Author: Gail Mencini

*Blog Book Tour*: To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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To Tuscany With Love Blog Tour - JKS Communications Publicity Firm

To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

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Published by: Capriole Group, 7th January 2014

Available Format: Paperback | Page Count: 400

*SPECIAL OFFER* {unknown time limit | current at posting} Download for Free the First Six Chapters via Gail Mencini’s website!

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by JKS Communications. I received a complimentary copy of “To Tuscany with Love” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Capriole Group, via JKS Communications. The book released on 7th January 2014. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Synopsis of the Story:To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Can one college semester abroad change the course of your life?

Bella Rossini, a vivacious college junior, lands in jail overnight with acquaintances whom she mistakes for friends. Shipped off to Tuscany by her mother, Bella is suddenly thrust into living with seven strangers during one life-altering summer.

Meet Hope, the sturdy and practical girl, steadfast in her loyalty to her boyfriend; Meghan and Karen, identical twins with an eye for fashion and beauty to match; Stillman, haunted by his hard past, and Phillip, an athlete, both fueled by competition; Lee, by family mandate in pre-med; and Rune, the Hollywood-bound wild child. All add sizzling chemistry and rebellious humor to the mix.

In one whirlwind summer, while uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love.

After their summer together, life – and loss – happens.

Returning to Tuscany 30 years later, their dreams, anger, secrets and disappointments create an emotional kaleidoscope. Their reunion sends them on a startling collision course that none of them could have predicted.

Set against the allure of Tuscany, with an irresistible fusion of heartbreak and humor, this debut novel, “To Tuscany with Love,” explores the fear of letting the past determine the future and the power of friendship.

Author Biography:

Gail Mencini
Photo Credit: Ashography Event Photography

Gail Mencini makes her literary debut with “To Tuscany with Love” (January 2014, Capriole Group) an adult coming-of-age novel set in central Italy.

Born in rural Nebraska, Mencini graduated with honors in 1976 from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where she majored in accounting, economics and business administration. She holds a Master of Laws of Taxation degree from the University of Denver College of Law.

Mencini co-owned an accounting firm and practiced for 15 years in public accounting, specializing in tax law related to   mergers and acquisitions and real estate. She also spent time in the higher education field, working as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado and Metro State College, as well as the University of Denver College of Law. She was a repeat  speaker at national continuing education seminars and a featured presenter in a real estate conference in the Caribbean.

In 1990 when she married her husband, Mencini became an “instant mother” of three boys plus another son two years later, which opened the doors to becoming a full-time mother and igniting her long-time passion for creative arts, gourmet cooking and traveling.

She went on to become a contributing editor and photojournalist for Buzz in the ‘Burbs, writing monthly cooking columns featuring dinner themes, recipes and complementary wine suggestions. She also served as interim director of marketing for Wine Master Cellars as the company transitioned to new leadership. She has been a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for nearly 20 years as well as the Pikes Peak Writers for over 10. She most recently joined Author U based in Aurora, Colo.

She writes and cooks in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and family who are always ready to critique her abundance of story ideas and recipes.

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Tuscany. Where you can discover who you are?

I am quite sure that Bella must have felt like a fish out of water when she first caught sight of her surroundings in Tuscany. I liked how Mencini opens the story with her innocence of youth, distrustful of the unknown, and of venturing into a whole new country simply because her political protesting had worried her mother past the point of reason. She’s thrust into a Summer college abroad course of study, where she instantly meets up with six other twenty-somethings stranded in Florence for comparable reasons.  Each of them brought their own whispers of self-discovery and the insurgence of sorting out how far they ought to dare living whilst an ocean and a plane away from their lives back in the states. It starts to set up as a coming-of age story for college students who never thought they’d be given an opportunity to abandon one way of living their life and exchange it for another.

In the corner of my mind, I had a curious lightbulb tuned to Bella’s mother’s real reason for sending her off to Tuscany, as there were small bits of insight into her mother’s state of mind at the time of her departure, which led me to be clued into the fact that perhaps, rather than the reality of Bella’s position in political affairs as a forefront motivation, I was nearly akin to thinking that perhaps her mother was facing a life shift in her own life and did not necessarily want her daughter to be present to live through the unexpected hurdle she was about to face herself? In this way, I thought the idea of Tuscany might take on a rather new meaning if this were to become true!

Strength and courage are nestled into us at stages in our lives where we might need to face an unexpected adversity, or a succession of adversities. What Tuscany gives to Bella is a foundation in living life as she greets each new day, and keeping herself open to the possibilities of what life can afford all of us. Each experience and adventure we nestle into our tapestry of lived hours, we gain both courage and strength to carry-on whilst life deals out the brutal truths we are never prepared to face. For Bella, Tuscany is where she shed her girlhood amour and walked into the sunshine with an armour fit for a woman.

Encouraging a penchant for the Tuscan landscape:

I still remember when the immediate joy of seeing Under the Tuscan Sun when it first made its theatrical release, due to the honest portrayal of one women’s journey towards redeeming not only her heart but the destiny of her path as she navigates the difficult road after divorce. The landscape of Tuscany opens up to you in little ways you’re not expecting to belove! I still remember the aura of Tuscany and the presence of ‘being caught up in life elsewhere’ to giving the impression that in Tuscany, you truly can re-discover who you are because your placed in an insular area where the buffering of the natural landscape with the homage of the people give you the freedom to do so!

Whilst reading To Tuscany with Love, memories first sparked to life in the motion picture of Diane Lane’s character’s journey, started to filter back into my mind, as Mencini has a way of writing Tuscany’s heart into her passages. She gives you just enough of a cursory knowledge of infamous landmarks and historical attributes to breathe the living heart of Tuscany into her story. She allows your mind to suspend itself back to a place which is altogether familiar and yet, unattached at the very same time! I find myself yearning to visit Tuscany each time I am transfixed by a story which is set there! Such a hearty passion for living, for food, for conversation, for expression and art, culture collides with the causal atmosphere of a best-lived day is the one of a slower pace where living becomes a part of the textural art of the setting.

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My Review of To Tuscany with Love:

One of the reasons I find myself drawn into the world of story where characters are beginning to emerge out of their cocoons and start to enter into the heart of their living narrative (which is how I perceive coming-of age stories), is because it’s a bit like the sentiments you can hear whilst listening to a song by Carole King. All the positive loveliness in life starts to ignite and catch fire inside your mind whilst your out discovering the very nature of your being and the charted path your about to take stride towards walking. Each of us has a process of learning to walk towards and shift through. The idea of having the ability to have a chance of stepping up and out of our regular ordinary lives and take a moment out of our days elsewhere — that’s a powerful prospect to undertake! I personally would have jumped at the chance to study abroad for a Summer; although a full year would have been quite keen! The joy of immersion into a culture and lifestyle as different as the shades of evergreens makes the premise of To Tuscany with Love a story worth knowing!

She nudges you into the lives of Bella the seemingly rebellious girl who inadvertently has an awkward way about approaching how to expand her family circle; Stillman the decidedly and unabashedly forward bloke whose past is muddled through reflected angst of a past spent with an abrasive step-father; Hope a girl not yet grown into the wings of confidence but has yielded her heart to love; stalwart and bold twins Karen and Meghan, who recklessly pursue life how they dare to live it; Rune the broken-hearts-in-waiting rake who has a singular tracking mind; Lee the studiously training doctor who’d prefer to break out of his bonds of family obligation; and Philip the soft-spoken bloke who is attracted to Bella but lacks the charisma to draw her eye!

The pacing of the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks and near-precision reflective prose which paints the portrait of their lives whilst living in Tuscany. Told through the main perspective of Bella, the novel shifts forwards and backwards through each key protagonist to give the reader further insight into their worlds. For instance, in the opening chapters we spent time with Stillman as a young boy on a farm in Georgia to understand the underpinnings of his character’s motivations and character traits of how his environment as a young boy shaped who he became as a young man of this twenties. Each of our lived experiences takes a bit of the mould of our futures, as to stitch together our transitions and transgressions. His background is jaded by the loss of his mother at a time in his life where he needed a supportive encourager to guide him.

A classic triangle of emotions and newly developing love between two blokes (Stillman and Philip) and a girl (Bella), turn this story into a classic set-up of a romance which could have a complicated ending. I liked seeing how Mencini chose to take Bella on her journey through first love, first flirtation, and first experiences with the opposite sex. This is definitely an exploration of a women’s progression towards womanhood, of which fits nicely under the category of ‘women’s fiction!’

A refreshing story arc seeing the close-stitched connection between Bella and her Mum, where mother and daughter were the best of friends rather than sidelined as enemies or distantly in each others’ lives. I found it refreshing Bella’s thoughts were always tied to how her mother was doing whilst in Tuscany, and wound in excitement upon her return to New York! Tuscany was merely the impetus to set everything into motion which would follow next in each of their lives. Radical changes emerged out of the warm glow of Tuscany’s Summer’s holiday of study. It’s the measure of each of the characters how they individually chose to embrace their life back in the states which proved to be most remarkable of all.

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On Mencini’s writing style:

There is an erstwhile frankness of self and station in the novel, where Mencini chooses to boldly assert the lives of the seven students in open honesty. She doesn’t hold back from revealing the blokes primal thoughts of love nor holds back the bolder strokes of narrative where their language choices would glower the faces of their Mums back home! She chooses to give an impression of raw twenty-something life being led with a bit of reckless abandon half a world away from where they had grown-up. It paints a real portrait of choices and decisions which everyone has to face at one point or another in their own life.

The time slips which occur throughout the story are eased into the book with a natural grace, as it allows us to grab bits of information through specific portals of the character’s life which allow us to understand them in the present. I always appreciate a writer who can master the technique, so that we are given the necessary information we need to attach ourselves to each character in turn, but in a way where the story is not led by mere facts, but lived through reading of their lives which takes the page to a personal bent of enjoyment! I love being half hinged to the present whilst having a firm footing in the past!

Fly in the Ointment:

I only wish the vulgarity which is threaded through the story in different intervals could have been better tempered because at some instances of its inclusion, I was all but cringing for a better turn of phrase to illicit the same emotional conviction. It felt a bit contrived in some ways, as if this were the only way that one particular scene or sequence could be appreciated if it had an illicit word thrown into the mix. I was nearly halfway through before I realised the frequency had changed from randomly included to more adamantly laced. There is a bit of a common slandering towards crude humour or crude descriptions of our bodies as well, which I know can be par for course in contemporary romances, but I felt they were out-of-place for this particular story. This has the full essence of a literary romance wrapped up inside a travelogue diary of one key character’s life hinged to six other lives she unexpected intersected with in Tuscany. I think I would have preferred if the pace and level of narrative in Tuscany had carried forward into the narrative that extracts their lives back in the states. The chapters in the states felt a bit rushed to me and contrite.

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“To Tuscany with Love” Book Trailer with Gail Mencini via Gail Mencini

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The “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 3 January: Spotlight Feature and Promotional Giveaway @ C Mash Loves to Read
  2. 5 January: Interview @ As the Page Turns
  3. 5 January: Author Q&A Feature @ The Page Turners Book Club
  4. 6 January: Review @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
  5. 6 January: Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
  6. 7 January: Spotlight & Giveaway @ Under My Apple Tree
  7. 7 January: Review @ Jorie Loves A Story
  8. 7 January: Review @ Little Miss Train Wreck
  9. 8 January: Guest Post @ Jorie Loves A Story
  10. 9 January: Interview @ Manic Readers
  11. 9 January: Review @ Kritters Ramblings
  12. 9 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Nightly Reading
  13. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Manic Readers
  14. 10 January: Review @ Afternoon Bookery
  15. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Bless Their Hearts Mom
  16. 11 January: Review @ Bunny’s Reviews
  17. 11 January: Live Web Chat @ Read On Series at Crossroad Reviews
  18. 12 January: Interview @ Literary Lunes
  19. 13 January: Review @ Mandi Kay Reads
  20. 13 January: Author Interview @ Infinite House of Books
  21. 14 January: Review & Spotlight @ So I am a Reader!
  22. 14 January: Review @ TiffyFit’s Reading Corner
  23. Date Unknown: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Therian

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Return on the morrow, as Ms. Mencini drops by Jorie Loves A Story, whilst sharing with us an Author Guest Post relaying the story behind To Tuscany with Love! Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “To Tuscany with Love” as well as Gail Mencini’s photograph and biography, the blog tour badge, and the logo badge for JKS Communications were all provided by JKS Communications and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, 21st Century, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Contemporary Romance, Debut Novel, Fly in the Ointment, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Life Shift, Modern Day, Time Slip, Tuscany, Women's Fiction