Monday, January 28, 2013

The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellegrino

Paperback: 362 pages
GenreContemporary Romantic Fiction
Publisher:  Orion 2009

Source:  Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentence: The mannequin was propped up in the corner of Pieta's attic room.

Review Quote:
“If your soul needs some nourishing, The Italian Wedding is a great pick.” 

– Mindfood magazine
 My Opinion:  A novel to lose yourself in for a few hours undemanding read.

This is the second title by this author that I have read and I doubt it will be the last as I believe they are all set in Italy. Although I am already living the Italian dream it was a pleasure to lose myself in the setting for this delightful novel for a few hours of undemanding reading. A relaxing read written by an author whose passion for Italy is obvious from the delightful way she writes, even including some authentic recipes in the storyline.

With a simple plot about love, feuding families and plenty of recipes for delicious Italian food, I was quickly immersed. The Martinelli family live and work in the area of Little Italy in London, running the family business of a restaurant.  Father, Beppe resides over the kitchen at home and at work, the latter with his younger daughter Addolorata. The older daughter Pieta is a designer of bridal gowns so it is only natural that she should be designing and making the wedding gown for her sister's forthcoming nuptials. She is helped by their English mother Catherine who has always seemed to the girls to be quietly in the background of family life. It is when she is helping Pieta with the time consuming intricate beading for the dress that the two women start to chat about the past and for the first time Catherine opens up to her daughter about how she and Beppe met and fell in love. The story also eventually explains why there is a long standing feud with another local Italian family. With realistically portrayed characters the unfolding story is a charming read. Romantic fiction with an Italian theme which will appeal to many fans of this genre.

My earlier review for Recipe For Life

Author Profile
Image credit: New Zealand Woman's Weekly

Nicky Pellegrino's Italian father came to England and fell in love with a Liverpool girl which is where Nicky was born on the first of January 1964. Bringing his passion for food to his new family, his Italian mantra that you live to eat not eat to live is one of the inspirations behind Nicky's delicious novels. Now living in New Zealand, where she works as a journalist, Nicky hordes her holidays so she and her husband can return to Italy to see family, eat the best mozzarella and research her books.

When Nicky first started writing fiction it was her memories of childhood summers in Italy that came flooding back and flavoured her stories: the passions, the feuds but most of all the food.
She works as a freelance journalist, has weekly columns in the Herald on Sunday newspaper and the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and her novels are distributed in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and have been translated into 12 languages.
She loves cooking for friends, drinking red wine, walking on New Zealand’s amazing beaches, riding her horse through the forest and lying in bed reading other people’s novels.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads   Nicky Pellegrino - Official Website   Nicky Pellegrino - Twitter

Monday, January 21, 2013

Summer of Love by Katie Fforde

Paperback : 376 pages 
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 
Publisher: Arrow books 2012
Source: Gift from a fellow Bookcrosser
First Sentences: 'Er, hello!' Sian put down her fork and looked over the garden wall. A woman was smiling at her, holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a jam jar full of flowers in the other.

Review Quote:Captivating ... Fforde's novels are notable for their gentle humour and this one is no exception... Summer of Love is as deliciously addictive as Fforde's earlier books...if you're after an escapist novel that fizzes with warmth and wit, then this is perfect. (Daily Express )
My Opinion Met my expectations from an author I have been enjoying since 1995!

Feel good romance with a happy ever after ending, just the sort of read I expect and enjoy from Katie Fforde whose novels I have been reading since 1995! Her characters are always believable and set in places we can imagine in real life, stories that are easy to read but with enough drama to keep you interested. 

'Summer of Love' revolves around Sian Bishop and her life changing decision to move from the city to create a better life for her and her young son, Rory. She immerses herself in country life, enjoying her garden, making friends with the locals, her furniture restoration business and settling her son into new routines. Of course love is the last thing she is looking for as she already has a dependable male friend in Richard, the person in fact who wanted her to make the move. In fact it is obvious that he is interested in far more than friendship but Sian is just not interested in him in that way. Sian however is thrown into confusion when the charming son of her new found friend and neighbour Fiona Berresford, Angus returns home after a long absence. Does this unexpected meeting change her life as she tries to convince herself that this exciting young man is an inappropriate person for her to consider getting involved with and anyway she is not looking for love! Or is she? 

In recommending this I would have to say you need to be a fan of  Katie Fforde or contemporary romantic fiction if you have not yet read any of her novels. She is perfect reading for when you are in the mood for a touch of romance, families and village life presented in a readable novel with the inevitable happy ending that one can relax with. The world of Katie Fforde is always a pleasant one to escape to for a few hours, where life always seems relatively unstressed, lovely escapism.

The following two short videos are well worth listening to if you have a few minutes as Katie Fforde talks  first about her research for the novel and in the second one about her heroine.

                                           Katie Fforde talks about her novel Summer of Love

                                                             Katie Fforde talks about the heroine of Summer of Love

Author Profile

Catherine Rose Gordon-Cumming was born on 27 September 1952 in Wimbledon, London, UK.  She has lived near Stroud, Gloucestershire  for over twenty years, with her husband and three children. It was after the birth of her third child that she started writing using her married name of Katie Fforde.  She is founder of the Katie Fforde Bursary for writers who have yet to secure a publishing contract. She was for many years a committee member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and was elected its twenty-fifteenth chairman (2009–2011) and later its fourth president. In June 2010 she was announced as a patron of the UK's first National Short Story Week.

I am also sharing here what she has to say about herself on her website as she says it so well.

About Katie
I was born and brought up in London but I am basically a country girl. I’ve lived in Stroud with my family for thirty years and while I love London and visit it frequently, I don’t think I could actually live there.

My husband Desmond and I started married life on the water, where we took two 70’ x 6’10 narrowboats around the canals as a hotel. It was very hard work! From there we went to Wales where we had two baby boys and narrowly avoided keeping goats. It was while we lived in Wales that I became addicted to Mills & Boon novels. My husband was away at sea for a lot of the time, leaving me with two small children who didn’t sleep well. I loved the fact that you could pick up a Mills & Boon and be able to follow the plot and enjoy the escapism even if you’d had little sleep. They were my reward for every household task. I’m so glad I was addicted to reading and not chocolate or Valium.

I did have the idea that I wanted to write Mills & Boon novels but didn’t do anything about it until my mother gave me a writing kit for Christmas. By now we lived in Stroud, and I also had a daughter as well as the two sons, Irish Wolfhound and two cats we had in Wales (although not the hens.). I didn’t think I had time to write but my mother thought differently and I took up the challenge. Ten years later I had a book on the shelves. It wasn’t a Mills & Boon, although I had tried to write one for eight years; it was Living Dangerously.

I had met an agent through the Romantic Novelists’Association and, when I was about to give up my ambitions to become a writer, she convinced me I could write something else. I was extremely lucky that the novel was chosen as part of a WHSmith’s Fresh Talent promotion, which gave it a terrific start in life.

There have been over seventeen novels since, as well as some grandchildren and a few stone of extra weight. However, I love being a writer. It gives me the chance to have all the jobs I couldn’t get now even if I did know anything about horses or pottery or indeed almost anything else. I love doing the research, although it has taken me way out of my comfort zone at times. I have been a porter for an auction house, learned how to gut fish, and taken part in a Ray Mears survival course. I loved it!

My hobbies, when I have time for them, are singing in a choir and flamenco dancing. Watching television is research and so I call it work.


  • Living Dangerously (1995)
  • The Rose Revived (1995)
  • Wild Designs (1996)
  • Stately Pursuits (1997)
  • Life Skills (1999)
  • Thyme Out (2000) aka Second Thyme Around
  • Artistic Licence (2001)
  • Highland Fling (2002)
  • Paradise Fields (2003)
  • Restoring Grace (2004)
  • Flora's Lot (2005) aka Bidding for Love
  • Practically Perfect (2006)
  • Going Dutch (2007)
  • Wedding Season (2008)
  • Love Letters (2009)
  • A Perfect Proposal (2010)
  • Summer of Love (2011)
  • Recipe for Love (2012)

Flora's Lot is the only other novel I have reviewed here and even that was copied from my  Bookcrossing journal entry where the book last checked in from Spain! 

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Twitter Profile   Goodreads Author Profile  Katie Fforde - Official Website   Katie Fforde - Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sun at Midnight by Rosie Thomas

Paperback488 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins 2005
Source: Oxfam Charity Bookshop
First Sentences: The wind blew straight off the frozen bay. It was thickened with sleet but the man working on the skelton roof didn't seem to notice the cold, or the way the flecks of ice drove into his eyes.
Review Quote:   'The majesty and hostility of the landscape leap off the page.' Daily Mail
My Opinion: A rare glimpse of an amazing world.

Rosie Thomas is not only an author but a keen traveller and mountaineer which has provided her with excellent and well researched material for her novels. To research the Antarctic background for Sun at Midnight Rosie spent a month living with the scientists on a Bulgarian research station on Livingstone Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula.
I am a long time fan of her writing although I still have to catch up with her most recent novels. With Sun at Midnight I was immediately engrossed in this adventure and love story that is set in Antarctica and gave me a rare glimpse of an amazing world. The author's personal research pays off as it shows in her writing as I really felt transported to the location from page one. In fact to quote from her website ' she believes that her travelling and writing are interdependent, and that one informs and enables the other.'
Having raved over the atmospheric setting of the novel I had better give you a brief outline of the story without spoilers of course. The theme is a familiar one for Rosie Thomas that of love and loss but it works as it is the stronger background settings that for me personally make her novels so readable. 

The female protagonist is Alice Peel a geologist and daughter of a famous scientist who had worked in Antartica. It is due to her mothers failing health that Alice is herself given the opportunity to take part in a research programme herself.  In sharp contrast to her normal life in Oxford she finds herself on-board a ship in a desolate landscape about to enter the realm of the unknown and unpredictable. Nothing has prepared Alice for the stark beauty of this place or for the realities of living in close confinement with a small group of people, just one other woman besides herself. It is with James Rooker, a man on the run his entire life and another member of the expedition, that she finds she has a spark with, like she has never felt with anyone before. The characters are all realistic with well portrayed personalities. As the claustrophobic tension builds amongst the people living and working together in this isolated research station, it is the present moment and survival that matters most. Their behaviour and reactions to the environment and situations they find themselves in may be a little implausible, it is their personal reactions that are more believable. Alice discovers something about herself in Antarctica that may change her life for ever if she survives the experience. Whilst saying that the human reactions were more believable, it does not mean you will necessarily agree with them, but I think you will understand them.

I recommend Rosie Thomas  to women  that are looking for more than romance in their reading. She is a writer whose style of writing is now appealing to a new generation of young women as well as those of us that have been reading her novels since the early eighties.

Other reviews of titles by Rosie Thomas to be found on LindyLouMac's Book Reviews
White (Audio Book Version)       Follies

Author Profile
Courtesy of Facebook
Rosie Thomas is the pen name of Janey King, née Morris, born 1947 in Denbigh, Wales she grew up there before becoming a boarder  at Howell’s School. The school had a strong tradition of music and games, but unfortunately Rosie had no aptitude for hockey and no enthusiasm for Gilbert and Sullivan choruses. She found the library instead, immersing  herself in books was the ideal apprenticeship for a writer.

Rosie read English at St Hilda’s College Oxford, and for the first time in her life felt that she was in the right place at the right time.  She worked in women's magazines and publishing until she and her husband had a family, it was after the birth of her son that she started to write a book and her first one was published in 1982, just after the birth of her daughter. She has been writing full time ever since, and that first novel has been followed by a score of others.
Rosie lives and writes in London, but she is also a keen traveller, mountaineer and skier. Among many adventures she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, trekked in Pakistan, Ladakh and Bhutan, followed the Silk Route through Asia, worked on a research station in Antarctica, sailed the Atlantic, explored in Chile, and competed in a classic car rally from Peking to Paris. Most recently she has sailed the southern ocean from Falklands to South Georgia and then crossed the island in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Song of the Flutist by Rosalind Burgundy

Paperback: 333 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: 2010 (first published May 27th 2005)
I won this in a competition on 50 Years In Italy

First Sentences: Prologue 'The Flutist spoke, guiding the people long before the rise of archaic Greece and ancient Rome. Like a soup of blended flavors, the Indigenous Tuscans, Hellenics and Lydians of Asia Minor melted into the bucolic land, understanding the workings of the cosmos.'
Review Quote: "When civilization seems to only exist in one spot, surrounded by barbarianism, it cannot last forever. "Song of the Flutist" is a work of historical fiction from Rosalind Burgundy, telling of three generations of the highly advanced society of the Etruscans, where equal rights are all around and life seems to be great for all those involved. But as the prophecy heralds doom, this good thing may come to an end. A worthy read of historical fiction, "Song of the Flutist" is a finely recommended read, not to be overlooked." ~Midwest Book Review
Award: Italian America Magazine Book Selection (2005)
My Opinion: A fascinating tale that brings the Etruscans to life as you read.

I was particularly interested in reading this novel as I live in the area known as Etruria where the novel is set, at the peak of Etruscan society over two thousand years ago. Lucky enough to have visited some of the amazing tombs, dwellings and bridges left behind by them, I enjoyed this fascinating tale that brings the Etruscans to life as you read. Set in Tarchna (Tarquinia), Cisra (Cerveteri), Veia (Veio), Roma, Pupluna (Populonia), Velathri (Volterra), Murlo, Curtun (Cortona), and across the Mediterranean to Athenai (Athens), and into Aegypt (Egypt), the authors writing, research and knowledge makes it easy to visualise these ancient cities of that era. It is quite amazing just how these extraordinary people were leading the lifestyle they did, while outside their own society, deception, brutality, murder and plague was rife.  

Although since reading I have discovered that this is the third in the trilogy it was fine as a stand alone read, although this might explain why it took me quite awhile to come to grips with all that was going on and the style of writing. It is an epic family saga that spans three centuries and three generations of the lives of the noble and ambitious Porenna-Laris families and how two powerful but rival cities threaten to split the family. With at least eighteen important characters and many more minor ones I guess it was not surprising that at first I had to keep referring to the authors family tree and list explaining the hierarchy of Etruscan society.

The family lead an advanced lifestyle compared the rest of the world in those times, with men and women seen as equals, they live richly and dress well. Wealth, wisdom and artistic beauty flourish with families having lavishly appointed tombs built to ensure their comfort in the afterlife. The mysterious flutist who represents time, life and death is ever present in the novel as he guides the Etruscans on their journeys to the afterlife. Throughout their lives the Etruscans are also aware of The Great Prediction heralding the fate of their society. 

By reading this novel you will learn something of the rich lives of an incredible but forgotten civilization.

Author Profile

Rosalind Burgundy's infatuation for the Etruscans' amazing culture began when she worked with  an archaeologist in the famous Roman Forum as Technical Illustrator and Curator of Etruscan artefacts. After more than 40 years as educator/lecturer, wife, mother and world traveller, she has returned to her life-long interest and written three novels about that ancient civilization.
Living very much in the present, but with her Etruscan spirit, Rosalind Burgundy had her DNA tested. It shows her heritage goes way back to the Haplogroup H who migrated from Africa's Olduvai Gorge to the northern Mediterranean.

Rosalind was born on February 03, 1945 in Philadelphia, USA but she now lives in the Central Sierra and the coast of California, with her winters spent in Palm Beach, Florida.

Information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.

Etruscan Italy - Historical Fiction  Amazon - Author Profile   Goodreads Author Profile