Today I’m revealing my next release: Dream Come True, Book 3 of the Crossings Collection. Dream Come True is an angsty-sweet, slow burn romance. All the Crossings books are standalone contemporaries with a shared theme of international travel; Dream Come True is set in Italy–primarily in Tuscany.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time (especially on Insta), you might know that my husband and I took a dream vacation to Italy of our own earlier this year, in celebration of our 25th anniversary. Don’t tell him (haha), but I already had plans for this story and used our romantic getaway for research as well! Writing this book was like reliving that wonderful time all over again.
Here’s the description:
Five years ago, Alicia Sorenson’s life was torn apart by unspeakable violence. Now, as she’s finally coming through the darkest part of her grief and ready to start the next chapter of her life, she and her best friend plan a bucket-list vacation to Italy. On the day of their departure, however, their plans are upended, and Alicia finds herself alone in Rome.
Then the trip goes even more awry, and Alicia’s dream vacation begins to look like a nightmare.
Romulo Arlotti is the manager of his family’s storied Tuscan vineyard. When his little sister brings home an American woman she’s only just met, Romulo is deeply annoyed. The family is busy, and his sister doesn’t even live with them. He does not want to be responsible for some wounded stranger’s recuperation.
But Alicia is not so fragile as he thought, and she brings as much comfort to his family as they offer to her.
Alicia’s grief has closed her heart; she never wants romance again. Romulo’s life is with the vines; he has no room in his heart for romance. But sometimes what we think we want and what we truly need are not the same. Sometimes a chance we thought we’d lost appears in a place we’d never thought to look.
Love can grow in even the dustiest soil, and when it flowers there, dreams come true.
And a preview scene, from Chapter 8:
“Get the platter,” Chiara said the instant he stepped into the kitchen.
She had a large serving bowl of linguine and marinara sauce in her hands. Sofia had the teak salad bowl full of her unconventional take on a caprese salad: pomodorini, pearls of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, and the estate’s own olive oil, all tossed together like a lettuce salad. Mamma had the bread basket and the butters.
They had a housekeeper, Francesca, but she didn’t live in the house. She had a family and a home of her own, and she worked on the estate like a regular job. And Francesca was emphatically not their cook. She might have been a wonderful cook, but she did her cooking for her own family. Mamma would sooner rip her own heart out than allow another woman to prepare her family’s meals.
Romulo went to the ancient wooden worktable and lifted the stoneware platter. It held five beautiful, sizeable porterhouse cuts, grilled to perfection, and a bowl of roasted tomato sauce. As the mouth-watering aromas while the meal was prepared had indicated, bistecca alla fiorentina was the centerpiece of this meal.
As a matter of habit, the Arlotti family kept to tradition where meals were concerned, with lunch the most robust meal of each work day. Dinner on such days was a lighter affair, often only antipasti—cuts of sausage and prosciutto, cheeses, and bread, mingled with olives, sliced tomatoes and zucchinis. Sunday dinner was the exception, but they kept to tradition in that way as well, with several courses laid out in succession.
Though today had been a work day, Mamma had planned a larger dinner, clearly with Alicia in mind. This meal wasn’t as involved as a Sunday dinner, but it was certainly bigger than they’d otherwise have had, with half the family away.
He collected the platter and followed his family back to the dining room.
His sisters had taken seats on the same side of the table, leaving the only empty chair the one beside Alicia. Mamma hadn’t taken her seat yet, but Romulo wasn’t about to displace her from the head, so he set the platter on the table and went around to take the seat that was left to him.
Alicia’s smile beamed appreciation as she surveyed the table. Half of it was empty, but the other half was impressively laden. “Oh my goodness!” she said brightly. “Everything looks delicious! It’s so beautiful!”
Romulo found himself smiling at her gentle, almost quaint choice of words.
As Mamma sat, Alicia turned to her and said in halting Italian, “Grazie mille, zia Lula. Tutta la cena guarda—no, uh … wait …”
“Sembra,” Romulo offered, thinking she meant to repeat her English compliment in Italian. Mamma spoke enough English to have understood her, but he was charmed by her every novice attempt to use Italian. By the beatific look on his mother’s face, he could tell she was charmed as well.
Alicia turned to him with a nod and a different kind of grateful smile, this one with a shape that seemed almost … private.
To his mother she said, “Tutta la cena sembra deliziosa. È così bella.”
Mamma beamed right back at her. “Grazie, piccola, grazie. Buon appetito!” She nodded to Romulo, who picked up the serving fork from the platter of steaks and looked at Alicia. “May I serve you a steak?” he asked in English. At Sunday dinner, he wouldn’t have thought to offer the steak before the pasta, but on a night like this, they did almost every course at once.
“Oh, yes. Thank you. A smallish one.” Her eyes widened almost comically. “Those are very large.”
He nodded. “They are. And it is not considered good manners in Italy to leave food on your plate.”
Her voice in reply had a conspiratorial aspect, and she leaned slightly toward him. “I figured that out in Rome. I got yelled at by a server when I couldn’t finish my lunch. And you don’t do doggie bags in Italy, do you?”
He’d just set the smallest steak on her plate but hadn’t yet removed the serving fork. “Doggie bags? I don’t know this.”
Sofia, mounding linguine on her plate, answered him. “Americans take their uneaten restaurant food home to feed it to their dogs. You didn’t see that when you were there?”
Shocked, he shook his head. “Their dogs?” He knew chefs who would do actual violence if someone fed their creations to a dog.
Sofia’s expression as she nodded conveyed her similar opinion about such an appalling custom. Mamma’s eyes were wide as well. Chiara barely seemed to be paying attention as she dug into her food.
That exchanged had happened in Italian—which was probably rude, but between Alicia’s novice command of Italian and Mamma’s inexpert English, someone was going to struggle to understand and participate, whatever language they spoke at this table.
However, Alicia had comprehended enough of their words to interject now. “No, not exactly,” she said in English. “I think that’s what the phrase means, yes, but it’s not really for the dogs. It’s for leftovers—you know, to take home what you can’t finish at the restaurant so you can enjoy it later. Because you enjoyed it. It’s not meant as an insult, but the opposite.”
“Not here,” Romulo insisted. “Here it would be a bad insult. In Italy we have a saying: fare la scarpetta.”
Her brow drew tight—then eased back when her stitched wound began to pleat. “To make the … shoe?”
“Little shoe, sì. It means to take a piece of bread and wipe up the sauce to clean your plate. That is our compliment to the cook.”
“Oh! See, Americans consider that poor manners. Something it’s okay to do at home, but not in company. Not an insult, just … tacky.”
“Tacky?” he asked, knowing only one definition of that word. “Sticky? I think I don’t know how you use this word.”
She chuckled softly. “No, not sticky. I’m sorry, I don’t know an Italian word like what I mean. Like, low-class? Vulgar?”
Ah. “Scadente,” he supplied. “Wiping the plate is not tacky here.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied with a wry grin.
“Romy,” Sofia said.
He turned to her and found that both of his sisters were watching him with similar expressions. Nothing about them beyond their looks was ever similar; they seemed determined to disagree about all things, so to find them looking like twins suddenly was rather disconcerting.
“Do you think the rest of us could have some steak?” Sofia asked in Italian, and Chiara snorted.
Romulo looked down and saw he was still holding the platter of steaks, and he still had the serving fork on Alicia’s plate.
“Sorry,” he mumbled and hurriedly dropped a large steak on his own plate before putting the platter on the table with the fork.
His sisters shared a glance and a smirk. Romulo didn’t understand what was passing between them, except that it had to do with him. Women really were exhausting.
©2022 Susan Fanetti