Author: Siri Mitchell
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Paperback, 384 pages
ISBN 10: 0764207954
ISBN 13: 9780764207952
The Book Depository / Amazon
The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream—and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?
Three girls, all Italian immigrants, but with very different personal stories. They all work at Madame Fortier's Gown Shop. Madame Fortier isn't really French, but the prejudices against her people keep her close-mouthed about her Italian heritage.
Julietta Giordano is 18 years old. Her specialty is embroidery. Her large Italian family is hard-working and all of their pay goes directly to their father. Julietta is looking for fun, and she has her eye on just the young man to make it happen. She's a bit selfish and very impetuous, and she doesn't realize that you shouldn't always get what you wish for.
Annamaria Rossi is the oldest girl in her family, and as such, she is expected not to marry and to take care of her parents in their old age. Her specialty is smocking. She is an obedient girl, but she can't help herself; she wonders WHY she has to give up her whole life to take care of everyone else? Why can't ALL of the family help take care of her parents?
Luciana Conti escaped Italy with her grandmother after the assassination of her father, the Count of Roma. The Contessa is immobilized by her grief, and the money is running out. Luciana's excellent beadwork will be the key to keeping food in the house; but who will look after her grandmother while she is working? When she sees the anarchist that killed her father on the streets of Boston, she knows that she can't let anyone know who she really is, or he will finish the job he started.
The reader is taken into the early 20th century and experiences the prejudices, hardship, love, and loyalty of the Italian immigrant. There's a social worker that visits Julietta's house who rails against the fact that they eat so many vegetables and not enough meat (thank goodness Julietta's mother doesn't understand English, else she would beat the worker over the head with her soup ladle).
Madame Fortier is the type of woman that most readers will love - strong-willed, hard-working, kind-at-heart, with a back story that unfolds slowly. She has made huge personal sacrifices for love.
What a wonderful story. I found myself very interested in all of the girls, and crossing my fingers for love to find them and for things to work out well. I had a vague understanding of the prejudices that Italian immigrants encountered, but this book gave me a better understanding and at times made my heart ache.
A very sweet (but not saccharine) tale lies within these pages. The touches of humor make it even better.
Now for a little aside: it's classified as Christian fiction, and sometimes I have a difficult time with that label. Is it because all of the girls were Catholic and their journeys to confession play a part in the novel? Is it because it's a clean read? I would personally label this one as historical fiction. This is my first experience with Siri Mitchell's writing, but I would definitely go back for more.
QUOTES:Mama was going to make her do it? She was going to make her own daughter cross the street and deal with Sicilians? Annamaria had always done everything and anything that her mother had ever asked, but buying tomatoes from Sicilians?
You see, it's all very well and good to judge and moralize, but there are some whose morale has been broken. And for these, sometimes, we just have to let them survive, in hopes that one day they will decide to do more than survive.
They weren't supposed to speak. No self-respecting Avellinesi should speak to a Sicilian. And they could not meet, except for Annamaria's trips to the frutta e verdura, but no one could stop them from staring out the window at each other, if they chose to, of a night. And so they did.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4 out of 5 starsReading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.