Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thief's Desire by Isabo Kelly

Thief’s Desire by Isabo Kelly

In the mystical kingdom of Karasnia, Victoria Flash, abandoned in childhood, is a street smart thief and a gambler of exceptional talent. When she wins a large amount of money at a card game against Big Charlie, the leader of a rival gang, his wrath forces her into hiding.

By accident, she encounters the handsome and intriguing Jacob Marin, a general of the King’s Own guards. He is so impressed with her many crafty talents, he hires her to spy for him. This catapults the unsuspecting Vic and Jacob into a world of dark and evil.

Together, Vic and Jacob find themselves trying to overcome a very evil villain bent on becoming more powerful. They must overcome powerful magic spells, fight off terrible forest beasts, face goblins, and save a small baby who can influence the destiny of the entire world. The danger and adventure result in an inextricable bond and abounding love to blossom between them.

The author, Isabo Kelly, sweeps us into a very realistic romantic fantasy adventure. Victoria and Jacob are believable characters - strong, charismatic, and intriguing. Both are vulnerable not only to each other but to their own strengths and weaknesses. The romance unfolds gradually and very realistically. I especially enjoyed some of the unique and humorous situations the two characters often found themselves immersed in.

Jacob and Vic are powerful and sly and very much draw the reader into the tale. I especially enjoyed the realistic settinga and circumstances of the story. If you want to get lost in a real romp through the annals of time, then this medieval fantasy is a great one to do just that.

Nutella - Unbeatable decadence

One of the best chocolate treats available in the world today is a product called Nutella. If you’ve never tasted it, then I urge you to drop whatever you are doing this instant and rush out to your local supermarket to purchase a jar. It’s that good! Oh, and while you’re at it, better buy two because one jar is never enough.

Mr. Pietro Ferrero, an Italian pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company, invented this decadent treat. Even more incredible is the fact that he invented it in 1940’s while World War II ravaged Italy. Somehow he managed to acquire a limited supply of chocolate during food rationing. To extend his short supply, he mixed the chocolate with hazelnuts which grew in overabundant supply in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Ferrero produced the chocolate-hazelnut spread and baked it in a loaf of bread. He then wrapped the loaf in tinfoil and marketed it. He called the chocolate loaf “Pasta Gianduja” after a carnival character famous to the region. So mothers began purchasing the loaf for their children and served it to them slice by slice. Children being children, however, they discarded the bread and went straight for the chocolate.

Always one to recognize a golden opportunity, Mr. Ferrero dispensed with the bread and began to sell the chocolate paste in a jar. He renamed the product “Supercrema Gianduja”. The produce became a huge hit almost instantly. Italians discovered it to be an inexpensive way to enjoy a decadent treat. During the 1940’s and 1950’s a kilo of chocolate was 6 times the cost of one kilo of Supercrema Gianduja. It grew in popularity so fast, that Italian food stores started a service called “The Smearing”. Children could go to their local food store with a slice of bread for a free “smear” of the super cream. In the 1960’s the product was renamed to Nutella.
Its popularity has now spread to encompass the entire world. Many years ago, one could only find the product at Italian specialty stores as imports. Today, it is available in the peanut butter aisle in grocery stores across North America, and, it outsells all brands of peanut butter combined!

There are many companies who have tried to copy this chocolate hazelnut treat and I’ve even tried a few. However, they all pale in comparison to Nutella. So don’t waste your money. A jar of Nutella will cost you almost $5.00 in the store. And if you think that’s expensive – think again. It takes Ferrero three hours to produce one batch of Nutella. It is a highly refined, amazing process, making the shelf price a fair value for the quality and care it takes to make the product.

If you are able to read and understand Italian, you can visit Nutella’s home page at where 1000’s of Nutella recipes are readily available. It’s a favourite bookmark of mine.

I’ve translated the Nutella Recipe of the month below for you. Enjoy!

After Sport Nutella Shake
(Serves 2)

1 banana
150 grams of Nutella
300 grams whole milk
50 grams heavy cream
Place milk, whipping cream, half of the banana, and Nutella in a blender. Blend for 2 minutes. Serve in tall glasses and decorate with the remaining portion of the banana.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy

In 15th century England, Lady Anne Neville is the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, a wealthy, ambition man with the influence to determine kingship. The War of the Roses, a war between the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England has ended. The Lancastrians demand to reinstate the elderly and insane King Henry VI lost. Anne’s father’s support won the throne for the young, charismatic King Edward IV, a man the Earl of Warwick is confident he can influence.

To secure his power over King Edward, Warwick marries his eldest daughter Isabel to King Edward’s brother, George, the Duke of Clarence. When King Edward’s younger, more serious brother, Richard, is sent to Middleham, Warwick’s family home, to train, Anne falls in love with him and he with her.

King Edward is an independent man and he proves to be uncontrollable by the wily Warwick. The entire country is aghast when Edward marries Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner and widow with two young children. Rumours abound that Elizabeth bewitched the king in a wood. As queen, she is anxious to raise the status of her family and ambitiously arranges political marriages and secures positions and estates for them. Before long, the Woodvilles are in power, not King Edward and certainly not the Earl of Warwick.

Angered, Warwick shifts his loyalties to the Lancastrians and betroths his youngest daughter Anne to the son of the insane Henry VI, also named Edward. Anne, who has only ever known the Lancastrians as the enemy is now sent to France with her future mother-in-law, Henry's wife, the strident and voracious Margaret. Together, the two women wait as Warwick and the Lancastrians battle to overcome King Edward and reinstate Anne’s betrothed as the rightful king.

The Lancastrian’s lose the battle and Anne’s betrothed is killed. King Edward places her under the guardianship of her brother-in-law, Clarence, and she is returned to England.

Misfortune strikes again however. Clarence is ruthless and has always wanted to usurp the crown from his elder brother, King Edward. Anne and Richard are reunited and they pledge their hearts to each other and await approval for marriage. Clarence is determined to keep his hands on Isabel’s and Anne's fortune and does not wish Anne to marry Richard. He is behind a treacherous plot that not only rips the two lovers from each, but removes Anne from all that she has known and loved. Poor Anne, all she wants from life is to live quietly with her family. Instead, circumstance after circumstance plunge her into turmoil until ultimately she is adorned as queen, a position she never desired.

Jean Plaidy has successfully recreated a highly complex period in English history. The author did an excellent job of explaining the complicated inter-relationships between the characters which made the story easy to follow. She made it easy to understand how the Lancastrians came to be enemies of the house of York and how their different claims came about.

Jean Plaidy manages to keep readers' interest throughout while bringing this rich story to life. The novel highlights a very critical era in English history and Jean Plaidy made it fun to learn.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Italy celebrates Saint Joseph Day

Italy – The Feast Day of Saint Joseph

Italians love celebrating. Two days after the feast of Saint Patrick, on March 19th, Italians all over the world celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. Saint Joseph is the father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. He is the Patron Saint of carpenters, house buyers and sellers, fathers, confectioners, wheelwrights, and working people. Numerous countries regard him as their patron saint too, including Austria, Canada, Mexico, Sicily, Turin, and Florence Italy.

According to legend, during the Middle Ages severe drought and famine plagued Sicily. Sicilians prayed passionately to Saint Joseph for rain. They promised that if he sent rain, they would prepare a large feast in his honour. While they waited, Sicilians survived on fava beans which saved them from starvation. Saint Joseph heard their prayers and sent rain. The Sicilians never forgot their promise to him for answering their desperate prayers. In gratitude, to this very day, they hold dear their promise and pay homage to him.

Every March 19th, Italians open their hearts and pantries. First, three-tiered altars are erected to honour the Holy Trinity. A statue of Saint Joseph, surrounded by flowers and candles, decorates the top tier. On the next two tiers are foods like pasta, olive oil, fava beans, and baked goods.

During the banquet, food is generously offered to the needy. In the town squares of many towns and villages, large banquet tables are erected. All the townsfolk contribute food, flowers, limes, candles, wine, and fava beans. No meats are placed on the altar because the feast day falls during the season of Lent. Foods made with bread crumbs are common because it is symbolic of a carpenter’s sawdust. A special vegetarian minestrone soup including fava beans and bread carefully baked in the shape of a sceptre to represent his walking stick or a wreath representing the Crown of Thorns are lovingly prepared and offered. At the end of the meal, every guest takes home some of the food.

To begin the festival, the local priest blesses the altar and its foods. Children portraying the Holy Family must sample all the food on the altar. As each item is tasted, there is a drum roll and everyone shouts “Viva San Giuseppe” to cast away all of the evil spirits. When the tasting is complete, the blessed loaf of bread is cut into pieces and shared with all. Legend decrees that whoever eats a piece of the bread will receive good fortune throughout the next year.

Saint Joseph's Day is a day for eating and celebrating with friends and family. There are many recipes passed down through the generations for this very special occasion. One of the most common is for “zeppole”, a fried donut-like treat. So on March 19th, I hope you take the time to make and enjoy zeppole. I wish all my Italian family, friends, and readers Buon Giorno di San Giuseppe – Happy St. Joseph’s Day. “Viva San Giuseppe!”


For the dough:
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups water
10 ounces granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large eggs
¼ cup white wine
A pot of oil for frying

For the dredging:
3 teaspoons powdered cinnamon mixed with 1 cup sugar

Combine water, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix flour into boiling water mixture all at once. Remove from Remove from heat and begin whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a mass. Return to low heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and add eggs 1 at a time. Beat vigorously after each addition or the egg will cook. Add wine and beat the dough until satiny. Grease a countertop or board with oil. Turn out the dough and pat down flat. Fold sides over on itself so there are 3 layers. Repeat this five more times. Heat oil in a large pot or fryer. Take about 1/3of dough and roll out in a log, to the thickness of your thumb. Pinch off a teaspoon size piece. Place 3 or 4 at a time into boiling oil. Turn and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on brown paper. Place into a paper bag and sprinkle powdered sugar over them. Close the bag and shake to cover with sugar.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Buried Treasures in Rome

It is a well known fact that in Rome, undiscovered treasures and artefacts may lie a mere 30 feet below the surface. Therefore, building an underground subway in the city of Rome is no easy feat. The dilemma is how to build without disturbing any antiquities that may lie buried and undiscovered below its spectacular roads and streets.

Compared to other European capitals, Rome's subway is far less developed. For years, Rome’s 2.8 million citizens relied solely on two scant subway lines that fell short of meeting the city’s transportation needs. The two lines don’t even connect and they do not come near to the historical city centre. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, the construction of a subway poses many difficulties. Rome is built upon a labyrinth of tunnels, catacombs, vaults, and ancient sewer systems.

During the construction of the first two subway lines in the 1950’s, each excavation exposed archaeological remains and the construction had to be stopped to allow the local archaeologists to check their significance. Alternate routes had to be thought-out and determined if the discovery proved valuable to the history of the Romans.

After years of funding shortfalls and decades of debate, work began on a third subway line. Now that the third subway line is under construction, it has been marked as an "archaeological survey" from the very beginning and great care is being taken. This new line will run through the very heart of the ancient city. It will be 24 kilometres (15 miles) in length and 25 to 30 metres (80 to 100 feet) below ground.

Finally, after many centuries, archaeologists are working together with construction workers to excavate beneath Rome's central Piazza Venezia, only a few hundred yards from the Roman Forum.

Almost immediately, excavation revealed some spectacular finds. Just below the surface, excavators discovered building remnants from the renaissance that were torn down in the late 19th century.

They dug one layer deeper and this exposed Via Flamina, a medieval road that once traversed the city. And one layer below that, they discovered a herringbone pavement from the 8th century.

Beneath the Piazza Venezia and near the ancient Forum, workers discovered a sixth-century copper factory. The early factory consisted of small ovens used to work on copper alloys. Small copper ingots discovered at the scene were sent for analysis.

Also discovered were the foundations of a 16th century Renaissance palace, a Roman tavern, and a medieval kitchen complete with pots and pans used to heat sauce.
Even though 38 active digs now line the subway construction, most of the digs have not reached the earth strata that date back to Roman times, where plenty of surprises may yet await discovery.

With every new discovery, officials must decide whether to remove, destroy, or preserve the artefacts and/or site within the subway’s structure.
Officials deemed a Roman tavern from the Middle Ages acceptable for destruction, but they eliminated an entire subway stop near the Pantheon from after workers found the base of an imperial Roman public building. This will force tourists and citizens alike to walk further to reach the new, relocated subway stop.

Further along the tunnels, workers found a "looter's hole." During the Middle Ages, builders would tie themselves to a rope and drop down into a well-like shaft to roam the underground to collect bricks, rock, or marble from earlier centuries to use for new construction.

There isn't an inch of Rome that doesn't have some artefacts below the street. In 300 A.D., one-and-a-half million people inhabited Rome. If they were to bring to light everything they and subsequent generations owned and built, the streets of Rome would all have to be eliminated and the entire city preserved as an archaeological dig.

Like the Roman ingenuity of ancient times, Romans today have found a way to preserve the old while creating the new.

The folklore of Gems

Throughout the centuries jewelry has been created and worn by people of different cultures. Every culture had it gemstones that they valued and they attributed a special meaning to each. Today the list of precious and semi-precious gemstones is very large and each one has a history and folklore associated with it. The Quality Jewelry Directory has created a list of the most popular gemstones and gives a brief outline of each.

Alexandrite: One of the most valued and sought after gemstones is Alexandrite. Born in metamorphic conditions that bring together specific chemical elements to produce the mineral chrysoberyl, the gemstone has been valued by jewelers throughout the ages for its unique ability to change color from green to shades of red or very soft purple when exposed to daylight and incandescent light. Russia is the primary source for most gem quality alexandrite and was named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II. With a rich folklore history, alexandrite was thought to impart wisdom, creativity and to strengthen a individuals insight. Listed on the Mohs Scale of Hardness at 8.5, it is a perfect gemstone to design into high quality jewelry.

Ruby: Ruby is a beautiful gemstone that is part of the mineral family corundum. Corundum is found within crystals of metamorphic rock and is considered to be the second hardest mineral next to diamonds. Corundums come in different varieties and can be considered a sapphire in different colors. Some of the best rubies are in true red and come from Burma. They can also be found in other areas throughout the world, such as Australia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United States. With its well known sturdiness, it makes a perfect gemstone for jewelry. Often set with sapphires and diamonds, it is a perfect stone to pair up. The ruby was thought to have mystical powers and was often worn as a Talisman to ward off great evil. The ruby's color was often associated with blood and was thought to have the ability to stop bleeding and to heal ailments associated with it.

Sapphires: Sapphires belong to the mineral family of corundum and are found in weathered alluvial deposits from pyroclastic flows. Most sapphires are blue stones which range from slight blue to a deep indigo coloration. The most valued of the sapphires are ones that have the medium blue coloration and these are referred to "cornflower blue". Sapphires come in many colors and these are often called "fancy sapphires". Only in the case of red, are corundums called rubies. Sapphires are found throughout the world but primarily in Australia, United States. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Kenya and Tanzania. The name "sapphire" comes from multiple sources. In Persian, it is "safir" and was associated with Saturn. In Latin, "sappheiros" for the island where sapphires were mined. Ancient folklore is rich with stories related to sapphires. Seen as a stone that changes its hue when the wearer was engaged in impure behavior, it was given to the wearer to help impart fidelity. Also thought to bring inner peace to the soul and spiritual enlightenment.

Amethyst: Amethyst is a purple colored gemstone that is from the mineral "quartz" and derives it beautiful purple color from the iron impurities within the crystal. Throughout the world, amethyst is primarily found in Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Uruquay, Madagascar and Australia. Amethysts occur as long prismatic crystals that form six-sided pyramids end to end and grow in druzes within crystalline crusts or in sandstone formations. Amethysts are believed to bring the power of peace and calm and are often used in meditation. Due to its rich color and calming effects it is used to relieve stress from every day work and to relieve headaches due to tension or migraine headaches. Amethyst is often seen to encourage deeper understanding, encourage love and awareness. Amethyst was often worn to bed to produce and encourage peace and beautiful dreams. Amethysts are adorned in some of the richest displays of jewelry such as the British Crown Jewels. Catherine the Great was very fond of amethyst as were the Egyptians.

Pearl: Pearl is the modern birthstone for the month of June. The beautiful pearl is the only gem that is created from a living organism, the oyster. The process of pearl formation is actually a reaction to an irritant within the oyster itself. This irritation causes a material called nacre to envelope the irritant and over time creates a beautiful pearl. Pearls come in different varieties such as cultured pearls, freshwater pearls, tahitian pearls, black pearls. Other varieties of pearls are barogues which display an irregular appearance and Mabe pearls that are cultivated blister pearls. The name "pearl", comes from the latin word, "perula" or small pear. The Chinese were the first to cultivate pearls in saltwater, but over the years they were cultivated in saltwater and freshwater alike. Today, some of the finest cultivated pearls come from Japan. Pearls are associated with purity, wisdom through experience and perfection.

Emeralds: Emeralds are actually the green version of the mineral beryl. This type of beryl contains small amounts of chromium and iron which give them their unique color. Emeralds are commonly found in sedimentary rock that has undergone changes in temperature and pressure. Emeralds can be found in the Russian Federation, United States, Pakistan, Norway, India, Malagasy, and Australia. Some of the best emeralds are found Colombia and these crystals exhibit the best quality for their size. The name emerald comes from the Greek term "smaragdos", which loosely translates to "green gemstone". The quality in the emerald is determined by it's clarity and it's deep grass green coloration which exhibits a slight hint of blue. Emeralds have a deep history and folklore. The history of emeralds can be traced to the ancient Babylonians and the Egyptians where tools have been found in ancient emerald mines where the Queen Cleopatra's emeralds originated. The Incas also mined emeralds and the largest and highest quality stones were once worn by nobility. Unfortunately, many emeralds were lost to time, due to invasions, greed or through the inclusion of these gems in private collections.

Diamonds: Diamonds are the hardest known natural material and have other qualities that make the diamond a true king of gems. Based upon the element "carbon", diamonds are actually similar to graphite, but like carbon they have a unique crystalline composition. The dense atomic structure of diamonds makes them extremely valuable in jewelry but also in modern day industrial applications. Diamonds are formed deep underground where pressure and temperature are critical for their formation. In ancient times, India was the only known source of diamonds, until after the 1800 century, deposits were discovered all over the world. Diamonds come from a variety of sources but the primary deposits are from large openings in the Earth called volcanic pipes. These are often called kimberlite pipes. The vast majority of all diamonds originate in Africa but other significant finds have been discovered in Russia and in the northwestern territories of Canada.

Turquoise: One gemstone that is very popular is turquoise. Turquoise is a copper aluminum phosphate mineral that is found in locations that have high concentrations of copper. Turquoise is created from a variety of natural process and is found in areas that are arid in climate. These climate conditions are important in weathering and oxidation of copper deposits and producing the conditions that support the creation of turquoise. Turquoise can also be created from hydrothermal actions, leaching and precipitation of surrounding copper deposits to form turquoise. Turquoise comes in variety of shades such as blue-green, and green with flecks of gray with traces of iron and chrome. The best quality turquoise is "sky blue" or often called "robin egg" blue. Turquoise is found throughout the world, but comes primarily from the United States, Iran, Afghanistan, China and Mexico.

Topaz: Topaz is a silicate mineral that has been used as a gemstone for centuries. Topaz is considered the hardest of silicate minerals but has interesting properties that make it similar to diamonds in its ability to be cleaved into smaller increments. Unlike diamonds, the crystals of topaz can come in very large sizes. Topaz is usually found in pegmatities, quartz veins and inside of granites and rhyolites. Topaz in its true form is clear, but can come in a large assortment of colors due to various impurities within the crystal lattice. These colors can range from red, green, orange, brown and yellow. Topaz in its natural state forms short or long multi-faceted crystals and is prized as a mineral specimen in its natural state. Topaz is located throughout the world but is primarily found in Russia, Australia, Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Pakistan and some of the best quality and prized topaz deposits are found in Brazil. Certain regions of the United States have topaz deposits, most notably in San Diego County and the Thomas Mountain Range in Utah which is renowned for its beautiful blue topaz.

If you are shopping for jewelry look to the Quality Jewelry Directory to help you find what you desire.

Additional information can be found in other areas of our website: Gemstones, Jewelry Cleaning, Birthstone information and Anniversary Stones.

The above list is small breakdown of each gemstones history and folklore. The list is not intended to be the end all of gemstone information and should not be looked upon as such. Each gemstone has it's own mineral data, history and folklore and all data cannot be written about each one. It is recommended to seek other websites for deeper knowledge on each.

The Quality Jewelry Directory

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Medieval Remedies

Researching my novels is one of my favourite things to do. I come across such interesting tidbits. In my novel, Orphan of the Olive Tree, I use a lot of medieval folklore and superstition. Here's some interesting remedies for common ailments of ancient times that I've found:

In the year 1250, if you wanted to cure warts, you were required to procure a live eel, fresh or salt water species were both acceptable, and cut its head off. Rub the hot blood of the eel over the afflicted area. Allow to stand until the blood dries and do not wash the body parts so treated for at least three days. Bury the head of the eel deeply within the earth. Remember where you buried it, so you can check its decomposition ---- if required. As the head of the eel rots over time, the warts will disappear. This cure generally works better in the summer months, because the eel's head rots faster.

To improve eyesight, add a drop of dew to the gall bladder of a nightingale caught before daybreak and annoint the eyelashes.

To enhance the flow of bile from the liver, eat dandelions.

To determine pregnancy, have her drink mead before she went to bed. If her stomach hurt when she woke up, then she was pregnant.

To determine the sex of a woman's child, ask the woman to stick out her hand. If she produces the right, then the child will be a boy; but, if the left is produced, then she will have a girl.

There are numerous such cures collected throughout history. Reading them makes me eternally grateful that I was born in this century.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Medieval Italy

Castello di Pavone

My current work in progress is entitled Orphan of the Olive Tree. It is a rew-write of a romance written by an unknown author in the 14th century. I have taken the basic plot, changed the setting from medieval France to medieval Italy, and changed the characters and all the writing. So much of my research lately involves Italian history, medieval superstitions and folklore, and some of the strange beliefs and cures people in that country during that setting believed in.

History in Italy goes back to ancient times and therefore it is very rich in archaeological sites and Etruscan, Roman and Romanesque buildings as well as many from other periods. Thanks to clever renovation and rebuilding some of these have become historic homes. Castles are now exclusive places for fascinating and exciting holidays.

Spending a vacation in a castle is a real magic experience. Sleeping, where once kings resided, in castles and manors all over Italy where their historic flair, style and charm turn Italian history and culture into a very personal and vivid experience.

Spending a holiday or a weekend in a castle means entering into a “World of Dreams”, stop the daily frantic rhythm by going back in time where to discover antique traditions, artistic architecture, interiors furnished with the most precious antiques, paintings and tapestries. These castles today offer the most modern comforts for relax, sport, health. A romantic break out, a going back to former times, a discovering trip of the Medieval Italy – simply a not usual vacation.

Tuscany for example is one of Italy's world famous regions with its enchanted landscapes from the mountain to the sea, with its towns with museums, cathedrals, historical buildings, streets, towns like Florence, Siena, Pisa and many more. Tuscany, full of ancient Etruscan and Roman ruins has a wide variety of castles and historic residences to offer. But obviously not only Tuscany is famous for its medieval flair and period residences. Also Umbria, Veneto, Piedmont, the countryside around Rome and Sicily have a lot to offer.

If you have always dreamed of a wedding in an ancient castle then there is no reason for you to file those fantasies away. Your castle wedding in Italy awaits only your orders. Most of those castles are very well organized for weddings and other kind of celebrations. New Year as an unforgettable night back in ancient history?

The refined traveller desires new emotions discovering in period residences a world suspended in time, where luxury and tradition meld together into one, in ideal settings in which to appreciate the tastes and fragrances of authentic recipes, wines and products of the land and sea.

Relais Villa Petrischio, Castello di Vicarello, Castello di Lispida, Castello del Poggiarello di Stigliano, Castello di Camino, Castello di Spaltenna and Castello di Pavone are only a few of Italy’s many castles where to spend the perfect medieval holiday.

My research has led me to the website of Margit Holzer who is an international expert for the travel industry. With a degree in Economics and being a multilingual tourism expert, she is now the CEO for Contact her on her mail for any kind of question regarding travelling, accommodation and tourism above all in Italy. For more information on Margit Holzer visit:

Now Face to Face

Visit Karleen Koen at

Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

Now Face to Face is the sequel to Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.

Georgian England is a time of tumultuous upheaval. A powerful Jacobite conspiracy to usurp King George and enthrone the last Stuart claimant, Jamie, in place of King George, is at the centre of conflict in this tale.

In this second novel, newly widowed, Lady Barbara Devane is sent to Virginia in the New World as a reprieve from the South Sea Bubble, a scandal that caused financial devastation throughout all of London that involved her late husband. Barbara was forced to sell almost everything she owned in order to make restitution. As a reprieve from the devastation this wrought upon her life, her grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth, sends her to the New World requiring her to run First Curle, her tobacco plantation.

Barbara is a high society noblewoman in the wilds of the new colony. Thrilled to have a member of the nobility in their midst, Barbara causes a stir with both the men and women of the colony. The women vie for a glimpse of her high fashioned clothing and cultured manners. The men wish to garner her good graces to further their political alliances. No one believes the “fragile black butterfly” possesses what it takes to successfully run a profitable plantation.

But they are wrong. Barbara is determined to make First Curle a top producing tobacco plantation. In so doing, she must come to terms with the realities and harshness of life in the colony - slavery, tobacco, and illegal smuggling. While she learns the ins and outs of growing tobacco and running a profitable business, subversion surrounds her. Unbeknownst to Barbara, her young African servant, Hyacinthe, accidently discovers a terrible secret. When tragedy strikes, it shatters Barbara’s illusion and dreams to build a new life. With great controversy, she frees her slaves, leaves a freed prisoner in charge of the plantation, and returns to England.

Turmoil awaits her in England. The after-effects of the South Sea Bubble that consisted of the financial speculations that caused financial devastation to numerous investors, and ruined Barbara's life, continue to plague her. Barbara soon learns that family and friends are entrenched in sedition. Worse still, she cannot help but be drawn into the treachery.

Through a Glass Darkly was a favourite book of mine, so it was with great enthusiasm that I read Now Face to Face. Once again, Karleen Koen does not disappoint. Koen’s prose is colourful and thorough as she brings the multi dimensional characters to life. The creation of suspense, the many various plot twists, and duplicitous characters engaged me to the last page.

Neatly encompassed in the multi-faceted plot are the issues of the time – rebellion, political unrest, slavery, and illegal smuggling. Murder and intrigue are also prominent in this richly complex tale.
In order to receive the full benefit and enjoyment of this story, I highly recommend readers read Through a Glass Darkly first. Now Face to Face is a continuation and it relies heavily upon the characters and circumstances of the first novel.

If you are looking for a book that will capture and hold you entranced from start to finish, then this is a must read. Treachery, betrayal, evil, disloyalty, and love are strong elements throughout. With every page, the characters changed, some for the better, some for the worse. It is a story of struggle and survival and the power of one woman to overcome. I highly recommend this novel to all historical fiction aficionados.
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