Thursday, December 26, 2013

Perfect Read for The Holidays- REVIEW: THE GIRLS OF PIAZZA D'AMORE, by Connie Guzzo- McParland

If you love reading about historical and picturesque Italy- this holiday season, download this book and enjoy delving into nostalgia...

Imagine Italy in the 50’s,  with its picturesque villages filled with love, gossip, struggles, history and traditions...In this historical novel of old world Italy in the midst of transformation and immigration, THE GIRLS OF PIAZZA D’AMORE transports us to a place in which many of us can trace our traditions and roots to…a place that fills us with a reminiscence of what life must have been like for our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.  

Seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Caterina, the stories of families living in the village of Mulirena, in Southern Italy, come to life through vivid accounts and minute village details.  Delving through the lives and loves of Caterina’s three friends forms the basis of THE GIRLS OF PIZZA D’AMORE.    But, since everyone in the village is somehow connected to each other, be it by living proximity or relationship- this story involves almost everyone in the town; and, that’s what makes this book so intricately interesting!

We read about what it was like for families during post war, where politics led to divided factions even among families.  The typical hardships, struggles and separations that families had to go through are prevalent parts of this fascinating book.  Granted, THE GIRLS OF PIAZZA D’AMORE, is but a novel- however, the historical details and events of the times and what the people suffered and lived through are all very real.  This novel will fill you with longing and nostalgia.  Anyone with Italian roots or of immigrant descent will appreciate the depth and richness of this book.  

As well, the author uses an interesting approach to the telling of this story.  Interjected within the book, is the author’s account of how she began to write her novel- based on what was the actual story of Guzzo- McParland’s own parents’ immigration to Canada (and so in a sense, she is the young Caterina in the novel).  Rummaging through a chest filled with memorabilia and a letter written by her father to her mother, Guzzo- McParland quilts a captivating tale that moved me from beginning to end.

Evocative, well written and filled with folkloric details, THE GIRLS OF PIZZA D’AMORE is a touching read that will forever stay with you.  You will surely be transported to an Italy even more beautiful than you ever thought possible.  

                                                                               Author Connie Guzzo-McParland

Born in Italy, raised in Montreal, Connie Guzzo-McParland has enjoyed an eclectic mix of life experiences. She majored in Italian literature at Concordia University, then pursued a teaching and business career before graduating from the Creative Writing Master’s program at Concordia University where she received the 2006-2007 David McKeen Award for Creative Writing for her thesis, the novel Girotondo. An excerpt from this novel, translated into Italian, won second prize at the Premio Letterario Cosseria in Italy. Since 2010 she has been co-director and President of Guernica Editions.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest Post by Author Deborah Swift + GIVEAWAY!!

As part of the HFVBT

Today, I have the pleasure of presenting to you the wonderful Deborah Swift,


Deborah has written this amazing post for HF Book Muse - News
on Shopping in the 17th Century.  Please read on and then join the Giveaway!

Shopping in the 17th Century
by Deborah Swift

In my novel, A Divided Inheritance, Elspet Leviston wants to follow her father into the lace trade. Lace was imported from Flanders and Brussels, and from Northern France, and then supplied to shopkeepers in the City of London, and to itinerant salesmen and market traders. In those days it mostly went by the name of ‘point’ – ‘lace’ being the word for something with which you would lace your clothes. It was expensive to buy as it was very labour-intensive and time-consuming to make.

Lace was the ideal commodity to be sold by female street vendors as it was light and easy to transport, but also yielded a good profit-margin. The cheaper lace was sold from a tray around the neck, or from a basket on the head. Usually men who plied the streets carried the heavier goods such as coal, sand for scrubbing stone floors or pans, or water.

More expensive silk lace (or ‘point’) would have probably been sold in the New Exchange – a double galleried equivalent of a mall, or in the Royal Exchange on Cornhill, where you could, according to Wenceslaus Hollar, buy
 ‘Arabian odours, silks from Seres here, Peerless sables, jewels, cloaks of gold’.

In the days of coal fires and little heating, gloves were universally worn, and these could be trimmed with point. Five shillings bought you a pair of gloves with a small lace trim, but £12 a yard was the price of fine Flanders lace, nine inches wide suitable for a ruff or collar. (Mercurius Publicus) In those days this was enormously expensive when you consider that even forty years later, Samuel Pepys’s housekeeping costs for a month were only £7.

Shops opened early at first light – 6am and stayed open until nightfall. It was common to use shops as a place for a social gathering, and often a dressmaker or tailor could entertain the clientele with drinks for several hours. The shops had counters which raised up to form shutters at night and were propped open during the day on stilts.

Only Freemen of the City of London had the right to run a shop in the city, and this right was jealously guarded. However, drapers, haberdashers and mercers shops in the Exchanges were often staffed by women, though owned by men. It was considered a demeaning occupation to be a salesgirl and have to work for a living. It was a step up in the world to get married and have a man to provide for you, and a complex emotional and social rite of passage. For a woman, marriage was supposed to be the ultimate aspiration, whereas for men it was seen as the end of their fun and the beginning of duty. Common sayings of the time include ‘winter and wedlock tame both man and beast’, and ‘wedlock is padlock’.

Shops and businesses usually only came to the woman upon the death of her husband, and many widows ran successful businesses. They had experience of budgeting from household accounting. Well-off women employed a many servants and were used to dealing with staff and money. In my novel Elspet Leviston wants to maintain her independence, and in the novel this causes strife with her father who has a traditional seventeenth century view, and wants to pass the business to the nearest male relative. I was interested in making a journey for my main protagonist where she would develop self-reliance and become skilful in a male dominated world. For the journey to be believable, it took a physical passage to another culture as well as her own courage and determination.

Draper – dealer in fabrics, wool cloth, linen
Mercer – dealer in fashionable textiles; silk, velvet, moirĂ©
Haberdasher – dealer in small items of dress – laces, gloves, stockings, sewing supplies etc
Restoration London – Liza Picard
Birth Marriage & Death (in Tudor & Stuart England) – David Cressy
Tudor England – A.H.Dodd
Stuart England – Blair Worden

What an excellent post - Thank you Deborah!

To read more fascinating events on A DIVIDED INHERITANCE, please check out what is happening over at HFVBT HERE.

And now onto the GIVEAWAY of

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: A DIVIDED INHERITANCE, by Deborah Swift


Another superbly researched and detailed novel by Swift- A Divided Inheritance is set in Jacobean England with Elspeth Livingston and her troublesome and mysterious cousin, Zachary.   Elspeth dreams of taking over the family lace business that she learned from her father.  However, when her father passes away, her inheritance is swept away from her by being passed on to Zacchary.  Elspeth refuses to settle for this and goes on a search through Spain to find Zachary- and claim what is rightfully hers.  She is determined, feisty and unstoppable- Loved Elspeth!

In A Divided Inheritance there are all kinds of obstacles and it is a roller coaster ride of turmoil that does not let go of the pace.  These are turbulent and dangerous times in Moorish Spain where religious differences most often lead to tragedy.  Besides Elspeth and Zachary, Swift introduces an intricate array of characters to set the mood and tension of the times.  

 Swift earns her trademark for historical distinction if only for the incredible amount of research this author puts into her novels.  With all of its accuracy lending to a most realistic portrayal of what it must have been like is what makes Swift’s novels a pure delight to read.  One can’t help but think: this surely must have happened!
Filled with suspense, accuracy, real-to-life settings and characters, A Divided Inheritance will satisfy even the most discernable of history buffs.

Please come back tomorrow for a GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY- all part of the HFVB Tour!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Author Guest Post: C. C. Humphreys + GIVEAWAY!

    Please welcome C. C. Humphreys, Author of The Blooding of Jack Absolute,


Too often the tales told of war speak only of Man’s exploits. Bravery upon a battlefield, cleverness while in disguise in the enemy’s camp. But of course all also know that women bear the brunt of the hardships in any conflict, fighting to keep their families fed, and safe. And many do more than that, by taking an active role either in combat - or as spies!
It was said that the Culper Ring in British-occupied Manhattan would send signals in laundry upon their clothes-line to Washington’s spies – can’t imagine men hung any more laundry in 1778 than they do in 2013! And, of course, patriots like Lydia Darragh, Sally Townsend and Mrs Gardiner bewitched the British with their charms while extracting secrets with their wits. It was not all one sided though – the clever Ann Bates did her share of cozening for King and Country.
I always like to depict strong women in my novels. Jack Absolute is always drawn to the strongest, which causes him no end of problems! Ate, his Mohawk blood brother calls women his only weakness. ‘You are a fool with women. In this one thing you are a fool.’ This is born out in his relationship with the wilful Louisa Reardon in ‘Jack Absolute’. For those who have not read it I’ll leave the details of her ‘strengths’ concealed. In the new book, ‘The Blooding of Jack Absolute’, there are various fierce characters, from Jack’s mother - the playwright and actress, Lady Jane Absolute - through his tutor in love, the courtesan, Fanny Harper.
Men might have ended up writing most of the history around the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. But there is a wonderful French expression, ‘Cherchez la femme’. ‘Look for the woman’. She’s at the core of a lot of the action, the provoker of much mischief in battle… or bedroom.

Just ask Jack. 

Sourcebooks is giving away one Copy to one of my Lucky Followers!!!

Open to US/ CANADA

To Enter please leave your comment and EMAIL ADDRESS Please:)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Author Ken Myers: "Why I Don’t Want My Family to Be Like the Bennets"

Today I have the immense pleasure of bringing to you the prolific writer, Ken Myers whose guest post is both delightful and realistic- and fortunately this family's story is fiction!

 "Why I Don’t Want My Family to Be Like the Bennets"

Recently I have been rereading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As a parent this time around I noticed a lot of things that I had missed on my previous readings; namely the family dynamics within the Bennet clan. Although we idealize the romances and angst found in these pages we often forget that this family was not very healthy. In fact I would not want my family to be like them at all. Here are some of the troublesome aspects of this literary family:

      Distant father – First of all I will talk about Mr. Bennet. The patriarch of the family he should have been the one, at that time, in control of the comings and goings of his household. He should have been hard at work providing for his family. Instead he spent his days making snide remarks, hiding in his study, and did not bother to save enough money to keep his wife and children safe after his death. In fact one of his wife’s chief complaints, of which there were many, is that as soon as he dies they will be homeless and destitute. That is very irresponsible of him! When disaster did strike, in the form of his youngest daughter Lydia running away with Mr. Wickham, he had to rely on his brother in law and future son in law for financial help to get her set up in her new life. As Mr. Bennet’s only stated goal was peace and quiet he did not give a second thought to sending his loud and flighty daughter off with practical strangers and then found it strange that she got in trouble. Even his love for Elizabeth was not enough to make him listen to her wise advice and prevent all this mess from occurring.
      Anxious mother – Secondly is the matriarch of the house. As the mother of five daughters Mrs. Bennet was understandably overwhelmed. However noble her goal was to see her daughters married and taken care of financially was, she was still in the wrong with her flighty, loud mouthed and conniving ways. Instead of seeing her daughters as people she saw them as burdens and items to move up in society with. She was not looking out so much for their good but for the fact that if something should happen to her husband she would not be left to take care of them. With no discipline of her own it was no wonder her daughters were wild and untamed. Between the two parents it is a wonder that any of the daughters grew up with enough sense and control to become wives of men with good character. Not only did Mrs. Bennet not teach them anything good, she also filled them full of fear for the future, uncertainty and a wandering eye.
      Daughter based only on looks –Jane Bennet, as the oldest, was remarkably level headed. Especially since she was several times only noted for her beauty. While most girls would have gotten caught up in the praise of their beauty and become rather snobbish, the family was lucky that Jane did not have that sort of personality. Perhaps looking after four younger sisters kept her humble and caring despite her mother’s best efforts. But however caring she was Jane was also naive and withdrawn. When Mr. Bingley fell in love with her he had a hard time proposing because he could not tell if she loved him in return. This insecurity and lack of communicational abilities could have jeopardized Jane’s future happiness f it wasn’t for the prodding of her sister. Thankfully it all ended well but I would want my daughter to be confident enough to let a man who was interested in her know she was interested in return and not just sit on the sidelines hoping and wishing.
      Daughter with all the responsibility – Elizabeth, poor thing, is one to whom I can really sympathize. As the child with the most wisdom and responsible attitude she ended up in charge of just about everything. However with all the responsibility and none of the power she was helpless to stop trouble once it came into their lives. She could only advise against it to closed ears. However Elizabeth also had her faults. Not only was she judgmental but she was also headstrong and stubborn. Had her parents given her more instruction and less charge over the household perhaps she would have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.Thankfully Elizabeth also had a lot of caring, due to Jane’s influence I am sure, and that tempered her attitude a great deal. I would want my daughter to have the wisdom of Elizabeth and even the wit, but also the kindness that accompanies it and tempers it to something productive instead of destructive.
      Daughter lost in books –Poor Mary, the middle sister, was always lost in her books and music. While I can understand wanting to escape the chaos around her I do not understand how her family so casually dismissed her and even made fun of her. As a family they should have tried to understand her and drawn her out of her books. Although some children can be hard for parents and siblings to understand they should never be treated badly. Instead the family should work even harder to include them and learn about what they are interested in.
      Daughter who is a follower – Kitty, though older than Lydia, always followed her sister into trouble. Followers are dangerous people as they seem to have no mind of their own. If one of my children was constantly mimicking the other I would try to find out why. What differences were there that you could pull out of the child and help the child to become a person of their own? It is not true that everyone has to be a leader, but it is important that every child is an individual and should be treated as such. Kitty could have been saved from Lydia’s fate, and may have been due to the circumstances. However I do not like that it took all that trouble for her parents to finally set their foot down and get some discipline intheir daughters’ lives.
      Daughter with no self-control –Last but not least is the most notorious of the Bennet clan, Lydia. This flighty, flirty and loud mouthed young girl needed a firm hand and a keen eye to watch over her. Instead she got the freedom she wanted and went to hell in a hand basket. She should serve as a warning to parents who think that letting their children do as they wish is a good parenting style. With a shot gun wedding to a notoriously bad character she stands to have a life of sorrow due to her stupidity and childishness. While her youth is much to blame for her actions her parents should have been watching her close enough, especially knowing her temperament, to make sure this did not happen. Heaven forbid that I ever have a child like her, but if I do I plan to be a very watchful and strict parent. I can’t say that her attitude did not come naturally. Of all the daughters I think Lydia took most after her mother and that is another strike against Mrs. Bennet.

Needless to say my rereading of Pride and Prejudice was an eye opening experience. I sorrow for families and children that live like these people today. In my life I strive to be a fair but disciplined parent. I try to treat my children with respect and demand that they do the same for me and for others. Respect and love make for healthy and stable families. 

Author Bio:

Ken Myers is the founder of & has learned over the years the importance of focusing on what the customer is looking for and literally serving it to them. He doesn’t try to create a need, instead he tries to satisfy the existing demand for information on products and services.

To read more of Ken Myers writings, please visit the following links: