About Me

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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A Tuscan Legacy book 7 - Solo Tu by Narelle Atkins



Home means everything to Sienna Rossi.

Four years ago, Sienna defied her father by moving to Australia to obtain her teaching qualifications. Her grand plan is shaken by her father's unexpected death and a trip back to Tuscany for her grandmother's eightieth birthday where she renews her close bond with her sister, Alessa.

Teacher Dave Maxwell likes the freedom of his nomadic lifestyle. He works contract-to-contract, moving to different high schools around Australia. He's in Sydney for a season, caring for his grandma while his aunt is on an extended overseas vacation.

Back in Sydney, Sienna moves in with her Aussie cousins and starts her first teaching job, torn between her dream for a future in Australia and her longing for home. Sienna and Dave work at the same school, attend the same church, and quickly become friends. They are drawn together by circumstances and an undeniable attraction.

But their idyllic time together is temporary. Can the girl from Tuscany and the boy from Australia risk everything for love?

CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT

HER FIFTH AUTUMN IN AUSTRALIA wasn’t ending the way she’d planned.
Sienna Rossi jumped to the left, almost tumbling onto the soft Clontarf Beach sand. A soccer ball flew past and landed in the shallow water. A young family of five played ball together and a little girl giggled, clinging to her father’s shoulders.
Sienna regained her balance, a familiar yearning infusing her heart. She longed to be that little girl, delighting in her father’s attention. She longed to wind back the years and spend more time with her father and siblings. And she longed for a few more days, or even a few moments, with her Papà. But he was gone.
“Sienna!”
Sienna spun around, her heels digging into the sand.
Her cousin Billie stood twenty feet away with her husband, Zach. “We’re organizing the teams. Can you wait here?”
“Sure.” Beach cricket. The fun Aussie tradition Sienna had grown to love was next on her Saturday afternoon agenda.
A wind gust blew fine grains of golden sand over her bare arms and legs. Her ponytail anchored her baseball cap in place and sunglasses protected her eyes. In Sydney, it wasn’t unusual to wear shorts and t-shirts in late May.
Last week she’d worn summer clothing at the Italiano beach near the Amalfi Coast guest house where Mammà’s parents lived. Nonna Crisanti had given Sienna two birthday gifts to bring back to Australia. Handmade gifts Nonna Crisanti had chosen for her sisters who’d taken care of Sienna during her time in Australia.
Sienna had visited Nonna Rossi in Tuscany at the end of April. The whole family had returned to Villa Rossi for Nonna’s eightieth birthday party. Sienna had met Rachel, the cousin she’d never known existed. Family drama and intrigue were ongoing in the Rossi family. Sienna preferred to ignore it all. Her memories of growing up in Tuscany were bittersweet.
Billie walked hand-in-hand across the park with Zach. Family gatherings, including Sienna’s Aussie-Italian family on Mammà’s side, congregated in groups on the grass. Zach had planned a game of beach cricket with Dave, his friend from church, and Dave’s family.
Dave Maxwell. Billie had told her all about him. In detail. He’d fast gained eligible bachelor status in Billie’s eyes. How Billie knew so much when she’d only known him four months was beyond Sienna’s understanding.
Dave was a regular at Beachside Community Church, and a teacher at the local high school where Sienna had been hired as a languages teacher on a short-term contract. Billie had seen this as fate, that Sienna and Dave were destined to be a perfect match. Sienna had seen it as a logical coincidence. Over a thousand students attended the high school, and it had a large teaching staff.
Sienna untwisted the tangles in her ponytail then tossed it back over her shoulder. Her hair needed a trim before she started her new job on Tuesday. To save money she’d ask her hairdresser cousin, Jodie, to cut her hair.
Two trips back home to Tuscany this year had decimated her savings. She’d lost her retail job in January, after requesting leave to attend her father’s funeral. She couldn’t work full-time until her new visa came through, and she’d only picked up occasional days of casual teaching from February to April.
The picnic lunch, provided by her sweet elderly aunts who shared May birthdays, had turned her thoughts to home. Mortadella, salami, cheese, olives. Mouth-watering Italiano deli food and animated conversations in her native tongue with an Aussie twang had increased her yearning for Villa Rossi. At least her most recent trip home had been a celebration rather than a time of grief and mourning.
Billie returned with a tall man, his face shaded by a baseball cap. Sienna’s gaze was drawn to his muscular chest covered by a fitted red t-shirt and long legs beneath knee length running shorts. He must be Dave.
Billie made the introductions and offered an excuse to leave them. Alone.
Dave extended his hand, his eyes hidden by wrap-around sunglasses. “Sienna, good to meet you.”
She shook his hand, his palm soft and grip strong. Reassuring.
“Nice to meet you, Dave.” Her words sounded clipped and cautious to her discerning ear, as if she wasn’t a fluent speaker of English and three other languages.
He grinned. “I like your accent. Billie has told me a lot about you.”
Mamma mia! Sienna pushed her sunglasses further up the bridge of her nose, drawing attention to her least-favorite feature.
Dave appeared at ease, as if unaware of her discomfit. He removed his sunglasses and wiped the lens on a corner of his t-shirt, revealing a flat strip of toned stomach above his waistband.
She whipped up her head. Messa a fuoco. Think. Fast. “Do you play cricket?”
His hazel eyes held glints of yellow. “My favorite sport.”
“Are you any good?”
“You’ll soon find out.”
She nodded, guessing he was a brilliant player. Her limited cricket experience included a few indoor cricket competitions at university and social games with friends and family.
He adjusted the strap of his backpack, and slung it over his broad shoulder. “I’m glad we had a chance to meet before Tuesday.”
“Me too.” She dragged her teeth over her lower lip. “My first teaching gig for longer than a few days. No pressure, hey?”
“You’ll be fine. The girls in your staffroom can’t wait for you to start.”
“I heard the baby arrived early.”
“By six weeks, but it’s all good. Mum and bub are doing well.”
“I’m glad.”
He slipped his sunglasses back on. “Billie said you’re moving to Beachside Community Church.”
“Si.” A practical decision she’d made a few days ago. “Beachside is closer to home.”
“You’re living in Manly, right?”
“I’ve just moved into a brand-new apartment with my cousins.”
“Whereabouts?”
“Near Little Manly Beach.”
“The new high-rise tower with the café downstairs.”
“That’s the one. You know it?”
“I live up the road.”
She sucked in a shallow breath. Dave was her neighbor. An important detail Billie had neglected to mention.
Billie and Zach waved them over to a patch of grass further along the beach. A group had gathered around them, including a few kids.
Dave tipped his head in their direction. “It looks like it’s game on.”
“Yes.” She fell into step beside him. “Who’s playing from your family?”
“My older brother and uncle and a couple of cousins. It looks like we’ll have a few ring-ins to make up the numbers.”
She scrunched her nose. “Ring-ins?”
“Random people who join in. You haven’t heard that expression?”
“If I have, I don’t remember.”
“It must get confusing. You speak a few languages, right?”
“Only four.”
“Only four.” A playful tone underpinned his words. “I know you’re teaching Italian and French.”
“And Spanish.”
His grin revealed a cute dimple in his chin. “I’ll have to take you to Europe as my tour guide.”
Heat rushed up her neck, warming her face. The thought of being his personal tour guide . . .
Focus. Concentrate. Remember how to speak English. “That’s my sorellina’s job.”
“Your sorellina?”
“My little sister.”
“She’s a tour guide.”
“In Roma. Rome.” Alessa’s teasing would be relentless if she’d heard this conversation.
“Have you seen the Catacombs?” Dave asked.
Si. I was there a few weeks ago.”
“I’ve been to Paris, but I want to see the Catacombs in Rome.”
“Definitely worth a visit. Do you speak many languages?”
“Very poor French. Embarrassingly poor. You don’t want to hear it.”
She chuckled, his honesty disarming. “You teach English, right?”
“English I can do, but I’m teaching only one English class this year. History and geography are my focus.”
He was down-to-earth and could laugh at himself. An appealing trait. She liked him. Probably too much.


Interview:

1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Sienna Rossi. I’m 23, and I speak four languages. I recently completed my studies to become a high school teacher.

2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there?

I’ve always been fascinated by Australia. I have great aunts and cousins on my mother’s side of the family who live in Sydney, Australia. When I completed my schooling in Tuscany, I moved to Sydney to attend university. I recently moved into an apartment in the Sydney beachside suburb of Manly with my Aussie cousins.

3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know?

I can’t stand being late, and I try to hide this from people who think my need to be early is weird. I feel happy if I’m at least ten minutes early and not keeping people waiting.

4. Name two things would you hate people to know about you?

I used to have heated verbal arguments, in private, with my father when I thought he was being unreasonable. I was raised to respect my elders and not argue with them.

My father wanted me to either stay at Villa Rossi or study in Italy. I defied him by going to Australia to study, and he withdrew his financial support. I ended up working long hours in retail jobs in Sydney to pay for my tuition. Nonna was stuck in the middle of my battle with my father. My siblings didn’t know about these problems. Only Nonna knew.

5. Tell us about your special man. What makes him special? 

Dave is lots of fun to be around. He’s loyal and hardworking, plus he’s tall and handsome! He can be competitive. He knows what he wants and he likes to win. He’s also a real softie and takes good care of his grandma. But, the most important thing is he shares my faith.

6. The first time you saw him, what did you think? Did you like him immediately, or did he have to grow on you?

I was flustered because I was attracted to Dave from the moment we met. I was glad my sister, Alessa, was not there to laugh at me!

7. What would he hate people to know about him?

Dave is very protective of the people he loves, and would use his fists to defend them if pushed into a corner. He almost punched his brother-in-law when he learned that his brother-in-law had cheated on his sister. His brother-in-law now avoids Dave and makes excuses to avoid family events.

8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink?

Where do I start? My first love is the homemade traditional Tuscan recipes that I grew up eating at Nonna’s table. Fresh pasta made by hand, and fresh ingredients. Nonna’s Tuscan Bolognese is the best! I also have a sweet tooth and enjoy a range of desserts, including pavlova.

I love coffee and in recent years I’ve discovered a love for hot black tea, English style, with a dash of milk. My brother Ric introduced me to the English style of tea, and my Aussie family also enjoy it.

9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? 

Verbal sparring is my weapon of choice, if I’m backed into a corner with no good options. My older brother, Rafaele, is a lawyer. I learned how words can be used as a weapon from my verbal sparring with him.

10. Pepsi or Coke

Definitely Coke No Sugar! My favourite Aussie cold drink if lightly sparkling water isn’t available.

11. Tea or coffee 

Both, depending on the time of day! Espresso early in the morning and English hot tea in the afternoon.

12. Elephant or tiger 

Elephant.

13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza roast beef, Yorkshire puds and roast spuds.

I’m not a fan of fast food. My great aunt’s Aussie roast dinner is awesome: roast lamb with roasted potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, and parsnip. Plus steamed carrots and peas and corn served with gravy and mint jelly.

14. Classical music or pop 
Pop.

15. Sunrise or sunset
Sunrise. The best time of day to pray and meditate on God’s word.

16. Walk or run
Long walks along the beach with Dave.

17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers) 
Definitely chocolate, and preferably Swiss or Belgium chocolate.

18. What would you like on your epitaph?
2 Timothy 4:7


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A Tuscan Legacy book 6. Bella Notte by Heather Gray




He likes to play the field. She's content to wear her goody two shoes.

Piero Carter packs light and travels often. He loves adventure and manages to keep his life simple by sticking to a two-dates-only rule. The longest relationship he's had -- aside from family -- is with his camera. As a photographer who works primarily with fashion, he's used to having his pick of beautiful women who want to be seen by his side.

Felicity von Wolff is a makeup artist whose job takes her around the world. That's all the adventure she craves. She has little use for Piero the Playboy. Being seen on his arm means getting tied to his reputation, and that's the last thing she wants. Yet, somehow, they keep getting thrown together. What's a girl to do?

Piero finally meets a woman who makes him want more than two dates, but does that mean he's ready for one of life's greatest adventures -- falling in love? When Felicity peeks over the wall she's built, she discovers there's more to the people around her than she ever realized. What will it take for Piero and Felicity to stop hiding from life and open their eyes to the rich beauty God has in store for them?


PIERO CARTER RAN AS IF his life depended on it.
Between the idiosyncrasies of German traffic and his cab’s flat tire, he was late.
Beyond late.
He was the photographer, and the photo shoot couldn’t very well start without him. No worries there. He prided himself on a level of professionalism, even if it had deserted him at the moment.
Ha.
It hadn’t deserted him. It had ground him under its heels and left him like a pile of dust.
His destination was in sight through the next doorway, and Piero sprinted for it.
He didn’t plan for the slippery rug, though. Or the curvy blonde who stepped into his path.
He went down hard, and he took the woman with him.
At least he managed to land under her. That had to count for something.
The rug they were on — acting more like a flying carpet than a proper historic replica — carried them through the entryway before it skidded to a stop at the foot of the famed English Stairway, one of the gems of the Dresden Royal Palace and the site of that day’s photo shoot.
“Uh-hem.”
Marty, the assistant assigned him for this shoot, stood by with arms crossed and eyebrows raised. “So nice of you to join us, Mr. Carter. We might actually be able to start this shoot before the lighting is completely ruined.”
Good ol’ Marty. He made obnoxious people look like sweet-tempered, little old ladies.
The blonde, who hadn’t screamed even once as they’d careened across centuries-old wooden floors, jumped from his lap as though she’d been given a good jolt of electricity. Her face flamed red as she sent him a glare before she scuttled across the room and behind the temporary curtains set up to create a pseudo-dressing room for the models.
Not that models tended to be particularly modest. But it was generally bad form to wander around historic landmarks in a foreign land when wearing nothing but skivvies. Or less.
Piero shook off the shock of his grand entrance and made his way over to the camera table. He’d set it up the day before, double-checked all his settings, and arranged each camera the way he liked it. Not that he was fanatical… After all, he’d only requested one security guard to keep an eye on the shoot site overnight.
He ran his fingers along the cameras as he contemplated the stairway and the light filtering through the windows. His eyes flitted over to the curtained-off area.
Just who had that woman been?
Piero shook the thought away and picked up the camera he wanted. A quick turn on his heel had him facing the waiting crowd. “Alright ladies! If you don’t already know what you’re doing, see Charise. She’ll tell you when you’re up.”
The woman in question shook her silver-topped head, a smile dancing in her eyes. Then she clapped her hands, drawing the models’ attention. “Analise, you’re up first. Next is Patrice. Then Genevieve. You do not step in front of that camera until I’ve approved your outfit and makeup. Understood?”
The models all nodded but remained more or less motionless, except for Analise. A nod from Charise, and the young model was climbing the steps. She turned to face Piero as Charise’s assistants worked to drape her dress just so. A whistle from their boss told the assistants when their work was done. They flitted to and fro to get out of the way. Some went up the stairs, and some went down. Better to separate than to risk tripping over a dress’s fabric and undoing the work they’d already put into creating the perfect image.
Piero paced back and forth at the foot of the stairs as he looked at the model, the empty space, and the shadows.
He took a couple of test shots before calling for a shift in two of the reflective umbrellas.
It was going to be a long day.
His head wasn’t in the game. He couldn’t rid himself of the feel of the blonde in his arms. As soon as he’d gone down and taken her with him, he’d wrapped his arms around her. Instinct had taken over, and he’d wanted to protect her from further harm.
Instinct didn’t explain the jolt he’d felt. Or the way she’d fit into his arms as if she’d been made just for that purpose. Or the way her softness had felt perfect against the sharp angles of his body.
He would have to seek her out later and apologize. Maybe he could get her name, offer to buy her dinner.
She was only half of his distraction today, though.
Italy.
His family.
Nonna.
Nothing was ever going to be the same. He had a cousin he’d never heard of, and something was afoot at Villa Rossi.
Nope. Nothing was ever going to be the same.
Charise’s clap brought Piero back to the present.
The model now climbing the stairs was… Who was she? That wasn’t Patrice or Genevieve. Had they already gone through the first three models?
“Makeup!” Charise’s voice boomed in the marbled space.
The blonde shot out from behind the curtain, a bag over her shoulder. She stopped by Charise, listened, and then climbed the stairs with purpose in each step. She had to squeeze up tight against the banister and rise up on her tiptoes to move around the dress’s fabric, but she did so with agility. One arm looped around the banister, she used her free hand to pull something out of her bag, and then leaned precariously over the dress’s extravagant train to dab something on the model’s face.
When Charise whistled, the blonde pulled herself back to the relative security of the banister and tip-toed her way back down the steps.
Not before Piero’s finger slipped on the shutter button and captured her image. A couple of times.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

A Tuscan Legacy book 5. La Fiamma Sacra by Clare Revell


Blurb:

Forged in love's sacred flame, can a firefighter and a widow find the path God set for them?
Ric Rossi left the family farm in Tuscany and never looked back. Working as a firefighter in Reading, England, he has everything a man could ask for—a secure job, a firm faith, and a neighbour who cares for his cat Noci when he goes away. The only thing missing is a woman he can share his life with.

Widowed when her son Deforest was a week old, Bracken Hughes isn’t prepared to open herself to the heartache a relationship can bring. Especially with her handsome neighbour who risks his life each time he leaves for work. No matter how good the man is with her son.

Ric finds Deforest to be an appealing child who captures his interest. And the mother has that certain something that pricks his heart. But the unhealed wound in Ric's soul might just spoil any chance he has at love.

Extract:

THE JET PLANE ROARED DOWN the runway, wheels humming. Within seconds Riccardo Rossi was airborne. Despite the fact he was leaving the heat of Tuscany behind, and heading back to the cool English spring weather that May usually afforded, he didn’t mind. English summers were barely warm on a good day, just as well since he got enough heat in his day job. Fighting fires in thick kit, with 70lbs of equipment on your back, were not for the faint of heart.
And he loved the fact they were firefighters and not firemen. He worked with several women, in fact half his watch were women, and they were every bit as good at the job as the men.
He closed his eyes, settling back into the seat. Italy had been…interesting. His brother Rafaele had teased him about his job, as always. He’d discovered another cousin he didn’t know he had—a pretty one at that—and then there was the strange painting Nonna had received. Or ordered. Or something.
He sucked in a deep breath and accepted the cup of juice the flight attendant handed him. Tuscany wasn’t the same without Papà there. That in its own way was a good thing. The relationship between him and his father had been strained at best, and Ric had left Villa Rossi and moved to the UK as soon as he’d turned twenty-one just to get away from him. He’d only gone back for the funeral because his brother asked him to attend. Honestly, that was the last place he wanted to be. To say goodbye to a man he’d spent his whole lifetime hating, a man that he’d—
He stretched out his legs as far as they’d go—which wasn’t anywhere near far enough for his six-foot-two frame. This time he’d returned, again because he was asked to, for Nonna’s birthday. Twice in three months. More than enough to last a lifetime.
The ice in his cup rattled as he set the cold orange down. His stomach churned with guilt. The burden he carried as always lying heavy upon him. He missed his brother and sisters. Of course he did. With them so scattered—him in the UK, Rafaele in Tuscany, Sienna in Australia and Alessa in Rome—being together all at the same time was almost impossible.
Video phone calls between him and his siblings just weren’t the same. Not that you could have all of them in the same window. He chuckled to himself, remembering dumping a jug of ice water over Rafaele’s head. One sure-fire way to put out the flames of love, at least temporarily.
It had been fun but not enough to make him stay.
His sense of duty, not to mention his faith and burden of guilt wouldn’t allow it. And he couldn’t deny the relief that he was flying home. Tuscany ceased to be home a long time ago.
He checked his watch. The direct two hour flight from Roma to London City Airport should be landing in just fifty minutes. Landing at Heathrow would have meant a flight time of six hours, plus a five hour lay-over.
Hopefully his downstairs neighbour Bracken had remembered to feed Schiaccianoci, his tabby cat. Named after the Italian for nutcracker, Noci for short, had a micro-chipped cat flap so he could come and go at will; all he needed was feeding twice a day. He’d been a stray that Ric adopted from Battersea cats and dogs home shortly before Christmas, hence the name. The cat and he were now best buddies.
Of course, Noci might not like the fact he’d gone away again. Last time he’d sulked for days.
Ric opened his eyes and glanced out of the window. He preferred a window seat, but this time he’d been stuck on the aisle—he wasn’t paying and as a result hadn’t chosen the seat. The plus side to that was the stewardess would reach him first.
The bloke sitting next to him shifted and gasped.
“Are you all—” Ric broke off. The man was grasping his chest, his colour grey and lips blue.
No. Ric reached up for the call button to alert the air crew and stood. He had to get the gentleman to the floor and begin CPR immediately. As a firefighter he was trauma trained and knew what to do in most situations. Before he had chance to do anything, the man collapsed. Struggling with the man’s seatbelt, Ric finally managed to unclasp it as a stewardess reached his side.
 “He’s having a cardiac arrest,” Ric explained. He, along with the stewardess, managed to lay the man on the floor. Ric quickly checked for a pulse, and groaned when he didn’t find one. He began CPR. As he worked he prayed the man would respond and stay alive long enough to get to where the medics could take over. “Need to get this plane on the ground ASAP. And have an ambulance on standby.”
A second flight attendant nodded and ran briskly towards the cockpit.
A minute or so later, the tannoy beeped. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Foster speaking. Due to an on board medical emergency we are diverting to Zurich. If there is a doctor on the plane, please make yourself known to the air crew immediately.”
No one came forward.
Okay, Lord. I guess this is down to You and me and the flight attendant. If it’s not too much to ask, please grant us clearance to land with an ambulance waiting on the runway for us.

1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? My name is Riccardo Giovanni Rossi, but if you call me that I’m going to have to punch your lights out as no one calls me that unless they want trouble. Nonna being the exception. My friends call me Ric. I’m 29 and I’m a firefighter.
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I live in Reading, England. Because it was the first place I stuck a pin in the map when I needed to leave Italy. But it’s a great town and I love it here.
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? I have a really bad temper, but I hide it pretty well.
4. Name two things would you hate people to know about you? I cry, a lot, especially after a fatal fire. I prefer English food to Italian.
5. Tell us about your special lady. What makes her special? Bracken, my sacred flame, because of her hair. She’s wonderful. She lives downstairs with her son Deforest. Yeah, they have this weird thing about naming kids after trees and plants in her family. Oh and she Noci sits whenever I have to go away. She works in a coffee shop
6. The first time you saw her, what did you think? Did you like her immediately, or did she have to grow on you? What is there not to like? She goes to church, shares my faith. Noci loves her, seems to spend as much time in her part of the house as he does in mine. Noci is my cat by the way.
7. What would she hate people to know about her? She hates coffee. Yeah, I know. Ironic right?
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink? Coffee. Oh, eat, yeah coffee. And Bracken’s toad in the hole.
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? The fire hose. Trust me, you don’t want to get in front of one of them.
10. Pepsi or coke Coke
11. Tea or coffee coffee
12. Elephant or tiger tiger
13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza roast beef, Yorkshire puds and roast spuds.
14. Classical music or pop classical
15. Sunrise or sunset sunrise
16. Walk or run walk, preferably with Bracken’s hand in mine
17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers) chocolate
18. What would you like on your epitaph? Same name, just a different address.


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A Tuscan Legacy book 4 - Ti Amo by Marion Ueckermann





She never wants to get married. He does. To her.

American missionary Michael Young has moved to Rome on a two-year mission trip. His temporary future in the country doesn’t stop him from spontaneously joining Alessa’s tour after spotting her outside the Colosseum. And being bold enough to tell her afterward that one day she’d be his wife. God had told him. And he believed Him. But Alessa shows no sign of interest in Michael.
Can anything sway the beautiful and headstrong Italian to fall in love? Can anyone convince her to put her faith and hope in the Heavenly Father, despite being raised by an earthly one who never loved her? Will her sister’s prompting, or a mysterious painting, or Michael himself change Alessa’s mind? About love. And about God.





First scene extract (prologue)

PERSPIRATION BEADED MICHAEL YOUNG’S BROW as he left the indoor court and headed for the showers. “Good game, guys. Good game.” He swiped at the moisture with his forearm. What on earth had made him think Americans were supposed to own the basketball courts? These Italians were certainly making him and Keith work hard to win.
Leaving Rome’s Centro Sportivo Santa Maria, he waved at his fellow American missionary, Keith, and their newfound friends.
Arrivederci. See you at church on Sunday.” He smiled as he ambled up Via Labicana. Three converts so far, with hopefully more to come soon. Lorenzo would be next, of that he was certain. Not bad for the month he and Keith had been actively ministering among Italian students, using their skills on the court to befriend the locals. God was definitely at work in these students’ hearts, although some would prove to be more of a challenge to reach than others. Especially Matteo. The good-looking, bronzed Italian made no secret of the fact that he lived to satisfy the flesh alone, giving no thought to his eternal soul. But God had His perfect timing for Matteo. As He did with everything.
Keith was giving the post-basketball Bible study today. Michael needed to get back to Hope Center where he and several other missionaries worked and lived. Chiara had agreed to meet him there at three thirty. With only two more weeks until their big evangelism event at a popular piazza in the center of Rome, the group’s choreographer had offered him some private lessons. He couldn’t wait. He’d never taken part in a flash mob, let alone be the lead dancer. So many emotions roiled in his gut—nerves, excitement, fear.
He glanced at his watch—two forty-five—and hastened his pace. Up ahead, the Colosseum loomed. One of these fine days, he’d need to make time to visit the ancient amphitheater.
Why not now?
Michael chuckled. I can’t, Lord. You know that. Chiara…dance lessons…
The Colosseum cast him in shadow as he passed by. Breaking into the sunlight again, Michael stopped in his tracks at the flash of red that caught his eye. He hadn’t planned on taking a tour today—he couldn’t really. He only had forty-five minutes, but in that moment, all sense of reasoning vanished. Besides, wasn’t now God’s suggestion in the first place?
He veered left off the path into the crowded area. He’d apologize to his dance instructor later. Maybe he’d be lucky enough to still find her hanging around by the time he got back to the center.
Right. Fat chance of that happening. Chiara waited for no one. He’d probably face the fifty-year-old’s wrath next time he saw her. He drew in a deep breath then sighed, unable to shake the feeling that he needed to take his chances.
Michael strolled across to the small group gathered in front of the auburn-haired beauty. Dare he even ask?
Perdono, how long is this tour?” he asked the uniformed tour-guide dressed in a burgundy polo shirt and black knee-length skirt, and Alessa engraved in black on her gold nametag.
With a smile she pointed the branded flag she held, its colors matching her clothing, toward the sign behind her. “One hour.”
Michael glanced at the Ancient Steps Tours’ board. What a stroke of luck. Or was it fate? The last English tour for the day was at three o’clock. Ten minutes more.
“Is it possible to join?”
Alessa eyed him, her gaze scanning the length of him as she raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have a booking?” She seemed surprised, taken aback that someone would even think they could join a tour of the age-old walls without having pre-booked and pre-paid.
Michael shook his head, resisting the urge to pout or allow his eyes to beg. He doubted either would score him brownie points with this woman.
She shrugged. “Okay, I do have an unreserved place. That will be twenty euro.” She held out her hand.
This is the girl you’re going to marry, God’s voice whispered in his soul.
What, Lord, you can’t be serious?
Of course He was. Michael had learned from an early age that God never joked with him. Exactly why he’d obeyed and moved to Italy when his Lord had spoken.
He handed over the tour fee. Small price to pay for the chance to get to know the girl you were destined to marry.
For the next hour, Michael hung on her every word, and not just because she brought the place to life. For once, he didn’t have much to say, preferring to listen to the sound of her voice.
After the tour, everyone thanked her and the group dispersed. Michael watched as some pressed a gray five euro note into her palm. Pity he’d used up all the cash he had on hand.
Michael followed Alessa to her scooter. She was about to put her helmet on when she spotted him.
“Yes…?” She raised her perfectly penciled brow again with the single-worded question.
“Uh…” It took all his American gumption to utter the next few words. “I’m going to marry you one day.”
Maybe it was his accent, but Alessa didn’t seem to understand what he’d said to her. For a few seconds, she merely stared at him, seemingly astonished before bursting into laughter.
“In your wildest dreams.” And with that, she slid onto her little white Vespa and buzzed off up the road.

Character Interview:

1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? My name is Alessandra Rossi, but only my Nonna calls me that…and my oldest brother, Rafaele if he’s angry with me. To everyone else, I’m Alessa. Personally, I think the extra letters are just a waste of the alphabet—not to mention ink.
I’m 22 years old and I never knew my mamma—she died giving birth to me. My entire life, Papà blamed me for her death. That one tragic event shaped so much of me and who I am today…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I live in Roma, Italy. It was close enough to be able to visit my Nonna, and far enough away from my papà. With a degree in architectural history and archaeology, it’s the perfect place to eke out a living as a tour guide.
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? I’m an open book. There’s nothing I can think of that I hide. First thing people realize about me is that I LOVE food.
4. Name two things you would hate people to know about you? Like I said, no hidden skeletons in my closets, although I could take you somewhere in Roma where there are a lot of skeletons. On second thoughts, read Ti Amo and you can tag along with my sister, Sienna, and Michael.
5. Tell us about your special man. What makes him special? Michael Young is talented, creative, good-looking, well-built, and a great preacher. Besides the overall package from head to toe scoring a perfect ten, the man has moxie. He says what he wants to say, and that’s that. Not that all the above mattered to me when I first met him.
6. The first time you saw him, what did you think? Did you like him immediately, or did he have to grow on you? I couldn’t stand him at first. I thought he was a forward American. I was not happy with my sister when she invited him to tag along with us most places the weekend she was visiting me in Roma.
7. What would he hate people to know about him? He’s a tad claustrophobic—not crazy about confined spaces.
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink?  Melanzana panini from the sandwich shop just outside my apartment building. The whole works complete with mortadella, mozzarella, salami, capicola, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato and the restaurant’s secret homemade Italian dressing. A sparkling water to wash it down with.
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? A menu because it’ll probably be the thing closest to my hand.
10. Pepsi or coke Neither.
11. Tea or coffee Espresso.
12. Elephant or tiger Elephant, because there is usually one in the room when I’m around
13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza Pizza, but only with very good friends, or my sweetheart.
14. Classical music or pop Pop.
15. Sunrise or sunset Both…they’re just the reverse of each other.
16. Walk or run Walk…I do a lot of that in my job, so I am partial to the pace.
17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers) Chocolate, especially Venchi.
18. What would you like on your epitaph? She made the world an interesting place.



A Novel Place to Fall in Love

USA Today bestselling author, MARION UECKERMANN’s passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest’s no longer so empty.


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