Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Bella Toscana VBT

An explosive yearning that can’t be denied.
Disturbing visions from an ancient past.
A mysterious stranger that somehow feels familiar.

On the night of her fiftieth birthday, the comfortable ride of Toscana’s life takes an alarming plunge. Haunted by seductive visions, she tries to push aside the desire and focus on the husband who adores her. Then she falls for Flynn, a younger man with an eye for adventure and a heart full of romance, who leaves her doubting everything she’s believed about love and passion.

In Atlanta, Rome, and the lush scenery of Tuscany, Toscana searches for answers to the mysteries of her life while she faces her biggest question. If she listens to her feelings will she lose everything she holds dear, or does her heart hold the key to love and joy?

I loved him before I knew him.

Some people talk of synchronicity. The rhythm of life. I know of rhythm, in the lyricism of words, in music, in the ebb and flow of the ocean, in the monthly cycles of plants and trees. A beautiful orchestration exists in the simplest of nature. But my world operates on logic, practicality, reason. I do not believe in a grand plan. I do not believe in God.

And then he came.

Before him, I had a well-ordered life. Habit and routine carried me through the day, warmth and comfort eased me through the night. There were disappointments. Longings. Not all was perfect. But such is life. If there was no great passion, so be it. Peace is preferable to something wild that soars then fizzles and leaves you with an aching heart. I had a different kind of love—security, respect, admiration, friendship.

He showed me my lies in a slow creep of warmth that grew and teased and eventually began to burn. The thought of him burrowed deep inside me until I could think of nothing but him.

To this day I don’t think he knew what would happen. How do you know what fate has in store for you? They say man has free will to act, to choose, to create whatever he desires. But what of other people’s actions, choices, desires? What if those choices conflict with your own? We tried to resist the seemingly magnetic pull. We did our best to act rationally, to behave with honor and dignity. To be selfless. But love is not selfless.

Love is selfish. Love craves attention. Love needs to be heard, to be felt. Love is a natural disaster.

You may think this is nothing new. We all know stories of love. But this story is different. This story spans over two thousand years. This story began in ancient Rome.

So I beg you, for as long as it takes to read this story, to put aside your beliefs. Something took hold of me, pulled me along. Was it fate? Destiny? Divine intervention?

Look to your own heart for the answers.

The Heart of Rome

Temple of Vesta
When Toscana walks through The Forum on the Via Sacra—the Sacred Way—she sees the ruins of the Temple of Vesta and the Atrium Vestae, the House of Vestals. There is little left of the Temple, merely several pillars and part of the base. Compared with other temples, it was a small, circular building, used for worship that housed the sacred flame. Each Vestal Virgin was chosen by the Pontifex Maximus (high priest) between the ages of 6 and 10 to serve Rome as a priestess for 30 years. The service required chastity and strict observance of rituals.

Vesta was the first of the Greek Olympians and the goddess of the sacred hearth. The hearth was the central area of the Roman home, where people gathered for warmth, food, and shelter. On a family level, her hearth was a sanctuary of protection. On a government level it was much more. The second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, built a temple that included Vesta’s sacred fire, designed to ensure the safety of the Roman Empire, and the Vestals were looked upon as the guardians of peace. The Vestals and the Temple were looked upon as the heart of Rome. When all was in order, tranquility reigned. But if something upset that balance, chaos could result.

Statue of a Vestal Virgin
It was a great honor to the family for a daughter to be chosen as a Vestal. Any girl considered had to have a perfect body free from any blemish. Imagine a father looking for recognition, for advancement. His beautiful daughter is a perfect fit to serve the goddess. If she’s chosen to serve, the family will be lauded and greatly appreciated. Now imagine a young girl used to being bathed in the warmth of her family, playing with her friends, running free, laughing and dancing and skipping with childish delight. The next moment she is ripped from the warmth of the family that she knows and loves and is forced to make a new home with complete strangers.

Upon entry to their new home, the Pontifex Maximus would say, “I take you this, Amata, as a Vestal priestess, who will perform the rites, which it is right that a Vestal priestess perform on behalf of the Roman people, on the same terms as she who was a Vestal on the best terms.” Those words put the young girl under the protection of the goddess.

Six Vestals lived in the House and served in the Temple. Their duties required them to fetch water from the sacred spring at Camenae to purify the temple, officiate at ceremonies, guard the sacred objects in the Temple, prepare the mola salsa (special flour) for public offerings, and maintain the sacred flame.

In return for their duty and dedication, the Vestals were allowed special rights that most women didn’t have. Rome was a patriarchy where men ruled and women were secondary citizens. But the Vestals were granted certain privileges: they were the only female priests in the religious system; they were transported in a carpentum, a covered two-wheeled carriage, and preceded by a lictor, a guard; they had reserved places of honor at public events; they were free to own property, make a will, and vote; they were entrusted with important wills and documents; they could free condemned prisoners and slaves by touching them.

Do the privileges outweigh the restrictions? Would you be willing to give up 30 years of your life to serve your government? Some people find the idea of a religious life comforting. But each fact that Toscana learns about the Vestals builds upon the previous one and the whole idea makes her shudder. What happened to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

How do you think she feels when she starts dreaming of being a Vestal?

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Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

Author Bio and Links:
Nanette Littlestone never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn’t stop. Her fascination with relationships, history, and the spiritual path has opened her writing to women's fiction, historical fiction, and inspirational nonfiction.

A native Californian, Nanette lives in Atlanta, Georgia, far from the beach (which she loves) but a place that’s warm with spectacular scenery. On the professional side, she helps entrepreneurial women write and get published with Words of Passion. On the fun side, she takes walks with her husband, cooks, plays with graphic design, and makes origami butterflies. She loves to travel, but she’s waiting for the teleportation machine to whisk her off to Greece or Asia. In the meantime, she’s happy with dark chocolate and romantic movies that make her cry.
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  1. Good morning, Emily! I'm so excited to be here today sharing some wisdom about ancient Rome with your followers. A question for them: When Toscana discovers the rules and regulations that the Vestals had to follow, she can't imagine obeying such restrictions. How do you feel about duty and dedication to your government? What if it was against your choice?

  2. Thank you so much for taking time to bring to our attention another great read. I enjoy these tours and finding out about many terrific books.

    1. Hi James,
      Thanks for stopping by and reading about Bella Toscana. Please let me know what you think. Have a great day!

  3. Hi Kim,
    Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the compliment on the post. Vestals are a fascinating group of women. I hope you enjoy Bella Toscana!

  4. I liked the excerpt. Sounds like a great read.

  5. Who is your favorite character from your book? Congrats on the release. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

    1. Toscana, Flynn, Charlotte - I like them all. It depends on my mood, but Charlotte's strength and loyalty stand out and I admire Flynn's impulsivity.

  6. Great post and awesome giveaway - thanks for sharing :)

  7. Thank you for another great day of hosting. I'm having such fun meeting all the followers and hearing their comments. Buonasera!