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The Tuscan Secret

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Member Reviews

Angela Petch’s The Tuscan Story is a dual time period story that exposes the horrors of World War II, its affects on the survivors, and hope for the future. I am writing this review with a few tears in my eyes from the story’s ending of putting the past of Anna’s mother to rest and the hope for Anna’s future.

Anna’s inheritance from her mother Ines was a hand written diary mostly in Italian, Anna travels to Italy to find someone to translate the diary and see the town where her mother was raised, Although some parts of the book were hard to read about the war and the affects on the survivors, there are wonderful passages of hope. Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I liked this book a whole lot! It was a story within a story! 
The daughter decides to go to her Mom's home place right
after her death with her Mothers diary that must be translated. 
It's a beautiful story with a couple of bumps in the road. It has
a great ending as well.
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A lovely read ! This book will have you dreaming of eating olives and fresh cheese under olive tree in a Tuscan vineyard . The writing is sublime , the small village location so aptly described by the author is dreamy and the melding of past of present so expertly done. 
This is a charming story of past and present in a small. Italian village. The story revolves around the horrors of WWII and the present day where life is peaceful and charming . 
Anna’s mother Ines, passes away leaving Anna a box full of old letters.  Anna becomes especially intrigued by the aged letters written in Italian by her  mother. She is unemployed , does not like her life and on impulse travels to Tuscany to have the letters translated.  She befriends members of a small village and soon the book is traveling back to WWII and the occupation and melding perfectly back to the present. 

Anna discovers the bravery of her Mother and the village under the tremendous horror of the occupation.  The descriptions of the Tuscan countryside fill the reader's senses . .The culture of Italy is described in detail from the people, the landscape and the wonderful food.  I loved this book and look forward to further works by the author. Thank you for the ARC for review. My opinion is my own. I highly recommend this book. Very well done to the author !  

In each time-line, bot
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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Angela Petch's novel The Tuscan Secret opens with a brief but powerful and descriptive prologue detailing the brutal conflict of World War Two and how it brought such cruelty and torture to so many. It was a time of great danger and loss of life and this story focuses on how one family dealt with the impact of world wide events in their little village in Italy. A quote at the beginning says 'How lonely is youth which is over far too soon. Grab your happiness while you may. There is no certainty in tomorrow'. These words couldn't be more apt for the themes of the book and for how the story develops. This is a dual time-line story which I love and we delve back and forth between the modern day -1999- and the war years.

We learn of the past through recollections written in a diary but as we move further through the book one does forget it is a diary entry you are reading as you become swept away in the story. Admittedly, it took me some time to get into The Tuscan Secret. I think it took some time to find its rhythm and pace and to establish the setting and characters. It was only around the half way point that I felt the story coming together and links and connections becoming established. I definitely think the later half was far stronger than the first and overall this did show that the author has a talent for writing historical fiction as this was inspired by true events but at the same time I feel there is even greater things to come from Angela Petch.

In February 1999, Anna is at a crossroads. She has lost her job in an estate agency and also her mother has recently passed away. She wonders what will come next? What should her next move be? Is now the time to grab any opportunity that may present itself or should she sit still and ponder? Her mother has left her some money and a collection of papers. Her older siblings Harry and Jane have been left property and money but Anna really has no deep and lasting connection to them as growing up they were always significantly older and it was almost like two separate families emerged.

Anna desperately misses her mother but their relationship was never an easy one as her mother never openly talked about her previous life in Italy before she arrived in England having married Jim. Theirs was a tempestuous and fiery relationship with arguments and shouting the sound of Anna's childhood. She always believes that she was made to feel less loved and valued, that she was more of a nuisance than anything. Now as she contemplates looking through the papers left to her she wonders will her mother finally become known to her. Are there skeletons hidden in the closet waiting to emerge? Only time will tell if she is willing to take the risk and embark upon a journey to discover the answers to the many questions running through her head.

The vast majority of the story is set in Italy and as Anna decides she needs some time on her own, she travels to the Rofelle region in Tuscany to where her mother was born and spent the formative years of her life. Here Angela Petch excels in writing detailed and wonderful descriptions of the Tuscan countryside. The setting jumps out at you from the pages and as the surrounding land where Anna is staying plays such an important role in the book the descriptions were vital in helping the reader establish an overall picture. Anna hopes that as the older generation never liked to talk about things that by going back to where everything happened that she will become closer to her mother and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of who Innes was and how she was changed and altered by her experiences during the war.

Anna stays with Teresa and her brother Francesco. Francesco has a daughter Alba, who has elective mutism following a trauma in her life. These people she meets are complicated but warm and welcoming and over the many days she spends there she comes to know them well. Perhaps she gets a little closer to someone more so than any other but this develops over time and is slow and cautious and not without its worries, fears and the apprehension of embarking on something new and exciting. I thought the relationship that developed between Anna and Alba was so true and genuine. Anna wanted to help Alba to reach beyond the wall of silence she has created for herself. I think Anna's intentions were real but also it was as if she wanted to make up for the fact that her own childhood was not as it should have been and she wouldn't have wished this on anyone else. Anna had been brought up in England to keep her feelings hidden and never to confide in anyone but as the magic and charm of Italy begins to work its magic and as Francesco translates the diaries maybe all is becoming much more clear to her and hopefully she will find the understand she so desperately craves?

The story from the past is told in diary entry form. Extracts are interspersed throughout the modern day story but I initially questioned would it have worked better to have had a specific dual timeline story as in chapters solely dedicated to Anna and then chapters specifically focusing on Innes instead of reading Innes' story through recollections. I didn't think in the beginning we got much of a background into Innes and her family and how they were coping with the war. Instead we are more or less straight into the point where she begins to help the partisans. I just felt we dived into her story at such a vital point and that we needed to get more time to know her and how her family were involved with the war. Innes and her family wish nothing more than for the war to end and so as her brother Davide joins a band of partisans with his friend Caprilo high up in the mountains close to their village she too feels she must do her duty. Innes is filled with loyalty, obligation, courage and bravery. She will put herself in danger countless times as she knows every little bit will help in the effort to see the Germans defeated.

I definitely felt that as the story progressed into the later half of the book that it was at this point that the format of the diary entries really began to work. I was totally sucked into Innes' story as things take dangerous and sinister turns. Her recollections were so vivid and I felt every bit of her anxiety and heartbreak but also as love begins to blossom we saw a different side of her emerging. I became completely lost in what was unfolding so much so that when a diary entry ended I was surprised to be returning to Anna in Italy. It was like I had forgotten she existed and really coming towards the end I wanted to keep reading more and more of Innes as I felt I was gaining such a deep understanding of her. She really did sacrifice so much and how she comes to be in England and raising her family was a surprising turn of events but perhaps not always the happiest times of her life.

Admittedly I did guess the big twist as we came towards the end but I thought it was such a fitting conclusion to what did turn into a brilliant story and one that will leave a lasting impression on you. I thoroughly enjoyed how the story came full circle and the divisions and misunderstandings began to dissipate. I would definitely recommend The Tuscan Secret and it would be even better if you had the luxury of reading it in the surroundings in which it is set. If like me if that cannot be the case than a day curled up on the couch or relaxing in the garden will do just fine as Angela Petch will transport you to a different time and place to a story full of emotion and mystery.
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Angela Petch is astounding in her writing of The Tuscan Secret. I don’t think there is a single page that does not have you racing to read what happens next, or wanting to impulsively cash in your savings to board a jet to Tuscany.

Anna’s mother Ines, passes away leaving Anna a box full of old letters. Puzzled by a cryptic note from her mother, Anna becomes intrigued by the aged letters written in Italian, in her mother’s handwriting. Anna’s knowledge of the Italian language is basic and she longs to know what the letters hold. 

Recently out of a job, no longer interested in her lover, and somewhat disenchanted with her life, Anna decides to travel to Tuscany and visit Ines’ hometown hoping to find someone who is willing to translate the old diaries, and help her uncover the history of her family.

Anna finds herself happily befriended by the village locals of Rofelle and introduced to Francesco who agrees to translate Ines’ diaries. Easily moving back and forth between Anna’s present and Ines’ past, the reader is transported from 1999 to back in time when Germans occupied Italy. 

With the brutalities of WWII in the foreground, Ines’ diaries reveal a compelling story of courage, fierce determination, heartbreaking loss and the innocence of first love, and a deep secret that will no longer keep silent.

Anna soon realizes that her mother wanted her to find out the truth.  With the support from her new-found friends, and the help of a cantankerous old man, she discovers the truth of who her mother truly was. 

In each time-line, both past and present, The Tuscan Secret is full of visually rousing descriptions of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. It is almost as if you are walking up the rolling, green mountainsides and breathing in the balmy, fresh air. Your senses are tantalized with the rich temptation of Tuscan traditional dishes, and suddenly you are craving an entire wheel of Pecorino cheese, with fresh-baked bread and a side of olives. Just like Anna, who finds herself falling under the spell of the Tuscan sun, so too does the reader.

From the historical past of a war-torn Italian village, to peaceful modern day Tuscany, The Tuscan Secret is not just a riveting read, it is an enthralling experience. 

Highly recommend this as a must-read and wholeheartedly commend it for our library.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the read of Angela Petch’s, The Tuscan Secret.
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Loved this book! It was such a beautiful story. I love historical fiction and enjoyed that the book was about the Italian resistance during the war. It was very interesting getting this perspective and I learned a few things. Ines's story was absolutely heartbreaking. At least she had a wonderful mother-in-law. Freda welcomed and loved Ines from the moment she they met on the train platform. Freda even went out of her way to make "spaghetti" for Ines. Tiziana was completely opposite of Ines, but ended up to be a great friend. I wonder if they remained friends through the years. Not sure what happened to her as they got older. I loved the whole book, but my favorite parts were about Ines. I wish she would have talked to someone about what was happening to her at home. Beautiful description of the Italian scenery and food. I wouldn't mind staying at Theresa's guesthouse. Anna definitely lucked out when she met Teresa and Francesco. I loved the ending when all the secrets were finally revealed and Anna learns everything about her mother's past. 

Definitely recommend the book. It kept me captivated from the moment I started reading until the very end. I look forward to reading more from the author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bookouture through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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I read this book on the afternoon of what I always think of as “a perfect reading day” – dark enough to need some lights on, rain tipping down, no pressure to leave the house, a whisker away from turning the heating on – and I really couldn’t have asked for anything much better. I’m always a pushover for a dual time thread: add some romance, a gripping and enthralling story about Italian wartime partisans, a modern story with a feisty heroine and full of the tastes and sights of Tuscany, and what a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

I knew I’d enjoy this book when I read the prologue – very atmospheric, a shocking and intriguing taster of the wartime story to come – but was then brought back to the story of Anna in the late 90s, the loss of her mother Ines, the delivery of a parcel of her diaries and notes, and her own decision to walk away from the mess of her life to find out more about the hidden history and the country of her mother’s birth. The modern story does predominate a bit at first, but I wasn’t in any way disappointed by that, as it’s a really good one – a bit of an adventure, trying out a new life in an unfamiliar country, decisions to be made, making new friends, finding her feet again.

Revealing a historical story through diaries and letters might have been done before, but I really liked the way the author revealed each new instalment, the pace dictated by how soon Anna could lay her hands on the next piece of translation as typed up by new friend Francesco. I particularly liked the way Anna was able to visit some of the key locations that feature in her mother’s story – and it’s quite a story, a realistically told coming-of-age account of privation and wartime atrocities, the bravery of the partisans, the cruelty and disregard for life of others, the impact on a family, and the excitement of first love.

There’s an unflinching realism about the wartime account, the emotional aspects particularly well handled, but I did particularly like the fact that the story extends beyond the wartime years into the heartbreaking story of Ines’ adult life and its grim realities. I know that Ines’ story was inspired by real events and a family history, but the author takes those bare facts – and undoubtedly a considerable amount of research – and moulds it into a story that is beautifully and poignantly told and comes to life in its telling.

The author’s writing is excellent. Anna’s story is set against a vividly described Tuscan setting, and I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on food and the unusual ingredients used to create the most wonderful dishes that I could see, smell and taste. The story itself is strong too, and far more than just a framework for the diary pieces – with well developed supporting characters, and scenes of danger and real drama that drive it forward. The ending might have been just a touch predictable ( I think I got there 50 pages ahead of the characters) but by then I was so invested in the story’s twin threads that it really didn’t matter one bit – and it was exactly what the story demanded to tie up its many threads.

A compelling story exceptionally well told, a challenging structure well handled, an emotional experience I won’t forget in a hurry – and a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
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There are a lot of books around at the moment detailing this period of Anglo-Italian history. This book stands out though, not only for the beautiful way in which the story is told but also because it's a wonderful story with an ending that is unpredictable. It started in a familiar way with Anne being left a box of letters from her Italian mother Ines. From then on, when Anna goes to Italy to find out more, I was completely captivated. As you might expect, dealing with this historical period, the book is quite heartbreaking in parts. Nonetheless, it is sensitively told and a great read.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy...

Wow! That was an amazing book and a beautiful book cover! I really enjoyed it a lot..

Looking forward to read more book from this author soon...
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This was a wonderful tale full of mystery and discovery and new love. I thought the author did a fantastic job of mixing the past and present story threats and the descriptions of the Tuscan countryside were so evocative I felt I was there.  It was a poignant and engrossing tale that kept me enthralled right to the end. A really enjoyable journey through time, which introduced me to some beautiful parts of Italy and left me feeling all warm and satisfied. Lovely!
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I'd like to start by saying that historical fiction is most likely my favourite genre, and this book did not disappoint! Anna embarks on a journey to Italy after the passing of her mother to find out more about where she came from. Following her mothers' diary entries and notes, she truly finds herself.

I really enjoyed the writing style and the concept of the dual timelines. Although a work of fiction, the novel allows you to try and understand what life was like in Italy during the war. Everything about this was beautifully crafted. I look forward to what comes in the future from Angela Petch!
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Great read, perfect for summer! Super interesting but also has a hint of mystery. Who doesn't love a love story? I know I do! Secrets that don't seem to add up for Anna, mysterious diary entries and letters left by her mother cause Anna to go searching. It angered me that her brother and sister could give two figs about their mothers past. I am so much like Anna, I love history and I wanna know! Especially family history! Without a doubt a great summer read. Will most likely buy the book too!
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When Anna’s mother passes away in a nursing home in England, she leaves Anna an old box of letters, yellowed with age.  They are all written in Italian, her mother’s home language, but as Anna’s father had forbidden her from learning Italian, she needs to find someone to translate them for her.  Knowing her mother was from Tuscany, Anna heads there and uncovers a shocking secret about her mother’s past.

I love historical books, particularly set during the war, so this looked just the kind of book I would enjoy.  Anna’s character is lovely and I particularly felt for her, having to deal with her mother’s death and then discovering the secrets that her parents never spoke about.  Told from two points in history, the author takes us on a captivating story set during World War II and present day in 1999.

The story from war ravaged Italy at the latter end of World War II was both heart-breaking and compelling.  Well researched it gives a gruesome recollection of what it was like to like in occupied Italy.  It also tells us the story of Anna’s parents, a story that Anna had never heard before.  Interspersed with this is Anna’s present day story, in the same Tuscan community that her parents were part of all those years before.  Here, Anna meets people who are connected to her and can help her fill in the blanks of her parents history.

A story of family secrets, love and loss, this book not only gives us a love story spread out over the decades but a history lesson from a time which many of us couldn’t even imagine.  A beautiful story, told with such emotion and feeling that it makes you forget where you are and what you are doing!  Would definitely recommend.
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An absolutey gripping story of world War II told through the eyes of Anna who finds her mothers diary and goes on the stay in Tuscany and uncover her mothers life during the war.  You must read this book. You can hardly put it down.  Well written
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As a fan of historical fiction I definitely enjoyed this novel.  Going back to find her roots, a young woman finds her mother's diary and other letters, allowing her to uncover secrets from the past and find her history, learn about her family and begin a new life.  A lovely read.
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A trove of papers seemed a paltry inheritance to Anna when compared to the house her mother left to her brother and the jewelry she bequeathed to her sister.  However, those papers lead Anna to Tuscany, where she unravels the story of her mother Ines' life, one her father Jim didn't want Anna to know. The diary is only the start for Anna, as she learns about her mother's valor during WWII, that she had more family, and gets a better understanding of why her father acted the way he did.  She most importantly behind to understand herself.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Nicely plotted and written, this is a good read.
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Anna decides to travel to Italy to try and learn more about her deceased mother Ines Santini. As it turns out, Ines had written Anna a diary that chronicled her years during the end of World War II. However, the diary is in Italian, a language that Anna's English father forbade her to learn. Her siblings, Harry and Jane, were pretty much grown up before Anna was even born.

Her trip to Italy might be her only way of having that diary translated. Even more, Anna wants to learn the beautiful language. As sad as Anna is to have lost Ines, the box of letters just might teach her more about her mother, and that is a gift in itself. Considering the fact that Anna and Ines always experienced a difficult relationship, deciphering the diary might bring Anna peace. Furthermore, there are things about the war that Anna never understood.

One of the first things that Anna learns is that her mother's having kept a diary could have been really dangerous for anyone concerned had it ended up in the wrong hands. Those are a few of the only words written in English. So Anna is more than intrigued. As Anna begins to learn about the contents of the diary, she starts to understand more about her father, and this is important to her.

When Anna arrives in Tuscany, she is immediately befriended by the owners of a bed and breakfast, two siblings. Imagine Anna's shock when one of the first thing she discovers is that her mother had a brother named Davide. Quite naturally, Anna wonders why her parents never spoke of him.

This news to Anna is only the tip of the iceberg, as layer upon layer of facts and detail are revealed. This includes explaining the fact that her father had PTSD, although the diagnosis was not named at that time. Growing up in England, decades after the war, left Anna seemingly unaffected by those tragic times. Sadly, Anna learns this was not the case with her mother and her family. What sadness!

Something else happens to Anna while she is in Tuscany. She draws rather close to Francesco. This is surprising to her, because she certainly did not go to Italy to begin a romantic relationship. What a nice addition to a otherwise touching story.

No doubt Angela Petch did extensive research while writing this book. This is a book that definitely made me think, and books like this are definitely keepers. This was truly an emotional read that had me captivated. There were some difficult passages for sure, especially concerning Anna's father. Not only is the story itself something to remember, it is the descriptive style in which the author writes about Tuscany that has definitely left an impression. This impressive story has an absolutely wonderful ending.

This book was originally published as Tuscan Roots. I do believe that the sequel, Now and Then in Tuscany, is being worked on. I cannot wait to read that book! 

Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This is a beautiful book about loss, and family secrets and discovery. It was beautify written and wonderfully told. I loved the descriptions of Tuscany. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction.
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Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novel.   This was a historical fiction with a dual timeline set in Italy.   The main character, ones, goes back to Italy after her mother's death to discover more about her past.   Ines's mother feel in love with and married a British POW.  Secrets come to life and ones falls in love and gets married herself in Italy.   The writing was very detailed and descriptive.   The plot had a few turns that kept me interested and pushing forward.   I am so deeply grateful for all those who have ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
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