Here's more of your exclusive dive into historical romance Forever Amore. Black Lyon Publishing made this book video to celebrate Charles and Lucille's story...
When I decided to write a book based in World War II Italy, I was shocked by how little information there was on the mid-1940's in the Verona area of Veneto. WWII was the first highly-photographed, recorded, and documented war. But other than the Hallmark movie, In Love and War, there was very little to work with in photos, reels, battle sequences, and regional details from '40's era Italy.
But that was 2002. Between then and my final revision on Forever Amore in 2009, detailed books on the subject were published. I was shocked when I began working at the bookstore and perused the WWII section of the Military genre. On my sixth and final revision of the novel, I used some of the information in these books to add scenes that involved Lucille, the heroine, trying to find Charles, the hero working as a spy, in Nazi-occupied Milan. The new elements not only adrenalized the formerly-lagging middle: it gave the story a whole new layer of suspense. By reading the books on WWII in Italy, I also found out that women who flirted with or married Allied soldiers were humiliated in front of their townsfolk. Black Shirt soldiers in particular liked to cut off their hair and "delouse" them with white power. My tag line for Forever Amore reads, "How far would you go for love?" From the beginning, that was what this book was all about.
Fashion was also an important issue to contend with, as it should be in any historical romance. Lucille comes from a wealthy, almost aristocratic, wine-making family and Italy is one of the most fashionable countries in the world so when it came to dressing her, her sisters, and the other members of her family, they had to have the most luxurious in period fashion. The problem, however, lay in the fact that the story begins in March of 1944 and rationing was in full effect - not just in the matter of food but in select materials. And, yep, silk was one of them. In one of my favorite scenes in the book, Lucille's rake of an uncle is taking her out to an opera to get her mind off her missing lieutenant. He gives her a silk gown he had smuggled into the country to cheer her up. The dress - a white one *wink* - plays a very significant role of its own. Lucky for me, conservative fashion came back with a vengeance after the promiscuous '20's and slinky wear of the '30's. This made it easy to add a collar or high neck to all of Lucille's blouses and dresses to hide Charles's dog-tags underneath.
Another important research aspect of Forever Amore was the vineyard sequences. In the original draft, Lucille is giving Charles a tour of the Villa Renaldi, her family's expansive estate. I eventually cut the twenty-five pages of detailing how grapes are grown and harvested and how winery machinery works (the technology used in '40's-era Italy, that is). Though this information was not neccessary for the overall story, it was definitely good to know to fall back on for reference during seasonal transitions. When spring rolls into summer, the vines are growing taller, easily cloaking Lucille and Charles who sneak off into the twilight labyrinth for a moonlit walk. Before I began Forever Amore, I knew nothing about wine. Over the course of the first draft, I not only learned that. I also beagn drinking it. A tour of a Tuscan vineyard will definitely be a must on my first trip to Italy.
One of the final areas I had to cover for this book was the military aspect. Like wine, before Forever Amore, I knew nothing about flying or fighter pilots. Movies came in handy here. I spent hours watching movies that featured dogfights just so I could learn fighter-pilot-speak. When I was happy with the terminology, I went looking for Charles's plane. Thanks to the movie Pearl Harbor, I knew what a B-17 looked like and its purpose. It took a bit more digging to put him in the right fighter plane. The Military Channel solved all my problems by featuring the WWII-era P-38. I needed a plane with two engines. I couldn't use the B-17 due to its weight and the fact that it didn't have the speed needed to out-fly Luftwaft resistance that results in Charles crashing onto Villa Renaldi. The P-38 was perfect with two engines built for fighting. Thanks to The Military Channel, I also learned that P-38s were some of the first planes to be steered by yokes, a term I never would've known or used otherwise.
When Forever Amore received a publishing contract, I not only jumped for joy for days - I began to readdress the sequel, loosely titled "Love on the Piazza" I had written a few months after completing the first draft of Forever Amore. As is, the manuscript is pretty weak. But I brainstormed a few story boosters that would revitalize a story that is still close to my heart. "Love on the Piazza" does not take place in the 1940's like its prequel. Instead, it is a contemporary romance and most characters from Forever Amore are long gone. You've probably heard me talk about the family vineyard, Villa Renaldi, from Forever Amore. During the writing (and re-writing) of the story, Villa Renaldi became a colorful character all itself. I might've been able to let the characters live their own lives after completion, but the vineyard was a different story. An incomplete one, as it were.
So I wrote "Love on the Piazza." The family business has been abandoned as their passion for wine-making dwindled through the generations. It has fallen to Lucille and Charles's granddaughter who is in desperate need of a new beginning. When she arrives in Italy, she is dismayed to find Villa Renaldi in a state of near-ruin. She commissions the reluctant help of a family friend to oversee the running of the vineyard business while reinstating the estate houses as a 5-star hotel and spa. Together they bring Villa Renaldi back to life...and rejuvenate their own lives (and hearts!) along the way.
I hope to begin work on "Love on the Piazza" in the next year. Until then, get to know Villa Renaldi and the passionate people who keep it alive in Forever Amore - available now in ebook and paperback from Black Lyon Publishing! This is the first fateful meeting Charles and Lucille . Charles has just crashed his fighter plane into the Renaldi vineyard in northern Italy. Though Charles finds himself in a dire situation behind enemy lines, his first exchange with Lucille is one of my favorites...
Covered in damp earth, panting hard, he leaned back against the plane. He hissed as a sharp twinge sliced up his spine. Blood seeped into his eyes again. Raising his uninjured hand, he wiped it away only to cover his face in dirt.
His shoulder was agony. He tried rolling it but stopped when the pain escalated. Cursing, he unzipped his uniform jacket and tried to pull it away from the wound.
Over the crackle of flames, he heard an engine approaching. Looking up, he went alert and reached for the gun at his belt when he saw the green pickup. He took a deep breath before rallying enough energy to stagger to his feet.
Charles took a step forward and blinked to clear his vision as the truck skidded to a halt and the driver and passenger doors opened.
Two figures swam through the smoky haze and Charles had to squint to make them out. One long, rangy man with a mop of black hair growing into his fierce eyes and … an angel.
His heart thudded. I’m dead. He could find no other explanation for the vision that drifted hesitantly toward him in a long, creamcolored gown and hair the color of angel wings falling in gilded glory down her shoulders.
She made a move toward him, but the man barked at her to halt, catching her by the arm. Pointing at Charles, he gave a short, terse order he couldn’t make out.
Oh, hell. Italian. Charles had less than a rudimentary inkling of the language. The man who looked no more than twenty barked again. Charles saw him point toward his gun. With a frown, he lifted a hand to it.
The woman gasped and the man stepped in front of her as if to shield her. Carefully, Charles unclipped the pistol and threw it at the man’s feet.
Movements slow, the local bent and picked it up, pointing the shaking barrel at Charles’s chest while scanning him closely. “Americano?” he asked.
Now that he could understand. “Si, si. Americano.” He thought he saw relief pass over their faces before his vision dimmed. He swayed on the spot.
As he went to his knees, the woman rushed forward, snatching out of her companion’s grasp to catch Charles before he could hit the dirt again.
She looked even better up close. A pixie’s face more than an angel’s, her big green eyes yawned in concern in front of his. “You are wounded?” she asked in English thick with regional inflection but not at all broken.
Huh. Angels speak English. Thank God.
“Shock,” he replied, having seen the weak effects of it before. At the moment, he was a case study.
“But you’re bleeding,” she said, her fingers brushing whisper light over his bloody brow.
He sucked in a breath at her sweet touch. “Answer me this, baby.” Her brow creased as if in confusion. Despite that, he asked, “Is this heaven?”
“No,” she replied as the corners of her lips bowed into a wide grin and a small laugh billowed out of her. “This is Veneto.”
“Oh, dear God.” He gave in to the black pinpricks stabbing into his vision and lowered his head into her lap.
FOREVER AMORE (c) Amber Leigh Williams
Learn more about Forever Amore from yesterday post below. And tune in tomorrow for the countdown to Bet It On My Heart's release with a dive into its first prequel, 1st Place More Than Magic Novella Blackest Heart!