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Excerpt Thursday: Orphan of the Olive Tree by Mirella Patzer
This week, we’re welcoming author Mirella Patzerwhose title ORPHAN OF THE OLIVE TREE is a tale of love, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness in medieval Italy.Join us Sunday, when Mirella will be here to talk about the novel and offer an ebook copy to a lucky winner. This giveaway is open internationally. Here's the blurb:
bound by a blood oath. A dreadful curse and the casting of the evil eye that
will shatter lives, and the dark family secret one woman will risk everything
to keep buried. An absorbing novel about wicked intentions, medieval
superstitions, a curse uttered in envy, undisclosed secrets, unstoppable
destinies, and two generations of women and the extraordinary event that will
vindicate or destroy them.
two neighboring villas in the heart of the Tuscan countryside to the elegance
of Siena; from a world steeped in ancient superstitions to a culture where
family honor is paramount comes, this multi-layered novel of the lives, loves,
secrets and strivings of two women and their families in the 13th
century. Felicia Ventura dreams of a happy future raising a family, but
her hopes are shattered because of a curse and the casting of the evil eye by
her envious neighbor, a dark Sicilian beauty named Prudenza. Prudenza’s envy of
Felicia turns into a dangerous, frenzied obsession and she revives an ancient
superstition, spreading the rumor that Felicia’s twins were fathered by
different men. The scandal destroys Felicia’s marriage. But when Prudenza gives
birth to twin daughters of her own, she is desperate to save face and rids
herself of one infant, keeping the child’s existence secret. As the years go
by, the truth has a way of making itself known. Soon Prudenza’s deception will
lead to the unraveling of everything she values in life.
**An Excerpt from Orphan of the Olive Tree**
Felicia hummed a merry tune as she crossed over the bridge to Villa
Bianca. The fragrance of ripening fruit floated on the breeze. Because of her
pregnancy, she craved lemons and wanted to pick some that hung ripe and hearty
on the tree next to Prudenza’s villa. After picking enough to fill a small
basket, she sat to visit with Prudenza beneath the shade of a fig tree at the
perimeter of a small courtyard. She had brought her embroidery.
Felicia wanted to keep her good news a secret, but her delight was too
profound and she felt as if she would burst if she did not share it. Prudenza
would have to know eventually. She might as well tell her now. “I have some
wonderful news, Prudenza. I am with child.” She felt herself blush at the memory
of her carnal escapades and could not help but smile as she pulled another
thread from her sewing box.
Prudenza’s eyes widened. A glint of surprise sparked in her eyes, and
then quickly vanished. “I am pleased for you. When will the little puttino be born?”
“In March or April, after the flowers first bloom, I think.”
Prudenza stabbed her needle through the linen in the hoop she
Felicia covered her burning cheeks with her hands before she removed the
now shriveled mammetta from her
pocket, and straightened its silk and velvet gown. “Enrico does not believe in
superstitions, but I know he is wrong. This helped me to conceive.” Felicia
caressed the doll then laid it on her lap. She ran her hands over her belly
that had yet to reveal the new life it contained.
“Have you told Enrico yet?” Prudenza asked casually, her face void of
“No, but tonight I will roast a capon and serve him our finest wine. He
will be thrilled. We have yearned for a child for so long that I want to ensure
our evening meal turns into a happy celebration.”
Prudenza did not make any response. Instead, she embroidered with zest,
making stitches one right after the other without pause, her lips pinched
Felicia studied her neighbor, who seemed to have taken the news
strangely. Blessed with almost perfect bone structure, everyone who met
Prudenza could not help but stare at her beautiful features, statuesque figure,
creamy complexion, and wealth of black curls. Yet, a perplexing coldness lurked
beneath her great beauty. Her undisguised need to be better than others and to
own beautiful possessions had always disturbed Felicia. Such desires invited
greed and jealousy into one’s heart. Poor Prudenza, nothing ever seemed to
satisfy her. She filled her home with expensive vases and intricate tapestries,
and wore gowns cut from the best quality cloth. Talented stonemasons had even
carved the bench they sat on. Yet despite all her lavish possessions, she never
seemed satisfied, never seemed happy.
Prudenza looked up from her work. Envy glittered from her dark brown
eyes as she locked her unwavering gaze upon Felicia. With chin jutted forward,
the corners of her mouth formed into an odd smirk that appeared to be more of a
sneer than a smile. “You are radiant and beautiful in your delight, Felicia. I
am glad you and Enrico will soon be blessed with a child. May you and your new
family enjoy a future filled with profound love, good fortune, and much
happiness.” Prudenza enunciated every word slowly, clearly.
A cold shiver ran down Felicia’s back. The kind words her neighbor spoke
contrasted with her stiff posture and false expression. Felicia forced herself
to smile at what she sensed was a contrived compliment. “Grazie, Prudenza. I hope you and Carlo will soon undergo the same
joy.” Unable to stand the intensity of Prudenza’s stare a moment longer,
Felicia glanced away.
They sat in tense silence for a while longer. A strange uneasiness
settled over Felicia as she watched Prudenza now ply her needle with an unusual
calmness, a slight smile curving her lips as if she harbored a secret. Whatever
had just transpired signaled their visit was over.
Felicia rose from her chair. “I must be getting back to start Enrico’s
supper. Thank you for the lemons and your hospitality.”
Puzzled, Felicia’s uneasiness grew with every step as she crossed over
the little footbridge on her way back home.
* * *
Half-mad with spite, Prudenza tightened her jaw as she
watched Felicia walk away. I’ll make you
pay for your selfishness, Felicia. She felt the tension in her face slacken
and she grinned. Immersed in thoughts of pregnancy, that idiot Felicia had
failed to notice the evil eye Prudenza had so effortlessly cast upon her.
Satisfaction filled Prudenza. No one knew she was a jettatura, able to cast the evil eye.
Her Sicilian grandmother had been a jettatura
too, with a rare and feared ability she had passed on to Prudenza. It was all
so easy. A few words of praise uttered while thoughts of envy churned deep
inside her heart. In such a simple way, she cast the evil eye. Now all that
remained was to wait. Bad luck would soon do the rest.
Prudenza emitted a satisfied sigh. Felicia would
suffer many years to come. Of that, she was certain.