Hi Liz and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Vettori’s Damsel in Distress!
Hi everyone – it’s ice cream time again and this time it’s Geli’s story!
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
Geli, keen to escape Longbourne, and ice cream, has rented an apartment in Isola, Milan. She arrives in a snowstorm, rescues an abandoned kitten before, unable to find her apartment, she walks in Cafe Rosa and comes face to face with Dante Vettori.
Please share your favorite line or quote from this book:
…they were lying together in the snow, looking up at the stars and Dante Vettori was holding her hand. That was all the magic she could handle right now.
Please share a few FUN facts about this book…
- Well there’s always ice cream because I wasn’t going to let Geli escape entirely !And I had the best time ever researching fashion on Pinterest – check out my board to see some of the fabulous clothes and accessories I found. And just being with the Amery sisters again was a joy.
- Inspiration for the setting came from a magazine article about the artisan area of Isola; once an industrial area, it’s now a place for artists, musicians and people who work hard to keep the spirit of old Milan alive. As soon as I saw it, I knew it a place that Geli would love.
- I also began to crave risotto – there’s a recipe in Rosie’s Little Book of Ice Cream.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Angelica (Geli) Amery is the youngest of the Amery sisters. They went through a very bad time when first their mother died and then their grandmother was conned out of all her money. Life was a struggle and the family was held together by Elle (Lovage), the oldest of the three. Their lives changed forever with the arrival of Rosie, a vintage ice cream van (and the man who was driving it – Tempted By Trouble).
Dante Vettori is estranged from his father. There were disagreements over development of Isola – and the fact that his father is married to his ex.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I had a lovely time on YouTube, watching films about the city. I researched American-style ice cream parlours (which seem to be making a comeback). And then there was the fashion – vintage and steampunk!
The First kiss…
Dante looked up, a silent query buckling the space between his brows and her mouth dried. He’d been right about the need to hang on. The word had slipped through her lips while her brain was fully occupied in keeping her vertical.
‘There’s something else?’ he asked.
‘Yes… No…’ She hadn’t been criticizing his first aid skills; she just hadn’t wanted him to stop.
‘Tell me,’ he pressed her, all concern.
What on earth could she say? The answer that instantly popped into her mind was totally outrageous but Dante was waiting and she managed a careless little shrug and waited for him to catch on.
For heaven’s sake everyone knew what you did when someone hurt themselves. Did she have to spell it out for him?
‘Un baci?’ she prompted.
‘A kiss?’ he repeated, no doubt wondering if she had the least clue what she was saying.
‘Si…’ It was in an Italian phrase book that her middle sister, Sorrel had bought her. Under “People”. Sub-section “Getting Intimate” which she’d found far more engrossing than the section on buying a train ticket.
Posso baciarti – Can I kiss you? was there along with other such useful phrases as “Can I buy you a drink?”, “Let’s go somewhere quieter” and “Stop bothering me!”
There hadn’t been a phrase for “kissing it better”. Perhaps it was in the health section.
‘This is considered beneficial?’ Dante asked.
He was regarding her with such earnestness that Geli wished the floor would just open up and swallow her. Then the flicker of a muscle at the corner of his mouth betrayed him and she knew that Dante Vettori had been teasing her. That he’d known exactly what she meant. That it was going to be all right. Better than all right; the man wasn’t just fabulous to look at, he had a sense of humour.
‘Not just beneficial,’ she assured him. ‘It’s absolutely essential.’
‘Forgive me. I couldn’t have been paying attention when this was covered in first aid,’ he said, the muscle working overtime to contain the smile fighting to break out. ‘You may have to show me.’
Show him? Excitement rippled through her at the thought. It was outrageous but a woman in search of an interesting life had to seize the day. Lick the ice cream—
‘It’s very simple, Dante. You just put your lips together—’
She caught her breath as he raised her hand and, never taking his eyes from hers, touched his lips to the soft mound of her palm, just below the dressing he’d applied with such care.
‘Exactly like that,’ she managed through a throat that felt as if it had been stuffed with silk chiffon. ‘I’m not sure why it works—’
‘I imagine it’s to do with the application of heat,’ he said, his voice as soft as the second warm kiss her breathed into her palm. Her knees turned to water and her hand slid from his shoulder to clutch a handful of shirt. Beneath it, she could feel the thud of his heartbeat — a slow, steady counterpoint to her own racing pulse. ‘Is that hot enough?’
Was he still teasing? The threatened smile had never appeared but his mouth was closer.
‘The more heat,’ she murmured, her words little more than a whisper, ‘the more effective the cure.’
‘How hot do you want it to be, Angelica?’ His voice trickled over her skin like warm honey and his eyes were asking the question that had been there since he’d turned and looked at her. Since he’d put his hand on hers and moved it across the map. Since his “permesso?” Her “prego”—
His hand was at her back, supporting her, his breath soft against her lips and her answer was to lift the hand he’d kissed, slide her fingers through his dark, silky hair. This close she could see that the velvet dark of his irises was shot through with tiny gold sparks, sparks that arc’d between them, igniting some primitive part of her brain—
‘Hot,’ she murmured. ‘Molto, molto caldo…’ and she touched his luscious lower lip with her mouth, her tongue, sucking in the taste of rich dark coffee that lingered there. Maybe it was the caffeine — on her tongue or on his —but as she closed her eyes and he angled his mouth to deepen the kiss, cradled her head, she felt a zingy hyper-tingle of heat lick through her veins, seep into her skin, warming her, giving her life.
Was there a scene in this book that was harder to write than others?
It’s all hard but there’s always a moment when you can hear the crack of a heart breaking. That is always painful.
‘Maestro. Piacere… Mi chiamo Angelica Amery. Sono Inglese. My Italian is not good.’
‘Welcome, Angelica Amery,’ he said, switching to English. ‘It’s always a pleasure to meet a beautiful woman, especially one with so much courage.’
‘I believe that, including the waitresses, you are the only woman in the room not wearing a dress designed by me. This vogue for vintage clothes will put us all out of business.’
‘Mi dispiace, Maestro but I could not afford one of your gowns or even the one I’m wearing for that matter. This belonged to my great-grandmother.’
‘She was a woman of great style, as are you, cara. And I adore your belt. The asymmetrical slant of the buckles complements the era of the dress so well. Where did you find it?’
‘Grazie, Maestro. I designed it myself. I was inspired by an Indian bracelet I saw on the internet.’
‘Quite perfect.’ He nodded, held out his hand before moving on but, when she took it, instead of shaking it he raised it to his lips. ‘Come and see me next month. We will talk about your future.’
‘Grazie…’ But he was already talking to someone else and when she looked down, she realised that he’d tucked his card under her lace mitten.
He’d given her his card. Asked her to come and see him. He’d said her belt was “Quite perfect…”
She stood for a moment trying to breath, trying to take in what had just happened and then spun round, searching for Dante so that she could tell him.
Taller than most in the room he should be easy to spot, even in this crush and after a moment she spotted his broad shoulders jutting from a small alcove. He had his back to her but as she took a step in his direction she saw who he was talking to.
Valentina Vettori was older than she’d realised, older than Dante, but even more beautiful in the flesh than in her photograph despite, or perhaps because her eyes were brimming with tears.
It was like watching a car crash you were unable to prevent. The way she reached for him, the way he took her into his arms and held her while her tears seeped into the shoulder of his jacket. And all the joy of the last twenty-four hours, the triumph of the evening, turned to ashes in her mouth.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include and why?
There was a moment when these two lovely people could so easily have fallen into bed and the sex would have been earth-shattering. Far too easy.
‘No…’ He crossed to the shutters, stood for a moment looking down at the piazza. The snow was blanketing the city in silence, softening the edges, making everything look clean.
Angelica pressed her hands against the window and sighed. ‘I love snow.’ Her voice was soft as one of the huge snow flakes sticking to the window and, unable to help himself, he turned and looked at her. ‘It’s like being in another world,’ she said, ‘in place where time doesn’t count.’ And then she turned from the window and looked up at him.
Geli could feel Dante’s warmth as they stood, not quite touching in front of the cold window. Everything about the moment was heightened, her senses animal sharp; she could hear the thud of his pulse beating a counter-point to her own, almost taste the pheromones clouding the air. She wanted to tug his shirt from his waistband and rub her cheek against his chest, scent marking him, catlike, as hers, if only for a few hours stolen from reality.
Lifting his hand in what felt like slow motion Dante leaned in to her. Her skin tingled, anticipating his touch. Her lips throbbed, hot, feeling twice their normal size. The down on her cheek stirred, lifting to the heat of his hand and she closed her eyes but his touch never came. Instead there was the click as he reached over her head to pull shut one of the shutters and every cell in her body screamed “Noooo!”
‘My room has an en suite so the bathroom is all yours,’ he said, abruptly. ‘There’s plenty of hot water and no one will disturb you if want to soak off the day.’
No one would disturb her? Was he crazy? She was disturbed beyond reason.
She had nowhere to live, she’d lost her money but all she’d been thinking about was kissing Dante Vettori, ripping open the buttons of his shirt and exploring his warm skin. Imagining how his long fingers would feel curved around her breast—
Click went the second shutter and, released from the mesmerising drift of the snow, she was jolted back to reality and somehow managed a hoarse, ‘Thank you.’
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
A sigh of pleasure. 🙂
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2015?
My editor was eager for a new Liz Fielding “sheikh” so that’s what I’m working on at the moment – and I’m including one of my favourite tropes, the marriage of convenience.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’m giving away an ebook download of all three “ice cream” books – Tempted By Trouble, Anything But Vanilla and Vettori’s Damsel in Distress and a lovely ice cream van mug.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: The inspiration for this series of books was a mug in the shape of an ice cream van that belonged to fellow writer, Kate Hardy. I couldn’t find one like it but I have a lovely mug (and books) but to be in with a chance to win it I want to hear your ice cream memories. What was your taste of ice cream? Would you choose a Knickerbocker Glory or Banana Split? What tune does the ice cream van play when it comes down your street? What’s your favourite ice cream flavour? Go!
Excerpt from Vettori’s Damsel in Distress:
She stuffed her torch, along with the useless map, in her bag and began to retrace her steps back to road from the station, this time carrying straight on instead of turning off.
In the photographs she’d seen it had been summer; there were open-air jazz concerts, the communal garden and collective “bring a dish” lunches where every Tuesday the local people gathered to share food and reinforce the community ties. People sitting outside trendy cafes.
This was the wrong time of day, the wrong time of year. Even the famous Milan “promenade” was on hold but encouraged by a sudden snatch of music — as if someone had opened a door very briefly — she hurried to the corner and there, on the far side of a piazza, lights shone through a steamy window.
It was the Café Rosa, famous for jazz, cocktails and being a hangout of local artists who used the walls as a gallery. More relieved than she cared to admit, she slithered across the cobbles and pushed open the door.
She was immediately swathed in warmth, the rich scent of luscious food and cool music from a combo on a tiny stage in the corner mingling with bursts of steam from the Gaggia. Tables of all shapes and sizes were filled with people eating, drinking, gossiping and a tall, dark-haired man was leaning against the counter talking to the barista.
If the scene had been posed by the Italian Tourist Board it couldn’t have been more perfect and despite the cold she felt a happy little rush of anticipation.
A few people had turned when the door opened and the chatter died away until the only sound was the low thrum of a double bass.
The man standing at the bar, curious about what had caught everyone’s attention, half turned and anticipation whooshed off the scale in an atavistic charge of raw desire; instant, bone deep need for a man before you heard his voice, felt his touch, knew his name.
For a moment, while she remembered how to breathe, it felt as if someone had pressed the pause button on the scene, freezing the moment in soft focus. Muted colours reflected in polished steel, lights shimmering off the bottles and glasses behind the bar, her face reflected, ghost-like behind the advertisement on a mirror. And Mr Italy with his kiss-me mouth and come-to-bed eyes.
Forget the thick, dark hair and cheekbones sharp enough to write their own modelling contract, it was those chocolate dark eyes that held her transfixed. If they had been looking out of a tourist poster there would be a stampede to book holidays in Italy.
He straightened, drawing attention to the way his hair curled onto his neck, a pair of scandalously broad shoulders, strong wrists emerging from folded back cuffs.
‘Signora…’ he murmured, as he moved back a little to make room for her at the counter and oh, joy, his voice matched the face, the body.
She might have passed out for lack of oxygen at that moment but a tall, athletic-looking blonde placed a tiny cup of espresso in front of him before — apparently unaware that she was serving a god — turning to her.
‘Sta nevidanco? É brutto tempo.’
Flustered at being confronted with phrases that hadn’t featured so far on the Italian course she’d downloaded onto her iPod, she took the safe option and, having sucked in a snowflake that was clinging to her lip, she lowered her hood. The chatter gradually resumed and, finally getting a “move it” message through to her legs, she parked her suitcase and crossed to the bar.
‘Cosa prendi, signora?’
Oh, whew, something she understood. ‘Um, vorrai un espresso s’il vous plait…’ Her answer emerged in a mangled mixture of English, Italian and French. ‘No… I mean…’ Oh, heck.
The blonde grinned. ‘Don’t worry. I got the gist,’ she replied, her English spiced with an Australian accent.
‘Oh, thank goodness you’re English. No! Sorry, Australian—’ Achingly conscious of the man leaning against the counter, an impressive thigh stretching the cloth of his jeans just inches from her hip, she attempted to recover the cool, sophisticated woman of the world image with which she’d intended to storm Milan. ‘Shall I go out, walk around the block and try that again?’
The woman grinned. ‘Stay right where you are. I’ll get that espresso. You’ve just arrived in Isola?’ she asked, as she measured the coffee.
‘In Isola, in Milan, in Italy. I’ve been working on my Italian — I picked some up when I spent a month in Tuscany as a student — but I learned French at school and it seems to be my brain’s foreign language default setting when I panic.’
Her brain was too busy drooling over by Mr Italy to give a toot.
‘Give it a week,’ the woman said. ‘Can I get you anything else?’
‘A side order of directions?’ she asked, hopefully, doing her best to ignore the fact that it wasn’t just her brain; her entire body was responding on a visceral level to the overdose of pheromones wafting in her direction. It was like being bombarded by butterflies. Naked…
She was doing her level best not to stare at him.
Was he was looking at her?
‘You are lost, signora?’ he asked.
In Italian, his voice was just about the sexiest thing she’d ever heard, but his perfect, lusciously accented English sent a shiver rippling down her spine that had nothing to do with the snow dripping from her hair. That was trickling between her breasts and turning to steam.
She took a breath and doing her best to remember why she was there, said, ‘Not lost exactly…’ Retrieving the apartment details from her tote she placed it, map side up on the counter and turned to him, intending to explain what had happened. He was definitely looking and confronted with those eyes, the questioning kink of his brow, language of any description deserted her.
‘No?’ he prompted.
Clearly he was used to women losing the power of speech in his presence. From the relaxed way he was leaning against the bar, to eyes that, with one look made her feel as if he owned her, everything about him screamed danger.
First day in Isola and she could imagine having a lot of fun with Mr Italy and from the way he was looking at her, he was thinking much the same thing about her.
Was that how it had been for her mother that first time? One look from some brawny roustabout at the annual village fair and she’d been toast?
‘I know exactly where I am, signor,’ she said, looking into those lusciously dark eyes. To emphasize the point she eased off the fine leather glove that had done little to keep her hand warm and tapped the piazza with the tip of a crimson nail.
‘No,’ he repeated, and this time it wasn’t a question as, never taking his eyes from hers, he wrapped long fingers around her hand and moved her finger two inches to the right. ‘You are here.’
His hand was warm against her cold skin. On the surface everything was deceptively still but inside, like a volcano on the point of blowing, she was liquid heat.
She fought the urge to swallow. ‘I am?’
She was used to people staring at her. From the age of nine she had been the focus of raised eyebrows, just like her mother and she’d reveled in it.
This man’s look was different. It sizzled through her and afraid that the puddle of snow melting at her feet was about to turn to steam, she turned to the map.
It didn’t help. Not one bit. His hand was still covering hers, long ringless fingers darkly masculine against her own pale skin and she found herself wondering how they would look against her breast. How they would feel…
Under the layers of black — coat, dress, the lace of her bra — her nipples hardened in response to her imagination, sending touch-me messages to all parts south and she bit on her lower lip to stop herself from whimpering.
She cleared the cobwebs from her throat and, hoping she sounded a lot more in control than she was, said, ‘One piazza looks very much like another on a map. Unfortunately, neither of them is where I was going.’
‘And yet here you are.’
And yet here she was, falling into eyes as dark as the espresso in his cup.
The café retreated. The bright labels on bottles behind the bar, the clatter of cutlery, the low thrum of a double base became no more than blur of colour, sound. All her senses were focussed on the touch of his fingers curling about her hand, his molten eyes reflecting back her own image. For a moment nothing moved until, abruptly, he turned away and used the hand that had been covering hers to pick up his espresso and drain it in one swallow.
He’d looked away first and she waited for the rush of power that always gave her but it didn’t come. For the first time in her life it didn’t feel like a victory.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Angelica Amery has come to Milan for a fresh start – only to find that the bijou apartment she’s rented doesn’t exist! Taking refuge in a nearby cafe, she meets enigmatic but darkly handsome Dante Vettori, who comes to her rescue…
What else could Dante do? He feels responsible for Geli – and that’s before he kisses her! But soon this unconventional English girl is playing havoc with his complicated life and emotions, throwing into stark relief just how much Dante needs rescuing right back!
Meet the Author:
Best-selling author, Liz Fielding, has more than 15 million books in print. Nominated seven times for RWA’s prestigious RITA award, she won with The Best Man & The Bridesmaid in 2001 and The Marriage Miracle in 2006. A Family of His Own won the RNA’s Romance Prize, and was named Reviewers’ Choice Best Harlequin Romance by Romantic Times BOOKreviews in 2005. She has also been given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Romantic Times.