Forced to the streets after her mother dies, Carina Gallo is desperate to survive and find her long lost sisters. Consumed with locating his missing brother, Count Luciano Ruggero has forsaken his needs. When Luciano catches beautiful and vulnerable Carina stealing from him, he takes pity and cares for her until she's strong enough to work off her crime. Carina is forever grateful to Luciano, yet fears he will learn of her wicked secret and condemn her to burn. Will Luciano and Carina find a way to feed the mutual passions they share, or will heresy and obsession with lost family destroy them both?***
What makes CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN an unusual historical?
The location combined with the era is what sets it apart. There seems to be a feeling that readers aren't interested in medieval Italy. CARINA is set in the North in the Po Valley, 1425. Who wouldn't want to be transported back to the country where opulence and growth abounded? The arts, inventions, writings...it is mind-boggling when you read about the contributions Italy has made to the world. But more than that, when you think of Italy, your first thought is romance.
Where did you get the idea for the story?
Originally, I came up with the trilogy for Kensington's Ballad line. At the time, I brainstormed with a writer friend about the books, knowing they had to all connect in some way for Ballad. That's how the triplet sisters came about. I've always had a fascination with people who have psychic abilities, so I decided the sisters would each have a different power. Unfortunately, the line folded before I could get my manuscript to an editor. But I didn't give up. Okay, I did for several years until I decided to pull CARINA out two years ago and revise it!
Is this your first historical romance with an unusual setting?
No, not at all. I love 15th century Italy. I had written a four-book Italian medieval series prior to CARINA. I had also published a romantic suspense set in 1970 in the U.S. and Italy as well as a short story set in Piemonte, Italy, in the 1300s. My fascination with Italy is my parents' fault. They were Italian, and it seemed natural to write stories around my heritage and its fascinating culture. These certainly won't be the last stories I set in medieval Italy.
Can you tell us about the other books in the trilogy?
I'd love to. Book two, CHARLOTTE AND THE GYPSY, is set in Andalusia, Spain. While CARINA had visions, Char (as she is known to the gypsies) is clairaudient. She "hears" what people are thinking. I am having fun writing this story. Because Char is not a true gypsy, she can't do the things the other gypsy woman take for granted. Fortune-telling wasn't her thing. Neither were reading tea leaves or mixing potions. But she had the one thing the gypsies didn't--reading people's minds.
The third book is CALLIE AND THE KNIGHT. This story is set near London. I haven't started research for this book yet, so I can't say much about the story other than Callie is betrothed to a knight with a nasty reputation.
Connecting these stories was a bit tricky. The majority of CARINA is her story, her visions, her romance. Only in the last few chapters does she go in search of the sisters she only recently learned about. In CHARLOTTE, Char will go looking for CALLIE at the end of the book. Then at the end of book three, all the sisters unite and go in search of their beginnings. There's more than just the sisters' individual stories. Their destiny cannot be revealed until they go back to their past. It will all be wrapped up by the end of book three.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Yes, definitely. My website is going to be revamped. When it's finished, it will be like walking through the history of my books. I can't reveal any more because my webmistress and I are still in the planning stages. Keep checking back!
"Did you come here to ply your trade?"
"And what trade might that be, my lord?"
He forced himself to remain rooted to the floor else he'd throttle the outspoken wench. "Are you a strumpet?"
His directness caused her to blush. She wasn't unshakable after all.
"I fear you have misjudged me, Count Ruggero."
"Then from where did you come? And I'll have a straightforward answer."
She dropped her hands to the folds of the silk gown. To hide her nervousness over speaking of her past? Luciano wondered.
"I worked for the Baldovini," she replied.
His eyes bore into her. Carina read his suspicion.
"If you do not believe me, send someone to the Baldovini to inquire about me," she openly challenged. "I spent the whole of my life on their lands, working the fields these four years past."
He set his goblet down gently and moved closer. "You were a laborer?"
She nodded but couldn't speak with the count standing but a long stride away. His imposing presence commanded attention. Were she not a pauper and he a count, she'd assuredly lure him into a kiss, as improper as it might be. It wouldn't be an unpleasant experience, she'd wager. The only kiss she'd ever received from a man had been from the lecherous, slobbering Signor Baldovini. He had cornered her and tried to snatch more than just a kiss. Miseria! She still cringed from the horrible memory.
"The Baldovini employ only men and boys to work their fields," the count pointed out.
"Signora Baldovini did not allow me to work in her private residence."
He stepped closer. So close, Carina smelled the clean scent from his morning bath and the faint fragrance of wine on his breath. Her heart's pace quickened.
"Why would the signora forbid you from her home?"
"Truth be told, Signor Baldovini had an eye for me. The signora told my mother I tempted her husband. Mamma knew better, for Signor Baldovini has an eye for all women and has many bastard children."
The count's cheeks lined with shallow dimples when he suppressed a smile at her directness. Carmine Baldovini's illegitimate children were a well-known fact, one his wife continually denied.
"Did you tempt him?"
Carina cocked her head and tightened her mouth.
"I will take your silence as an affirmation."
Would you like to win a copy of CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN? Just leave a comment or question for Jannine here, and I'll draw the winner in one week. Best of luck!