Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Italian Chronicles Series 1-3 by MaryAnn Diorio - #review

A young woman, a priest, and a secret that keeps them bitterly bound to each other…

A horrifying encounter drags soon-to-be-married Maria Landro into the shocking world of religious corruption and an unrelenting village code of honor that threatens to rob her of everything she holds dear. Shunned by the very people who should have embraced her, she withdraws into the confines of Bella Terra, her family’s farm, and remains there for several years…until she is forced to leave to ensure the formal education of her son. In a desperate attempt to protect her child from vicious tongues and malicious hate-mongers and her family farm from bankruptcy, she determines to seek vengeance against the one who ruined her life. But when Luca Tonetta enters her life, she learns a powerful lesson about forgiveness and grace.



Part of me wants to put #MeToo in the headline to this post.  In fiction or not, present-day or at some point in the past, someone in power always seems to be abusing their power to take something from a weaker person.  Ugh.

Political rant aside, The Madonna of Pisano is a beautifully written story of Maria Landro, a young woman in Sicily.  She has a job at the local priests' home, and one day when her sister servants are not around, the 'good father' rapes her.  As if that isn't bad enough, he threatens her safety and that of her family, lest his shame become known.

And whatever happened to "judge not, lest ye be judged"?  When it became apparent that Maria was pregnant, the townspeople considered her a 'loose woman', and besides the horrible things they said, and ways they treated her, they even went so far as to stop trade with the Landro vineyard, driving the business to near bankruptcy.

You see, fearful for her family, Maria had not revealed the father of her son, Nico.  When Nico turned six, Maria decided to enroll him in the town's public school.  Guess who his teacher turned out to be?  That's right.  Maria's rapist, aka Nico's (blood) father.  At least papa got his knickers in a twist realizing that he was Nico's father.  And it was perversely rewarding to watch him squirm then the bishop charged him to find out who Nico's father was, as the other students had called the boy 'bastard' more than once.

But then he heaps on a little more misery and threatens Maria and Nico's safety when Maria comes to pick up her son afere school.

TGFL (Thank God for Luca), who saw that Maria was a talented seamstress, and gave her alterations work, when no one else in the town would say "boo" to her.  And a couple of Luca's many customers told him that his business would suffer if it became known that he employed a 'whore' to sew for him.

It's a good thing Pisano is fictional, or I'd be temped to go over there and give the town a piece of my mind right in the middle of the square!  If the book I'm reading at any given time is not a cozy mystery, or a thriller, I like it when the story gets me riled up. and Madonna certainly did that,  It's intriguing how novels written without meaning to reflect a current social situation will do just that.

Put me squarely on team Maria (and Luca)!  I also have copies of the 2nd and 3rd books in the series (some information about those below) and I cannot wait to dive into them!!!


A young man, a new land, and a dream that threatens to destroy him and his family . . .

The dream of a better life for himself and his family drives Luca Tonetta to the American Promised Land with his wife of five years, Maria Landro Tonetto, and their three children. But the new Promised Land is nothing like what Luca had imagined. Forced to live in a roach-infested tenement house in the seedy section of Brooklyn, he faces the hardships, prejudice, and slanderous assaults of an Italian immigrant torn between two worlds. When Luca is accused of a crime he did not commit, he learns that a dream must first die before it can live.


A mother, her son, and the man who threatens to come between them . . .

When Maria Landro Tonetta receives word that Mama is terminally ill, Maria travels to her Sicilian homeland with her son Nico. She finds herself yearning for the life she once knew as a child on Bella Terra, the family farm, now on the verge of bankruptcy. Caught between two worlds, Maria dreams of moving back to Sicily with her husband and children to save the farm. When Nico’s biological father unexpectedly appears at Mama’s funeral, Maria faces a new enemy to her dream. But is there an even greater enemy within her own soul?



Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her books for both adults and children consistently receive excellent reviews for their content and their style. MaryAnn holds the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Dominic, a retired physician. They are the blessed parents of two awesome daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren. When not writing, MaryAnn loves to read, to paint, and to make up silly songs for her grandchildren.

For more information, please visit MaryAnn Diorio’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.



Italian Chronicles


Click on the banner to go to the tour page, where you will find links to more reviews of the books in this series.  You can also find out how to become a blog host for future book tours while you are there!

(Disclaimer:  I received copies of each book in this series from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest reviews, each of which is recorded above.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage - #review

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder - #review

Leaving behind a failed career as a magazine editor and an embarrassing stint on a reality baking show, newly divorced lifestyle entrepreneur Hope Early thought things were finally on the upswing—until she comes face-to-face with a murderer . . .

Friday, March 16, 2018

Playing With Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St James - #review #giveaway

Chocoholic Charity Penn must smoke out the killer to stop her newly inherited beachside chocolate shop from going up in flames in Dorothy St. James’ decadent follow-up to Asking for Truffle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown - #review

Reagan Summerside returns in national bestselling author Duffy Brown’s fifth Consignment Shop mystery, now for the first time in hardcover.

There are two social functions in Savannah guaranteed to get people talking: weddings and funerals. And just as consignment shop owner Reagan Summerside agrees to marry the hunky Walker Boone, her neighbors, sisters Annie Fritz and Elsie Abbot, step up their business as professional mourners. They are so successful that the Sleepy Pines Retirement Center has hired them as a part of their retirement package. But the celebration over good business is cut short when the residents at Pines suddenly begin dying at an alarming rate. And the sisters are the first suspects.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Six Feet Under by Tonya Kappes - #review

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. And let me tell you, this broth is in trouble. Get ready for a Southern showdown.

The residents of Cottonwood, Kentucky are sent into a tizzy when the Culinary Channel comes to town to film an episode of Southern Home Cookin’ with celebrity chef Frank Von Lee.

Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs - #review #giveaway

Theodosia Browning investigates a Charleston steeped in tradition and treachery in the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs.

While viewing the harbor’s Gaslights and Galleons Parade from the widow’s walk of Timothy Neville’s Charleston mansion, local banker Carson Lanier seemingly tumbles over a narrow railing, then plunges three stories to his death. But a tragic accident becomes something much more sinister when it’s discovered that the victim was first shot with a bolt from a crossbow.

At the request of the mansion owner, Theodosia investigates the tragedy and is soon neck deep in suspects. An almost ex-wife, a coworker, a real estate partner–all had motives for killing the luckless banker, but one resorted to murder to settle accounts.




Before I get into the meat and taters of the book review, can someone please talk about how gorgeous this cover is?  When I opened the package, I think it actually took my breath away for a second or two!  I'm more of a smoky back room, family-run coffee bar kind of gal, but if I got to sit at a table that awesome, I could put on my "Sunday best" and learn to hold out my pinky!

And I'm just about in love with the tea shop and its staff.  They provide a level of product and service that is sadly lacking in the world today.  (Ask me about my ignored at Nordstrom's story sometime.)  I can definitely see myself as one of the regulars, or going there as my go-to reward for goal achieved!

Theodosia (such a great name), her partner, and the chef make a superb team - in the tea shop or when 'unofficially' investigating local crime.  And the first chapters present us with a doozy - a man is on the roof of a mansion, is shot by a crossbow arrow, falls over the rail, sails down a couple parts of the roof and finally is impaled through the neck on one of those pointy metal fences.

Me?  I'd probably be losing my lunch right there.  But Theo notices an open window in the B&B next door and takes off running after a possible suspect, followed closely by her business partner.  There is an exciting chase through the three stories of that business, which ends with Theo running into the investigating detective.  Normally, that would be her beau, but he is taken off the case because of their relationship.  But like a good cozy heroine's main squeeze, he no more stops investigating any more than Theo does.

There are actually a number feisty females in Plum Tea Crazy.  And anyone who thinks Southern belles have class but not a lot of fire, needs to read the scene where two of them throw down in the middle of a posh fashion show.  To paraphrase  W. Shakespeare, I would be "half stunned, half cringing and half *ahem* LMAO".

There are nearly as many Tea Shop Mysteries (19 - yes, you read that right - nineteen) as there are years in my marriage.  Maybe if I start 'hinting' now, more books from the series (and yes, I have a 'stretch yen' - for the entire set) for my 21st wedding anniversary in May! :D



Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop MysteriesScrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.




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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book tours in exchange for my honest review.)