A Tuscan Legacy
When Rafaele and Jayne meet again two years after dancing the night away together in Tuscany, is it a matter of fate or of faith?
After deciding to take a six-month sabbatical, Italian lawyer Rafaele Rossi moves from Florence back to Villa Rossi in the middle of Tuscany, resigned to managing the family farm for his aging nonna after his father’s passing. Convinced a family get-together is what Nonna needs to lift her spirits, he plans an eightieth birthday party for her, making sure his siblings and cousins attend.
The Keswick jewelry store where Jayne Austin has worked for seven years closes its doors. Jayne takes her generous severance pay and heads off to Italy—Tuscany to be precise. Choosing to leave her fate in God’s hands, she prays she’ll miraculously bump into the handsome best man she’d danced the night away with at a friend’s Tuscan wedding two years ago. She hasn’t been able to forget those smoldering brown eyes and that rich Italian accent.
Jayne’s prayers are answered swiftly and in the most unexpected way. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s a guest not only at Isabella Rossi’s birthday party, but at Villa Rossi too.
When Rafaele receives what appears to be a valuable painting from an unknown benefactor, he’s reminded that he doesn’t want to lose Jayne again. After what he’s done to drive her from the villa, though, what kind of a commitment will it take for her to stay?
First scene extract (prologue)
NO PARENT SHOULD EVER HAVE to bury a child, let alone all of them.
Isabella Rossi gathered her shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders. She headed toward the front door of the enormous home which was too big for only her and Maria, who had been her trusted and faithful housekeeper for decades. Isabella had held the ashes of all three of her children, their once vibrant lives reduced to the contents in the ceramic urns. Now, only she remained. And her grandchildren. But most of them were scattered like chaff in the wind, and her heart pained at how far from the fields of Tuscany her descendants had drifted. Oceans now separated them; her first and last born grandchildren, Rafaele and Alessa, the only ones left on Italian soil. And even they were separated from her—and each other—by entire cities.
Since his father died three months ago, Rafaele had done his utmost to come home most weekends. To help his nonna. How long would that last, though? He had his own life, his own career, in Firenze. He’d long ago chosen that world above these lands.
Dawn peeked its golden head over the horizon as Isabella slipped out the front door of the place she’d called home for sixty long and glorious years. Villa Rossi. She’d cherished every moment here since the day her beloved Benedetto had made her his bride. Even the bad times she had buried deep in her heart.
Her fingers, wrinkled and bent from old age and arthritis, clutched the shawl tighter, shutting out the crisp spring morn; the cold not nearly as bitter as her own heart. This wasn’t how life was intended to be. They were meant to have all lived and died under the Tuscan sky, here on this beautiful estate that had been in their family for generations. She blew out a breath that carried with it the cumbersome burden she bore. Which of her grandchildren should inherit this place once she passed on? Would any of them even care to be bound by a property they barely visited anymore, in a country far from what they now called home?
She glanced back at the two-story building, her very being swelling and then quickly sagging at the collection of happy and sad memories. Through the generations, so much loving and living had happened under that roof. The ebb and flow of life.
Now it seemed that life merely ebbed, dragging the very soul of Villa Rossi with it.
With her husband’s help, she’d raised three children within those stone walls: Massimo, their firstborn, named after Benedetto’s father; Francesca, after the child’s paternal grandmother; and lastly, Albertino, her baby, who had taken her own dear papà’s name. Benedetto and she had rigidly kept to every Italian custom. Sadly, the same could not be said for her own children, God rest their departed souls. Isabella crossed herself and the shawl slipped from her clasp with the action. She quickly tugged it up over her shoulder again, her heart pressing against her ribs at the painful memory of her children breaking from tradition—at least Massimo and Francesca had—and naming their children whatever they’d wanted with no respect for their customs. None of her grandchildren bore her nor Benedetto’s names as they should have.
And poor, sweet, Albertino…he never had a chance to name his child. Never even knew he’d fathered one. Perhaps he would’ve called his daughter Isabella…if his life hadn’t been snatched from him so quickly.
If only they hadn’t argued.
If only he hadn’t sped away on his motorcycle, angry.
If only he hadn’t met that English woman.
Isabella shook her head and stepped off the narrow dirt road into the vineyard. So many ifs. So many regrets. When her son had ached to marry Maggie Golding, she’d told him to leave and never come back. She had never meant for his departure to be final. Irreversible.
Maggie had returned to Wales after Albertino’s death, and the child born out of wedlock was given the name Rachel instead. Not even an Italian name but a Jewish one. Like her surname. What had she expected, though, from that foreigner who’d led her Albertino astray. She blamed Maggie for his death.
She blamed herself.
The child should’ve been a Rossi, but her illegitimate granddaughter knew nothing of her heritage.
Perhaps it was for the best. One less grandchild to turn their back on their grandmammà.
Ambling between the vines that lined the slope behind the homestead, Isabella reached her hand out to snatch a poppy growing tall between the grass. Big. Bright. Red. Then another. The first of the spring blooms. Soon the hills would blush with their rubescent hue. Here and there she clutched the slender shoots of wild legumes, plucking them to add a touch of mauve to her monotone bouquet.
By the time she reached the other side of the vineyard just before the olive groves, she held a rather large bunch of wildflowers in her hand. Still, she had to split it five ways. Five memorials. Five loved ones lost—her husband, her children, and Massimo’s beloved wife, Alessandra. He’d never overcome her death. Now he was finally reunited with her.
Before the cancer took her Benedetto, he made Isabella promise to have his remains cremated and placed in this special spot between his vines and olive trees. She’d argued against the notion at first—the church did not favor cremation. The Lord Jesus himself was buried in a tomb, and weren’t they all to follow his example? But she’d eventually relented. Keeping her word, she had Massimo and Albertino demarcate this area after her husband’s death.
She trailed her fingers over the low wrought-iron palisade then pushed open the gate and headed toward the tombstone erected in Benedetto’s memory and the cremation urn bearing his ashes on the grass in front of it.
Barely a year later, she’d had a second stone erected. To her beloved Albertino—her baby. Losing her youngest son was even harder to bear than losing the love of her life.
Thirty-four years had passed since that fateful day.
And time had not healed the still raw wounds.
1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? My name is Rafaele Rossi, with seven letters not three or four. So Raf and Raef are out. Please. My papà wanted me to farm at Villa Rossi like him, settle down and raise a family. I rebelled in both the work and home departments, hence my career choice and single status at thirty.
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I live in Firenze, which English readers will know as Florence. Like my sister, Alessa, it was close enough to Villa Rossi to see my Nonna, and far away enough from my papà. Besides, I studied there so the transition to a law firm in Florence seemed natural.
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? I’m a romantic at heart…love letters, flowers, chocolates for that special lady (and the other special women in my life like my two sisters and my Nonna).
4. Name two things would you hate people to know about you? I fear that I will be a bad father one day, like my own papà was. I fear I will become obsessed with the woman I fall I love with, like my father was with my mammà.
5. Tell us about your special lady. What makes her special? Jayne Austin is to sweetest, most beautiful woman I know. And she really does know how to take the jokes about her name in her stride.
6. The first time you saw her, what did you think? Did you like her immediately, or did she have to grow on you? I thought she was beautiful. But beauty aside, I did like her personality right away. The reason I danced the night away with her at my best friend’s wedding in Tuscany. I was a fool to let two years go by between that first magical encounter with her and the next. And if it hadn’t been for Jayne’s determination to follow her heart, we probably would never have met again. It was great picking up where we left off.
7. What would she hate people to know about her? Her head spins at the smell of a wine cork.
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink? Espresso, red wine, and Maria’s pici pasta. You can tell I’m Italian, can’t you?
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? The weapon I always use is my insecurities and fears. If it were up to me though, I’d choose to be a lover, not a fighter.
10. Pepsi or coke Coke.
11. Tea or coffee Coffee—how it’s served would depend on the time of day.
12. Elephant or tiger Tiger…reminds me of my younger brother, Ric [starts singing Eye of the Tiger].
13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza I’m Italian…what do you think?
14. Classical music or pop Classical
15. Sunrise or sunset Sunset.
16. Walk or run A nice leisurely stroll through the olive groves with Jayne.
17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers) For myself, neither. To impress a woman, or say sorry, Venchi chocolates.
18. What would you like on your epitaph? Before my salvation: Not cut from the same cloth. After my salvation: His father’s son.
A Novel Place to Fall in Love
USA Today bestselling author, MARION UECKERMANN’s passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest’s no longer so empty.
You can also find Marion on social media:
Amazon : Marion-Ueckermann/e/B00KBYLU7C
Facebook : Marion.C.Ueckermann
Twitter : ueckie
Goodreads : 5342167.Marion_Ueckermann
Pinterest : ueckie
Bookbub : authors/marion-ueckermann
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/marion.ueckermann/
I have a subscriber freebie. Readers can download Spring’s Promise, set in Northern Ireland, for free. http://marionueckermann.net/subscribe/