If you fancy a holiday read, you may enjoy my sweet contemporary romantic suspense, HOLIDAY IN BOLOGNA. (5 Stars at Readers Favorite, 4.5 Stars at Single Titles, 4 Stars at BookReviewsRus)
Word Count: 30,268
Heat Level: SWEET
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Heidi Manelli, a bright, lively Anglo-Italian, arrives in Italy on a mission. A letter given to her on her 21st birthday revealed that her real name is Soleari and she has family living in Bologna. Orphaned, she is unsure how her estranged relatives will receive her.
Standing outside the Soleari villa, she encounters the quietly charismatic yet aloof Stefano. He's suspicious of her sudden appearance and disinclined to believe who she is. After pleading from her aunt, Heidi reluctantly agrees to stay at the villa, where she swiftly discovers more mysteries, and danger.
She turns to Stefano for help, but will he come through? Is their developing relationship a holiday romance, or something deeper? Is her holiday in Bologna going to change her life forever?
By this time they had reached a terrace with a small fountain that blew a cooling spray over Heidi’s scalding cheeks. Careless of the teasing spray, she stopped in front of the fountain, in the shade of a gnarled pine tree, twisted out of shape by the prevailing wind, and raised anxious eyes to her companion.
‘I’m sorry. That was insulting and unfair, especially when I’m not even a member of this family.’
A curious look of shame and alarm shadowed briefly across Stefano’s face, but it was gone as he took her hand in both of his. ‘You are family, Heidi. We all think so. You are family far more—well, than some of us,’ he finished obliquely. ‘As for Artemisia and Marco, why should they sabotage the bakery? They may differ in their plans for the business, but don’t forget they would lose out, too if Soleari’s reputation suffered. The big international bakery might even withdraw its offer if these incidents became common knowledge.’
He was standing right in front of her, so close that she could see the definition of his lean, muscular frame through his crisp cotton shirt. ‘Yes, I can see that,’ Heidi said, exasperated at herself. She would never agree to massage a fully naked man but she dealt with male clients in her armotherapy practice, treated their hands and feet, their necks and shoulders. Why should she be so flustered by Stefano? ‘How’s your sprain?’ she asked, seizing gratefully on the change of subject.
‘Better for this gentle walk,’ Stefano said, in a voice of amused indulgence. ‘But if you are offering to treat my aching shoulder and back...’
His smile deepened as Heidi was silent, torn between her professional life and this strange new shyness she seemed to have acquired while dealing with him. Perhaps it was because he had opened up to her a little and now, standing by this fountain, he was as close as her own shadow. Closer, because he was lowering that bright blond head and his clever, sensitive hands were encircling her narrow waist...
He kissed her lightly on the mouth and brushed a bead of fountain spray from her cheek. ‘I’ve wanted to do that for a long time,’ he said, kissing her again. He smelled of fresh bread and sun and his hands on her back held her tenderly, as if she was made of spun sugar.
‘Don’t you know how very pretty you are?’ he said softly, laughing as she stiffened at the compliment. ‘You are, you know. Like the little bride doll on top of a wedding cake.” Stefano blushed, clearly embarrassed at hearing himself say anything, so absurdly sentimental. ‘Thank you for your help,’ he said gruffly, taking a step back and releasing her.
It was only a thank you kiss, Heidi told herself. She’d known Stefano for only two weeks. What does that matter? an inner voice whispered, but Heidi ignored the voice and tried to control her rapidly beating heart, taking several slow deep breaths. ‘Shall we continue our walk?’ she said, grateful that her question was not a squeak.
Stefano stood back and pointed down the graveled path. ‘There you go.’
Moving first, Heidi set off along the path, scarcely conscious of the wafting spray from the fountain or
the opulent red peonies and roses lining the terrace walkway. Stefano had kissed her. She touched her lips with her hand, feeling truly sensual for the first time in her life, registering that she was wearing a blue cotton button-through sundress and sandals, items that had just become her favorite outfit.
‘Hey, wait!’ Stefano overtook her in a few strides. ‘It’s usually you trotting after me,’ he teased.
‘Pardon me, but I don’t trot.’ Feeling more composed, Heidi took Stefano’s hand in hers. ‘Got you!’ she teased in return. ‘Where to now?’
"I spent time with my husband in Northern Italy and we both fell in love with the region. Writing 'Holiday in Bologna' is my homage to the city. The incident of hearing someone playing bagpipes in one of the gardens as we climbed to the sanctuary of San Luca really happened, too!"
~ Lindsay ~
Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend.