25 May 2020

Upcoming release from Stefania Hartley!

Sonia believes that men equal heartache and disaster. Brad has sworn never to love a woman again. It’s a pity they’re so irresistibly attracted to one another.

After her traumatic teenage years, Sonia’s teaching job would be the best thing that has happened to her if it weren’t for Brad Wilson. Her arrogant, standoffish colleague never fails to rub her the wrong way. But when she’s faced with the choice between canceling the school trip to Sicily or accepting his ungraceful help, she swallows her pride and resigns herself to spending an entire week in close quarters with him. Little does she know just how close.

A tragedy from his past still haunts Brad, and he’s sworn never to let his heart be shredded by grief again. Loving another woman is not in the cards. That’s why his petite olive-skinned colleague is so very dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong when their mutual destination is one of the most romantic places in the world?

Reader advisory: This book contains references to teen suicide, accidental death and abortion.
General Release Date: 7th July 2020

Hello Stefania!  Thank you so much for visiting Written Butterfly with me today!  It’s such a pleasure to chat with you.  So tell me…

Q) What type of research did you do for your book?

Like many new writers, I’ve put a lot of my own personal experiences into my first book. Sun, Stars and Limoncello is set in the country where I was born and grew up until the age of twenty-one—Sicily. A lot of the settings are places which I have visited or lived in for many years.

The hero and the heroine are both secondary school teachers in England, which is what I’ve been for a few years before starting to write.

There were still things I had to check and research (for example, I had never taken a class on a school trip abroad), and I looked them up online or I asked friends and family.

Q) What made this story special to you?

This story is special to me because I’ve poured all my love for Sicily into it. It’s bursting with the sounds, the colors, the smells of the places where I grew up and which I love. The sparkly Tyrrhenian Sea, the rugged Etna volcano, the roaring of Sicilian scooters… And I have fallen in love with the character so much that I feel for them and what they’re going through.

Q) Do you have a writing quirk, or habit when you write?

Sometimes, when I get stuck on a piece of dialogue, I get up from my desk and I go downstairs to the kitchen for a snack. As I go, I repeat aloud my characters’ last words. Believe it or not, by the time I get to the kitchen counter (it’s not far, but I walk very, very slowly) I usually come up with the next line of dialogue and I’m unstuck, so I run back upstairs and continue writing. If I don’t come up with the answer before I get to the counter, I console myself with a little snack. Not a healthy writing habit, so I don’t recommend it!

Q) What do you think is your strongest asset as a writer? …what is your weakest factor as a writer?

People have told me that I’m a very descriptive writer, and I guess that it’s because I always set my stories in places that I love. I have lived in many places and, although it’s not always been fun or pleasant, the experiences I’ve had have given me a wonderful bank of memories.

My weakest factor as a writer must be the fact that English is my second language. Growing up in Italy, I learnt basic English in school and when I went to the UK for a year as an exchange student, I struggled a lot with the language. It’s taken me many years to become fluent enough to dare imagine myself as a writer.  

Q) Do you write in a linear fashion or do you jump from scene to scene and then go back and “fill in the blanks”?

I write in a linear fashion but that means that sometimes, when I get stuck on a scene that isn’t working, I’m unable to jump it and go ahead. What I do, instead, is work on another book and return to the first one when I’m fresh.

Q) What are your upcoming projects?

I have a novella entitled Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea due to be out in December with Totally Bound/First For Romance. Like Sun, Stars and Limoncello, it’s set in Sicily, but it’s got more of a rom com feel to it.

Thank you for having me here on your blog x


Sonia felt like she’d sped straight into a wall, even though the broken leg wasn’t hers. Kate would not be coming on the trip. The staffroom was plunged into silence as the other teachers pondered the impact that their colleague’s sick leave would have on them.

“Then there’s the Sicily school trip to cover,” Mrs. Ashcroft continued, “because even though we all know that Sonia would happily take twenty-eight Year Sevens to Sicily all by herself…”

Yes, she wouldn’t think twice about taking the kids on the trip on her own. She’d do anything for them. She curled
her fingers tighter around her mug.

“It wouldn’t be legal. Our school cook and his wife are going with her, but we need another teacher. Unless, Sonia, you wish to cancel the trip?” Mrs. Ashcroft turned to her and all her colleagues’ eyes swiveled in her direction.

Cancel the trip? After her students had worked incredibly hard on their Italian, baked and sold cakes and washed cars to raise money? She had fought tooth and nail for the grants that would allow even the less-well-off to come. Then there was Charlotte Rogers, who had fixed her with her big, sad eyes and thanked her for this trip, because it would give her respite from her warring parents. No, I can’t cancel it! She wouldn’t, even if she had to pay someone to go with her. “Absolutely not,” she answered resolutely.

“Then we need a volunteer to go with Sonia,” Mrs. Ashcroft confirmed, scanning the staffroom. Bums shifted on chairs, hands crept to watches and the wind whistled outside the windows. All eyes were pinned to the floor except one green pair. Even though she didn’t dare look in that direction, Sonia felt them on her.

No, not him. Please, not him.

“The kids going are a lovely bunch of Year Sevens,” Sonia said, trying in vain to make eye contact with her other colleagues, “and Sicily is very beautiful in April—not too cold, not too hot.”

Eventually, Rachel looked up. “I’m sorry, Sonia. I’d love to come, but I haven’t got anyone to look after my kids.”

Mildred explained that her knees were giving her trouble and she couldn’t walk far. Alistair had just had his first baby. Grumpy old John muttered some excuse. Anyway, Sonia knew that he wouldn’t give the school a minute more than his contracted time. Chantelle had already booked her Eurostar ticket home, and Sonia delicately avoided sending a glance in Bernie’s direction. During the holidays, she’d be going for another IVF attempt. One after the other, all the remaining teachers declined the invitation. When even the head felt the need to excuse herself—a crucial meeting with the school governors—Sonia felt her last drop of hope drip away.

The only member of staff left was the owner of the jade eyes that had followed her from the beginning of the staff briefing, but Sonia avoided looking anywhere near that direction. She had absolutely no wish to travel with him, and she was utterly confident that her feelings were fully reciprocated. Brad Wilson had gotten under her skin like a freezing cold shower from the day he had started at the school. He seemed to have no normal, friendly way to look at her. He either averted his gaze or pinned her with one of his icy stares—unsmiling, as if he were about to dish her a detention. The first few times, she had checked her reflection in a window. Was her décolleté too low? Her skirt too short? Eventually, she had concluded that he was just a miserable wet blanket.

She could put up with Brad Wilson in other circumstances but not on this trip. She had cajoled the newlywed cook, Jake, to come along with his wife, only under the promise that it would be as close to the honeymoon they hadn’t been able to afford as she could make it. When Kate had been going with her, Sonia hadn’t minded the idea of giving the couple space, provided they were available in the event of an emergency. But if Brad took Kate’s place, the setup would be much too much like a double date. The idea was totally cringeworthy, especially as there wasn’t a single female member of staff who wouldn’t swoon over Brad Wilson.

Not that she was in any way attracted to him. No way. She was done with men. Made the mistake, got the T-shirt, learned the lesson. But being pushed together with the staff’s heartthrob would be uncomfortable, if not utterly unpleasant.

Sonia felt his brooding presence and, out of the corners of her eyes, she could make out his tall figure leaned against the door jamb, detached from the rest of the staff, his mug in one hand, laptop carelessly held under his other arm. She kept her gaze trained on the ground, but she could feel his gaze needling her. Do not make eye contact. Do not look at him or at anything near him. If she could have made a sign flash on her forehead with the words Brad Wilson need not apply, she would have.

“How about you, Brad? Could you go with Sonia?”

Mrs. Ashcroft’s words made time slow down and blur like a bullet in the movies, only there was no way Sonia could dodge this bullet if he said yes.

Please, say no. You must have a holiday booked, a girlfriend waiting or a wife and children at home. Please, be busy.

He clutched the mug to his chest like it was a miniature shield and contorted his face into a pained frown.

Please, say no. Make up an excuse.

“I suppose I should.” He sighed.

A flood of angry adrenaline restarted Sonia’s internal time at a galloping trot. That was the unkindest acceptance he could have ever conjured up. ‘I suppose I should.’ Was there a more convincing way to make it clear beyond a doubt that they were twisting his oh-so-handsome-and-muscly arm? He was going to oblige, but only out of duty, and he would do it with as little grace as possible—and even less enthusiasm.

Before Sonia had a chance to refuse his ‘offer’, Mrs. Ashcroft replied hastily, “Thank you, Brad. That’s very kind of you.”

’Kind’ was the last word Sonia would have used to describe Brad Wilson.

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About the Author

Stefania Hartley, also known as The Sicilian Mama, was born in Sicily and immediately started growing, but not very much. She left her sunny island after falling head over heels in love with an Englishman, and she’s lived all over the world with him and their three children.
Having finally learnt English, she enjoyed it so much that she started writing stories and nobody has been able to stop her since. She loves to write about hot and sunny places like her native Sicily, and she especially likes it when people fall in love.

Her short stories have been longlisted, commended and won prizes. Sun, Stars and Limoncello is her first novel.

You can find out more about Stefania on her website (http://www.stefaniahartley.com/)

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