THE FIRST EMMA By Camille Di Maio – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

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THE FIRST EMMA

by

Camille Di Maio

Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

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Synopsis

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The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler, whose tycoon husband, Otto, was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses—both also named Emma—and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

PRAISE for The First Emma: 
“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus

“A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel CleetonNYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana

“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. WeinsteinUSA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends

 

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Born out of Camille Di Maio’s creative imagination and impeccable research, The First Emma is a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman whose historic contributions to San Antonio have not been much touted as she deserved. Seamlessly intertwining fact and fiction, dual timelines, details of the brewery business, and the intricacies of the lives of two women, Ms. Di Maio has created a novel that engages the emotions and captivates the intellect at the same time.

In this book, close-to-dying Emma Koehler narrates her life story to young Mabel Hartley, spanning from her and her husband’s beginnings in St. Louis through their move to Texas and until the end of the Prohibition. All the while, the titular Emma provides a new home for the lonely young woman, matchmakes her with Erik, a nephew, and inspires her in her future. As Mabel said in the book, “Mrs. Koehler’s story was interesting, yes. But more than that, it offered hope to girls who were beginning to see a world where opportunities were available to them that were never there before.”

Having lived in San Antonio, I delighted in being transported to its past. I’ve only seen Pearl as it is now, a tourist destination filled with chic shops and fancy restaurants. This book took me on a fascinating “tour” of how it was eighty years ago through detailed descriptions of the brewery, the theater, cars, and the war. I can only say the “trip” was awesome.

So many themes in this book resonated with me–female strength, found family, hope, and love. I highlighted several passages that spoke to me.

“… there is much in life that is out of our control. The answer is not to give up and crumble. The answer is to find a way around it, no matter the difficulty. No matter how impossible the obstacles.”

I related so much to this because I met cousins in San Antonio I didn’t know I have. “… what I can give them is the gift of each other. It’s not easy to come from a different country and make a life here. But if they have each other to lean on, they will have a far better foundation than most.”

Well-crafted and evocative, The First Emma is a novel I highly recommend for readers of historical fiction and historical romance, and maybe even those who like true crime.

Content advisory: On-page deaths, gun violence, alcoholism, war.

4 Four-half-stars

 

AboutTheAuthor

Camille Di MaioCamille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain FallsThe Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach.

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ONE WINNER receives a signed copy of The First Emma 

May 19-29, 2020
(US only)

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR
DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
Or, visit the blogs directly:

5/19/20 Promo Texas Book Lover
5/19/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/20/20 Review Missus Gonzo
5/21/20 Author Video Max Knight
5/22/20 Review Librariel Book Adventures
5/23/20 Excerpt Part 1 All the Ups and Downs
5/24/20 Excerpt Part 2 Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/25/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
5/26/20 Excerpt Part 3 The Page Unbound
5/27/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
5/28/20 Review Momma on the Rocks

 

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THE WAY OF BEAUTY – Camille Di Maio Blog Tour/Giveaway/Guest Post

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THE WAY OF BEAUTY

by

Camille Di Maio

Genre: Historical Fiction / 20th Century / Literary

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Date of Publication: May 1, 2018

Number of Pages: 384

Scroll down for the giveaway!

 

Synopsis

cover HI RES The Way of Beauty_previewHearts and dreams evolve in the shadow of the once-magnificent Penn Station.
Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera’s life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo’s new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family’s expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement. In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend…and a stirring new cause of her own. But when Pearl’s selfless work pulls her farther from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach—if her conscience will allow her to take it. Her choice will define not only her future but also that of her daughter, Alice.

Vera and Alice—a generation and a world apart—are bound by the same passionate drive to fulfill their dreams. As first mother and then daughter come of age in a city that is changing as rapidly as its skyline, they’ll each discover that love is the only constant.

 

PRAISE FOR THE WAY OF BEAUTY:

“The Way of Beauty is a thing of beauty. The writing is gorgeous, the story is engaging, the characters are amazing. The amount of research that goes into historical fiction just astounds me. Add this to your TBR!”

“If you want to be swept away by a love story set in a fascinating and meticulously researched past, Camille Di Maio is the author for you. Don’t miss this one.”

“A captivating story of love and family that spans several generations.”

“The writing transports you to the time, not so long ago when women had to choose between love and their rights. Camille Di Maio’s dialogue, descriptions, and relationships create a complete picture of the era and struggles. Great book club book.”

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Inspiration for Writing The Way of Beauty
Guest Post by Author Camille Di Maio

It’s funny, for me at least, how a book starts and how it ends up.

The idea for The Way of Beauty came while I was sitting on my bed and my then-15yo daughter came to sit with me. She’s got a good creative head, so I asked her if she wanted to brainstorm with me.

We were all over the place. There was a secret diary, a father/daughter story thread, dual time periods, you name it.

But in the end, it was an image that came to my mind that became the foundation. I had this concept of a soldier kissing his girlfriend goodbye in a train station. He was in a WWII uniform and sunlight streamed through the cathedral-like windows making the dust look like sparkling diamonds.

The train station image stayed with me, so I began to do research. I knew I wanted to set it in New York, and as I was familiar with Penn Station, I started there.

I searched for pictures, and most of what came up was this beautiful, soaring structure. My first thought was, “I’ve been to Penn Station many times, but I must not have been upstairs. I’ve never seen this!”

What I did not know was this: it doesn’t exist anymore.

The gorgeous, marble, soaring, majestic train station I was seeing on the internet was torn down in the 1960s to build Madison Square Garden.

I dove into some research, my favorite part of writing historical fiction. And I learned that the station was the brainchild of Alexander Cassatt, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. And coincidentally, the brother of Mary Cassatt, the famous painter.

In 1900, Cassatt was frustrated that all train travel toward New York ended in New Jersey, where travelers would then take a ferry over crowded waters to Manhattan. So he began a project to build tunnels underneath the East and Hudson Rivers. He traveled to London and Paris to study some of the world’s greatest train stations and endeavored to make his bigger and better.

I researched the sandhogs – the men who dug those tunnels at great peril, and I read about the strangers Cassatt hired to secretly buy up buildings in the Tenderloin so that they could demolish them and build the station.

Penn Station was magnificent when it was completed in 1910 and it was expected to last centuries. But in the 1950s, as air and car travel increased, railroad companies fell into financial trouble. And Penn Station was sold.

The arc of the station – its creation, heyday, and destruction was fascinating, and I knew that this would be the backbone of my story. I created the characters of Vera, Angelo, Pearl, Emmett, Alice, and William and how their lives and loves paralleled the story.

All of this was planned out, the frailest of outlines laid out as a framework. But the joy of the writing – for me, at least – is putting meat on those bones.

The biggest surprise in my writing was how captivated I became by the suffrage movement. I vote in every election – midterms, local ones, presidential ones, you name it. So I wouldn’t say that I take the right for granted, and I appreciate those who’ve fought and died for that right. But that makes me think about the military. I hadn’t given significant thought to the women who championed that right a century ago. The character Pearl was a firecracker from the start, but her involvement in the suffrage movement became deeper and deeper and as I learned the extremities that some of the women went to – even going as far as having hunger strikes – and I knew that she needed to get that involved. Her storyline – initially meant to be somewhat secondary became much larger. A cornerstone of the story.

The book, then, evolved into the story of women and their emerging roles as the world changed around them. And I’m so happy that it did.

Life takes turns we don’t expect. And so does writing. But those surprises are often the sweetest bits. And I hope that as long as I have the privilege of doing this work, there will be many more discovers that wait to be illuminated.

 

AboutTheAuthor

~Romance Writers of America Honor Roll Inductee~

Camille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a fuAuthor Pic DiMaio_previewll-time writer. Along with her husband of 19 years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far) and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmer’s markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. The Memory of Us was Camille’s debut novel. Her second, Before the Rain Falls was released on May 16, 2017, and The Way of Beauty is her third novel.

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MAY 1-10, 2018

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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

5/1           Notable Quotable          Forgotten Winds

5/1           Notable Quotable          Books and Broomsticks

5/1           Notable Quotable          The Clueless Gent

5/2           Review                             Hall Ways Blog

5/3           Review                             Books in the Garden

5/4           Guest Post                       Carpe Diem Chronicles

5/4           Excerpt                            That’s What She’s Reading

5/5           Review                             Reading by Moonlight

5/5           Promo+                            Chapter Break Book Blog

5/6           Review                             Momma on the Rocks

5/7           Author Interview            The Page Unbound

5/7           Top Five                           Story Schmoozing Book Reviews

5/8           Review                              StoreyBook Reviews

5/9           Guest Post                         Missus Gonzo

5/9           Character Interview       The Librarian Talks

5/10         Review                               Tangled in Text

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