Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours Presents
The Madonna of Pisano
by Mary Ann Diorio
A young woman, a priest, and a secret that keeps them bitterly bound to each other…
A horrifying encounter drags soon-to-be-married Maria Landro into the shocking world of religious corruption and an unrelenting village code of honor that threatens to rob her of everything she holds dear. Shunned by the very people who should have embraced her, she withdraws into the confines of Bella Terra, her family’s farm, and remains there for several years…until she is forced to leave to ensure the formal education of her son. In a desperate attempt to protect her child from vicious tongues and malicious hate-mongers and her family farm from bankruptcy, she determines to seek vengeance against the one who ruined her life. But when Luca Tonetta enters her life, she learns a powerful lesson about forgiveness and grace.
“Beautifully written historical novel. Excellent characters, dramatic plot. Beautifully written, giving wonderful feeling for the setting in place and time. Emotionally intense situations, satisfying resolution. Among the two or three best novels I have read this year. Highly recommended.”
Dr. Donn Taylor, Author & Former University Professor of Literature
Book 1: THE MADONNA OF PISANO
Pisano, Sicily, September 1891
She had no other choice.
Maria Landro led her little son by the hand as they hurried down the winding road from Bella Terra toward the village. Distant, dark clouds gathered in the morning sky. Looked like a storm coming. The anxiety that had been churning for days in the pit of her stomach now spread to chill every part of her body. It was all she could do to keep herself from turning back.
Nico tugged on her wrist. “Are we almost there, Mama?”
She squeezed his hand in return, the hem of her skirt rustling against the pebbles as it swished along the cobblestone road. “Almost, darling. Are you all right?”
He looked up at her. He had her father’s eyes. Kind, deep, and probing. They always made him so easy to love.
“I’m well, Mama.” But his fingers fidgeted in her hand.
His nervousness only fueled her own. She squeezed his hand more tightly. Please let the village be kind to him. Regardless of what they believed about her.
A sudden gust of wind caught the edge of her headscarf, pulling it back past her temples. “My, the wind is getting stronger. Let’s hurry before the storm breaks. We don’t want you to arrive at school soaking wet on your very first day, do we?”
“No, we don’t, Mama. I would look silly.” He laughed, and an arrow pierced her heart.
If anyone hurt him …
A hay-filled wagon rumbled past them, its wooden wheels creaking against the pebble-strewn road. The driver turned his face away as he passed.
She winced, pulling her son closer to herself to hide him.
“Will the storm carry us away, Mama?” Nico laughed again. “Maybe the wind will pick me up, and I’ll fly like a bird and land on the school windowsill, and my teacher will laugh.”
She tensed. Nico’s teacher. No, Don Franco would never laugh. If only she could have chosen someone—anyone—else to be his teacher.
But not in Pisano.
The tiny village had only one schoolhouse and one teacher.
As they turned a bend in the road, she caught a glimpse of her family’s large tan stucco house. It sat majestically atop the hill, like a queen on her throne, surrounded by sloping fields of fragrant orange and lemon groves, purple-red vineyards, and golden wheat fields. Nestled among a cluster of tall poplar trees, would the queen soon be forced to give up her throne?
Was the farm’s failure Maria's fault as well?
She looked down at her little boy, all dressed up for his first day of school. She’d made him the pair of navy-blue cotton britches the school uniform required, topped by a white, short-sleeved shirt and navy-blue ascot. His new black leather shoes, though a bit too big, would soon fit his rapidly growing feet.
As they approached the village, she recoiled at the sight of the medieval church steeple reaching toward the gray morning sky. The church stood in the middle of the village as a sign of God’s central position in the lives of the villagers.
She hadn’t stepped foot in it for nearly seven years.
Pinwheeling out from the church, little pastel-colored stucco houses lined dirt roads framed by borders of yellow pansies and russet daylilies. Next to the church stood the rectory, its burnt orange tile roof in much need of repair.
She averted her eyes.
A few drops of rain splashed against her kerchief and sprinkled her face. She looked up just as a streak of lightning slashed the eastern sky. Then, with a loud clap, the clouds broke loose, dumping their reservoir of rain. Why hadn’t she brought an umbrella?
Gripping Nico’s hand, she started running. The rain pummeled her head and her back as she tried to guide her little boy around the puddles.
“Oh, Mama. My new shoes. They’re covered with mud.”
So much for showing off her son. After six years of hiding him, she would see her bold, triumphant moment ruined by mud. “Don’t worry. As soon as we get to the school, I’ll wipe them off for you.”
Just as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped. She took out the handkerchief she’d shoved into her large canvas bag, next to the fresh fruit and nuts she’d brought for Nico’s snack, and wiped her son’s wet face. Wet from the rain, she hoped, and not from tears.
She couldn’t take tears. Not from him. Not from herself.
As they entered the village square, shouts of haggling customers caught her ear.
Young mothers with babies on their hips bargained with shopkeepers over the price of peppers, eggplant, and squash. At the far end of the square, old women dressed in black shuffled out of the Church of the Holy Virgin, fresh from hearing daily Mass.
Nico pulled at her hand. “Mama, so many people. I never saw so many people.”
He seemed like a new puppy let loose from his cage. “Yes, my son. The village is full of many people.”
Her eyes scanned the bustling square where she’d once spent many happy moments at Luigi’s outdoor café, eating pasta and sipping espresso in the company of family and friends.
Deftly skirting farmers pulling wobbly carts laden with lemons and oranges, she guided her child through the market crowd. Small groups of old men, their heads covered with flat-topped coppola hats, huddled at little round tables, chewing on long pieces of fennel while playing chess. A young mother, dressed in the black attire of year-long mourning for a deceased loved one, held onto a toddler with one hand while, with the other, she sorted through artichokes, cucumbers, and leeks. The smell of freshly caught tuna, squid, and mussels, fruit of the nearby sea, turned Maria’s empty stomach.
She led Nico through the square. Her face grew hot as neighbors and one-time friends raised their eyes to her. Old women shook their heads, while younger ones scanned her from head to toe, then turned away with uplifted chins. Men of all ages scraped their eyes over Nico then leered at her.
The skin prickled on the nape of her neck. “Come, Nico. We must hurry so we won’t be late.”
Wide-eyed, he drank in the new sights. Poor child. He’d been sequestered on the family farm his whole life. He knew nothing of this world beyond Bella Terra.
Whispers grew into mumbles and then into shouts, roaring in her ears as she hurried through the gathering crowd.
“Can it be? Maria Landro? And that must be her….”
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of each title in the Italian Chronicles trilogy! Enter Here!
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Dr. Mary Ann Diorio
Dr. Mary Ann Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her books for both adults and children consistently receive excellent reviews for their content and their style. MaryAnn holds the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Dominic, a retired physician. They are the blessed parents of two awesome daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren. When not writing, MaryAnn loves to read, to paint, and to make up silly songs for her grandchildren.
For more information, please visit MaryAnn Diorio’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Other books in the Italian Chronicles Series
A Sicilian Farewell
A young man, a new land, and a dream that threatens to destroy him and his family . . .
The dream of a better life for himself and his family drives Luca Tonetta to the American Promised Land with his wife of five years, Maria Landro Tonetto, and their three children. But the new Promised Land is nothing like what Luca had imagined. Forced to live in a roach-infested tenement house in the seedy section of Brooklyn, he faces the hardships, prejudice, and slanderous assaults of an Italian immigrant torn between two worlds. When Luca is accused of a crime he did not commit, he learns that a dream must first die before it can live.
“Such lovely writing–and an even lovelier story! Author MaryAnn Diorio takes her readers on a courageous journey, from the ancient romance of the Old Country to the perils and possibilities of the New Country. Well developed characters and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished this enjoyable read.”
Kathi Macias, Award-Winning Author
Return to Bella Terra
A mother, her son, and the man who threatens to come between them . . .
When Maria Landro Tonetta receives word that Mama is terminally ill, Maria travels to her Sicilian homeland with her son Nico. She finds herself yearning for the life she once knew as a child on Bella Terra, the family farm, now on the verge of bankruptcy. Caught between two worlds, Maria dreams of moving back to Sicily with her husband and children to save the farm. When Nico’s biological father unexpectedly appears at Mama’s funeral, Maria faces a new enemy to her dream. But is there an even greater enemy within her own soul?
“Each book in the Italian Chronicles series made me want to read the next one. Now I would like to see another spin-off series dealing with the next generation. The characters in MaryAnn Diorio’s book feel so real. They have flaws. They seek better relationships. They suffer and they rejoice. Just like us. There are people in their lives who help strengthen their faith, and there are those who undermine their faith. In this third book, Maria has to face letting go of many things, and only through seeking God first can she do that. Along with messages of faith and family, Return to Bella Terra takes you to Italy, and the vicarious experience is wonderful. Diorio sprinkles just enough Italian words (in italic) throughout the text to give you the sense of being there. You can smell the food, hear the music, and see the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend this series and any other books written by MaryAnn Diorio.”
Claudia Cuddy, Former Professor of Communications
THE MADONNA OF PISANO
BY MARYANN DIORIO
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Paperback & eBook; 310 Pages
Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction/Religious
A SICILIAN FAREWELL
BY MARYANN DIORIO
Publication Date: December 14, 2016
Paperback & eBook; 258 Pages
Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book Two
Genre: Historical Fiction/Religious
RETURN TO BELLA TERRA
BY MARYANN DIORIO
Publication Date: October 26, 2017
Paperback & eBook; 242 Pages
Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book Three
Genre: Historical Fiction/Religious