Kathleen James has put her practical side away for once and looks forward to the perfect romantic evening: an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. She is not prepared to hear that he wants to bring his grandmother back from Italy to live with him.
Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.
When Antonia’s sister dies, she finds herself longing to be back in the states. A wartime bride from the ‘40s, she knows how precious love can be. Can her own story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?
Making Your Research Real
Dante’s Gift has two settings. The contemporary romance takes place in Chicago and the vintage romance takes place in Benevento, Italy, in the region of Campania. A lovely town close to Naples that has survived a terrible bombing and invasions by the Germans and then the Allies.
When I began writing this story, I wanted the setting and details to be as accurate as possible. Since this is a Christmas romance, I needed to do research on holiday traditions in Italy. I found the Italians love this holiday as much as we do. However, they celebrate in different ways. The nativity scene is hugely popular and rarely is there a household without at least one. Santa is replaced with La Befana who looks nothing like our Mr. Claus but does bring goodies for the children. What do we have common? Celebration and family. The most important aspect of the season is being with those you love and celebrating life.
For my research on WWII, I consulted with my stepfather, Eric Merry. A British World War II veteran, he was stationed first in North Africa and then Italy. His suggestions added an authenticity to the story I could have never achieved on my own.
He recommended Benevento as the setting. The town retains its charm today and I hope to visit there on my trip to Italy. Sticky buns were a popular treat for the American soldiers and the liqueur Strega continues to be an important part of the city’s heritage.
Benevento is now on my bucket list. Things to do when I go: visit the Santa Sofia church, the Arch of Trajan, the Roman amphitheater, drink Strega and espressos, and enjoy some authentic Italian food.
Be sure to check out the links below to an old newsreel link, showing the American soldiers entering the bombed city, and more information on the ancient and lovely town of Benevento. I also included the recipe for panna cotta. It’s one of my favorites.
Information on Santa Sofia, Benevento
World War II footage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2RXMn7kJ00
Pumpkin panna cotta with crushed gingersnaps
Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas.
Her short stories, Merry Christmas, Henry and Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies received Best Short in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and 2014.
Aubrey’s latest holiday romance Dante’s Gift, includes both a present day and WWII love story intertwined. It is included in the box set Christmas Pets and Kisses and sold as a single. Her true love is historical romance and Rolf’s Quest, the first in a medieval fantasy series, will release in 2016. Sammi’s Serenade will debut in the box set Valentine’s Pets and Kisses.
Benevento is one of Campania’s well-kept secrets. With stunning views and amazing history, it was valued in ancient times for its prime location. The city has aged with grace and retained its charm over the centuries.
Here is the Santa Sofia where Antonia and Dominic attend a funeral in the story. Remnants of the ancient Roman Empire are represented by the stone arch above the doorway of the church and in the three obelisks still standing in the town.
The Arch of Trajan was probably erected because of the numerous visits by elite Romans such as Nero, Trajan, and Septum. One of the most pristine and well kept arches in the region, it depicts scenes from Trajan’s life and his victories in battle.
A Roman theater also remains and is a top tourist attraction.