Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Veil of Vines by Tillie Cole Blog Tour

To most people, princes, princesses, counts and dukes are found only in the pages of the most famous of fairytales. Crowns, priceless jewels and gilded thrones belong only in childhood dreams.
But for some, these frivolous fancies are truth.
For some, they are real life.
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, people have always treated me as someone special. All because of my ancestral name and legacy. All because of a connection I share to our home country’s most important family of all.
I am Caresa Acardi, the Duchessa di Parma. A blue blood of Italy. I was born to marry well. And now the marriage date is set.
I am to marry into House Savona. The family that would have been the royals had Italy not abolished the monarchy in 1946. But to the aristocrats of my home, the abolition means nothing at all.
The Savonas still hold power where it counts most.
In our tight-knit world of money, status and masked balls, they are everything and more.
And I am soon to become one of them.
I am soon to become Prince Zeno Savona’s wife…
… or at least I was, until I met Achille.
And everything changed.

Standalone Contemporary Romance

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As my papa’s G5 began its descent, I looked out of the window beside me and waited for the plane to break through the clouds. I held my breath, body tense, then suddenly the burnt-orange remnants of daylight flooded the plane, bathing the interior with a soft, golden glow. I inhaled deeply. Italia.

Fields and fields of green and yellow created a patchwork quilt below, rolling hills and crystal-blue lakes stretching as far the eye could see. I smiled as a sense of warmth ran through me.

It was the most beautiful place on earth.

Sitting back in my wide cream leather chair, I closed my eyes and tried to prepare myself for what was coming. I was flying to Florence airport, from where I would be swiftly taken to the Palazzo Savona estate just outside of the city.

I would meet Prince Zeno.

I had met him twice before—once when I was four, of which I had no memory, and again when I was ten. The interaction we’d had as children had been brief. If I was being honest, I had found Zeno to be arrogant and rude. He had been thirteen at the time and not at all interested in meeting a ten-year-old girl from America.

Neither of us had known at the time that that our betrothal had been agreed upon two years prior. It turned out that the trip my papa had taken to Umbria when I was eight was to secure a forever-bond between the Savonas and the Acardis. King Santo and my father had planned for their only children to marry. They were already joined in business; Zeno’s arranged marriage to me would also strengthen both families’ place in society.

I thought back on my New York farewell of nine hours ago and sighed. My parents had driven me to the private hangar and said their goodbyes. My mama cried—her only child was leaving her for a new life. My papa, although sad to see me go, beamed at me with the utmost pride. He had held me close and whispered, “I have never been more proud of you than I am right now, Caresa. Savona Wines’ stock has plummeted since Santo’s death. This union will reassure all the shareholders that our business is still strong. That we are still a stable company with Zeno at the helm.”

I had given him a tight smile and boarded the plane with a promise that they would see me before the wedding. And that had been that.

I was to marry Zeno, and I hadn’t protested even once. I imagined to most modern-day women living in New York, the process of arranged marriages sounded positively medieval, even barbaric. For a blue blood, it was simply a part of life.

King Santo Savona died two months ago. The shareholders of his many Italian vineyards, the stakeholders in Savona Wines, had expected his son, Zeno, to immediately step up and take charge. Instead, Zeno had plunged himself into the party scene even harder than before—and that was quite a feat. Within weeks my papa had flown out to Umbria to see what could be done.

The answer: our imminent union.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Note to self: Don’t read a Tillie Cole standalone romance without a box of tissues within arm’s reach.

Between A Veil of Vines and A Thousand Boy Kisses, 2016 is the year that Tillie Cole has bruised and bloodied my heart, ripped it out, stomped on it for good measure, and filled it full of love as she healed it with her beautiful stories of love. Granted, the two books are not comparable in their storylines, but what they have in common is the level of emotion that Cole writes into her characters. It insured that not only did I connect with Caresa, Achille, and yes, even Zeno by the end of the book, but also that I would be riveted to the pages as I joined them on their incredible tale of love, loss, and split-aparts.

Within the first several chapters of A Veil of Vines, Cole manages to illustrate how easy it is to judge those we see “above us” as having the perfect life and just how untrue it can be. From the outside, Caresa appears to have the perfect life. She’s young, beautiful, wealthy, and is about to embark on her new life as the unofficial Queen of Italy (recognized by the moneyed aristocracy, not the official government). Her life sounds perfect because what girl, at some point in her life, didn’t imagine being a princess and becoming queen? Yet the reality of Caresa’s situation is that she had no say in her marriage. Her family still practices betrothed marriages and she neither knows nor loves her soon-to-be husband. Not sounding all that glamorous and exciting, now is it? Making matters worse is that while she does not know her fiancé, she knows of him because he has quite the playboy reputation, and upon her arrival in Italy, his actions give her no indication that he plans to change his behavior. Using the excuse that he must attend to business, Zeno ensconces Caresa in the Bella Collina estate in Umbria, and it is only Caresa’s sense of duty and her love of the Bella Collina wines that keeps her from losing her mind. That, and meeting Achille. And as the blurb says, meeting Achille changed everything for her, for him, and for Zeno, in ways that went well beyond anything I expected.

I’m going to date myself a bit here, but the first time I encountered the theory of split-aparts was in the movie The Butcher’s Wife, when I saw it in high school. I remember finding the concept interesting, but there is something absolutely magical in the way that Achille and Caresa discuss it. It didn’t take a lot of guesswork to see where the story was headed based on the blurb and having read Cole’s books before, but it is watching Caressa and Achille fall in love slowly, gradually, naturally, all while fighting it and lying to themselves about what is happening, that made the book so enjoyable. Their love is pure because it’s true and unforced. Because of that, when they are driven apart, their devastation reads so powerfully that I was left bawling. It didn’t matter that I knew it would happen, it didn’t matter that I had faith in Cole’s ability to weave them their perfect happily ever after, it didn’t matter that I had already guessed the contents of the letter and what they would come to mean – I was still destroyed. Such is the beauty of Cole’s writing, she makes me feel a myriad of emotions as if what was happening to the characters was actually happening to me. And for that, I will continue to devour her stories, because even if I know how they will end, it is the journey that her characters must take that makes it all worth the read. Well done, Tillie Cole. I don’t know how you survived writing not one, but two heartbreaking novels this year because I barely survived reading them. I cannot wait to see what you have in store for my heart next year. Until then, I will shore up my reserves so that I can read A Veil of Vines again because I do believe in split-aparts and love how Caresa and Achille embody the theory perfectly.

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of A Veil of Vines by Tillie Cole to read and review for this tour.

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