floor. “You’re late again, aren’t you?”
“Is that your toe making a staccato beat? I-am-ir-ri-ta-ted. Why-can’t-he-be-on-time.” She could hear the grin in his tone. Sense of humor, check.
“You took the words right out of my—” A knock at the door. “Hang on a minute, okay?”
Not expecting anyone, she looked through the peephole. A charcoal-grey eye stared back at her. She quickly opened the door.
“Boo!” He held out a bouquet of white and pink flowers.
The aroma of white roses and star lily gazers filled the room. Thoughtful, check. Then he pulled her close, nibbling at her lips as her arms went around his neck. When the kiss deepened, the flowers fell to the floor. Katie leaned into him, allowing his strong hands to hold her up.
Strong and sexy. Check.

About the Author


Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas. Her debut story, Merry Christmas, Henry, received Best Short Romance in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and her humorous shorts include Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies, also Best Short in P &E 2014 and Top 100 Laugh Out Loud List on Goodreads. Aubrey’s first love is historical romance and the medieval fantasy Rolf’s Quest, will be released in 2016.
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#FREE FRIDAY

I’ve been running a “free” download campaign for my book of travel essays–both physical and personal–Odyssey to Myself this week.

Just wanted to let you know that today is the last day to download your FREE copy.

Click here to get your free copy today. Happy Friday!

#New Release – Odyssey to Myself

Odyssey to Myself is now a book of essays from my travels during the past decade. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Click here for Kindle version

Click on cover for Kindle version

PaperbackAugust2014Half

Click on cover for paperback

Odyssey to Myself is a world travel guide for trips to Morocco, Italy, Panama, Chile, and down Route 66 in the United States. The compilation of essays show Muslim women dressed in hijabs and working in Casablanca. Moroccan history and food provide a colorful backdrop as the author explores her place in the world.

About Odyssey to Myself:

Take a trip to Casablanca, Marrakech, Tuscany, Bocas del Toro, and Santiago as P.C. Zick writes about her experiences traveling outside the confines of her small world. Observations about life and culture bring to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the ancient alleyways of Fes, the masters of Italy, and the strategic location of Panama. The people of Morocco, Italy, Panama, and Chile come to life through the experiences of the author as she absorbs the cultures so different from her own.

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A Couscous Luncheon in Casablanca

From Odyssey to Myself:

“Traveling removes us from our small safe environment and thrusts out into the world. When I travel, I realize what a tiny ripple my life is in the ocean’s constant waves. A few months ago, I had to endure a full body MRI that lasted more than two hours. I almost swooned when the nurse told me how long I’d be in that long encompassing tunnel. She recommended I remain awake because if I moved after falling asleep, they’d have to pull me out and begin again. I did not want that to happen. My brain fought against any touch of claustrophobia as they closed me in the tube and sent me inside the machine. I frantically searched through the files in my brain. With a little prayer for help, I went into the tube and decided to travel in my memories back to the most important trips of my life.

The first trip I remembered was my visit to Morocco in 2004. I knew it was a watershed year as many things had been happening in my life, and I went on the trip to heal and find direction. I began with my arrival in Casablanca in the early morning hours after flying all night from New York City. It came back so vividly I could even smell and feel the air of my travels during a magical two weeks. Then I started on Italy from 2005, where my daughter and I went for a month to celebrate her graduation from college. I’d only gotten through the first two days when I heard a voice say they were pulling me out of the tunnel. I cursed silently, thinking I must have moved as I remembered walking the streets of Milan and marveling at all the beautiful shoes.

“You were a great patient,” the nurse said. “It didn’t take quite two hours, but almost. You’re done.”

That’s the beauty of travel. It removes us from our world into a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, noises, and textures. This book explores some of those experiences as I embarked on an odyssey to find myself during one of the darkest decades of my life.”

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Book Review Friday – The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Book 1 of The Three Nations Trilogy)

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I interviewed Christoph Fischer in June on Author Wednesday. Today I review his novel The Luck of the Weissensteiners.542568_135806279903679_1569303214_n

 

History of the twentieth century was one of my major areas of study in college. However, the history I studied presented an ethnocentric view of World War II. Of course, I know about Hitler’s rise to power, and the major steps he took in Europe prior to our entry into the war. I understood the political and social ramifications. I understood the uneasy alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan. But I only knew of these histories from the perspective of the first, isolationist United States, and then, as the full-speed ahead entry into the war heroes who saved the world from the evil Axis powers.

Reading Christoph Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners presented another view of that period through the camera lens of people living in Eastern Europe. The book shows people from all the different perspectives before, during, and after the war. It’s an eye-opening read to learn that the United States wasn’t the center of this war. In the lives of these ordinary folks, the United States played an almost peripheral role.

The Luck of the Weissensteiners exposes how the Eastern Europeans reacted with a wide range of attitudes and actions as the war tore apart families and friends and allowed no trust to exist in all the varied relationships. There may have been a world war taking place on the larger stage, but for the characters in Fischer’s novel, it is a civil war being fought, and the lines are blurred and often changing, depending on who’s in charge.

Jews and Gentiles fall in love and marry, which creates a problem when Hitler’s master plan begins to take effect, even in countries where he’s not invaded. . .yet. The propaganda used to smear the very genes of Jews causes one husband to question the moral integrity of his wife. He buys the line of inherently weak genes so much he even takes their son away – a son who is Aryan in looks, leaving behind his Jewish wife and their unborn child. The atmosphere of fear changes people, oftentimes not for the better.

Through it, all one family stands strong.

This book’s retelling of the history of this period in Europe is personalized through the characters that represent a cross section of the lives impacted by the atrocities of war. Jews, Gentiles, Germans, Slovakians, lesbians, and traitors all point to one direction. War never makes much sense when the individual lives of its victims are examined. Neither side wins when people are persecuted for their religion, political beliefs, nationality, or sexual orientations.

It’s a sad commentary on the human condition when a people are forced to hide their identities behind forged passports, and then forced to throw away the forgeries to appease the winning side. When it comes down to it in the aftermath of the war and the liberation of Europe, all individuals are suspect, and mankind is taken down a notch.

Christoph Fischer has written an important book for its historical perspective. He personified the vagaries of war through the fictional characters. At times, it reads like a history book, but before it bogs down into a lesson in civics, he comes back to the individuals experiencing the actual effects of the persecution.

As always, we study and examine the past so we don’t forget it. As long as genocide exists in the world, we must do as Fischer has done in his novel – remind us, and remind us again, that our faith, our color, our language, and our life choices should matter not a wit. In the end, it’s our integrity and how we treat others that matters the most.

Thank you, Christoph, for writing this important book to remind us never to repeat the mistakes of the past.