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@Versatileer Welcomes the Drink Wine and Be Beautiful by Kimberly Sullivan #BookBlitz + $25 Amazon Gift Card #Giveaway
@XpressoTours Blog Tours – May 26th to June 1st, 2023
Blitz-wide giveaway (INT), 18+ – Open until June 7, 2023

Drink Wine and Be Beautiful by Kimberly Sullivan

Book & Author Details:
Drink Wine and Be Beautiful by Kimberly Sullivan
Publication date: May 26th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Tour Provided by Xpresso Book Tours


Italian Tales of love, betrayal, longing, desire – and hope

Italy serves as the backdrop for stories of Italian women and expatriate women living in Italy.

A freak snowstorm in Rome changes the travel plans of two women, touching their lives in ways they could never have imagined. An ambitious Italian professional working in Brussels rails inwardly at her privileged boss, until fate presents her with a rare opportunity. A long desired trip to Bali, Indonesia serves as a needed chance for introspection. A cautious housewife in Rome thinks back to a fateful missed connection in Florence. A first-time mother feels debilitating guilt for not bonding with her newborn, until an elderly neighbor provides her with a new perspective.

The twenty-one stories in this collection follow women’s lives as they confront betrayal and love, alienation and community, despair and-ultimately-hope.

Goodreads / Amazon / Kobo

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Excerpt #1: Snake Charmers and Donkey Carts
THE HAWKERS’ CRIES FILLED THE SQUARE, the guttural sounds of Arabic throbbing in Manuela’s ears. All around her, men yelled out in that strange language. Men were everywhere. They brushed past her in the marketplace crowds, and she shrank back. Unfamiliar smells filled the air.

She clung to Adriano’s hand as they walked through the Jemaa el-Fna square, willing herself not to cry. A cobra reared up his ugly head, its black tongue flickering, only a few feet from where she stood. She bit her tongue to keep herself from screaming. The snake swayed from side to side as the snake charmer played music on his pipe. A fat man in dirty robes approached her with another snake, trying to wrap it around her neck. 

She stumbled backward, afraid she might faint, but thankfully Adriano was pulling her away, toward the dark, labyrinthine streets of the souk. Here she would do battle with the scooters and the donkey carts, but at least there were no snake charmers poised to place a slimy, wriggling serpent around her neck in exchange for coins.

Manuela breathed in deeply. It was all too much. The blood coursed through her veins at double-speed. Her heart pounded in fear and revulsion. She leaned in closer to Adriano, his comforting solidity managing to calm her and provide her with the courage she lacked in this odd city.

Min fadlak,” said a robed man, indicating his wares. 

Manuela instinctively shrunk from his attentions, but Adriano stepped closer, examining the delicate lamps shining in the dark marketplace. Their intricate patterns cast colorful, elaborate illuminations through inky night sky. Even she could recognize its mystic beauty.

Kam else’er?” said Adriano.

The two men began haggling over the price, and Manuela stood silently, a spectator to the show. Life was a spectacle here, but one she took no pleasure in observing. 

Three days into her holiday in Marrakech, Manuela felt only anxious and confused. The streets were too narrow. She had to remain vigilant not to step in the droppings left behind after the donkey carts passed. There were too many people pressed too closely together. People stood so close when they spoke to you. Adriano told her it was rude to step back, but she couldn’t help herself. The yells in Arabic sounded harsh and threatening to her ears. The sights and sounds, the colors and smells were too exotic. 

Manuela could only relax when they returned to their riad in the evening, though even there she could not completely escape the lingering sense of foreignness. The wooden keyhole doors were too small, and she kept bumping her head on their frame. The sweet smell of spices filled the apartment with a cloying scent she was unable to banish, even after opening the windows for long periods of time in the hopes of airing the room. 

She would step into the shower and rinse the city’s dirt and grime from her body, before enveloping her skin in a soft robe. When Adriano pushed her gently down to the bed, a sense of familiarity would calm her, and she could temporarily forget all about the stresses of this chaotic city.

Yet each morning she felt drained and exhausted once again, unable to face another day, desperate to return home, where things were safe and familiar. She longed to hear Italian spoken in the squares, to enter a restaurant and know that familiar foods were on the menu, to be capable of conversing with the shopkeepers. 

To belong.

But what could she do? Adriano seemed to thrive in this new environment. He craved exotic places. Where had he learned to count in Arabic? He and the hawker were aggressively shouting figures back and forth, and she saw the spark of excitement in Adriano’s eyes. For her, this city was hell on earth. For him, an exotic tale out of Arabian Nights

She breathed in deeply once again, attempting to quell the panic attack she could feel working its way through her body. The hawkers came closer with their oils and their soaps and their leather slippers. She closed her eyes and suppressed the desire to scream.

Back home, her days were spent cutting through the red tape of property purchases in Tivoli and placating demanding clients. Her hard-earned vacation was supposed to relax her, not cause greater stress. 

She’d begged Adriano to go back to the Sardinian resort they’d visited this past spring, with its well-designed bungalows, soft, white sand beaches, perfectly ordered rows of umbrellas and beach chairs, and crystalline waters beckoning just before them. 

Just smelling the salt air caused a sense of well-being to wash over her body. She’d thought Adriano would book the tickets for the resort, as they discussed. It was charged to her account, after all. Instead, he stopped off at her house with two tickets to Marrakech.

“You’re going to love it,” he said, kissing her on the neck. “It will be an adventure. I swear, you’ll never want to come back to Italy.”

She sighed. Not wanting to return to Italy wasn’t the problem. It was Morocco where she never wished to set foot again.

Excerpt #2: Balinese Traditions
THE WARM AIR OF THE TERMINAL hit Giovanna’s face as she exited the plane. Walking toward the baggage collection, she saw her reflection in the mirror. Her lean frame, long, dark hair and olive skin contrasted with Pietro’s robust build, blond hair, and rosy skin. The juxtaposition caused her to smile. 

They didn’t belong together. 

That’s what every confused stranger’s glance telegraphed to her before asking if the boy was her son. Some simply assumed she was the nanny, telling her how adorable her charge was. 

Back when Jake was beside her, no one asked those questions.

Pietro’s tiny hand clutched hers anxiously. His body pressed close to her leg as she made her way to the visa counter. These past months, he never let Giovanna out of his sight, even to go to the bathroom. He crawled into her bed night after night. Exhausted as she was, she never had the energy–or the heart, really–to insist he return to his own room. She couldn’t bear to add to the young boy’s suffering.

“Two visas, please,” she said to the uniformed woman behind the counter. “I don’t have any rupiah. Do you take euro?”

“Yes. Forty euro.”

Giovanna took the visas the woman handed her in exchange for the bills, then made her way to passport control, followed by a long wait at the baggage carousel. As they waited, Pietro’s eyes grew larger and increasingly worried. His lips trembled; tears threatened to burst from his eyes.

“Oh, amore. It’s been a long flight. You must be exhausted.” She knelt down and stroked his cheek. “As soon as we collect our bags, we’ll find the taxi outside waiting to bring us back to the hotel. You’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.”

“I want our own house, mamma. Not a hotel. Why are we here?”

Why are we here, indeed? Hadn’t she asked herself the very same question, at least a million times? If her own doubts weren’t enough, there were those of her parents and her sister, her colleagues, her neighbors. No one could understand it. Not even Pietro. 

She looked deep into those clear, blue eyes, with their flecks of white around the pupils. Jake’s eyes. She sighed deeply. “It’s where we’re meant to be, tesoro.” She forced a smile. “You’ll love it. I promise.”

A few minutes later, dragging two suitcases behind her and managing long strides despite Pietro clinging to her, she emerged from the humid terminal into the sweltering day. Hundreds of Indonesian faces stood before her, each with a placard bearing a name. Panic welled up inside of her. She looked frantically around the solid wall of unfamiliar name cards, seeking out her own as the pressure on her leg grew tighter. When she glanced down, she saw the tears streaming unchecked down Pietro’s soft cheeks. 

“Okay, we came. Now can we go home, mamma?”

WOMEN WASHED CLOTHES in roadside streams. Bare-breasted women worked beside men in the rice paddies, flocks of ducks waddling or swimming around them. Wood carvers worked at makeshift workshops along the road’s edge. Women carried enormous baskets balanced precariously on their heads. Young children rode astride scooters that zipped dangerously between the cars. Giovanna screwed up her eyes each time one of the young boys attempted a dangerous swerve around moving vehicles.

She turned from the window to Pietro’s body extended across her lap. Exhausted from the jetlag and his tears, Pietro had fallen asleep just outside the Denpasar city limits. She stroked his blond locks absently. 

What on earth was she doing? Giovanna had made so many questionable decisions in the past months, but on this trip, she had held firm. Jake had wanted this, and therefore, so did she. She screwed up her eyes as they barely passed a scooter driver before swerving back in—the driver no more than a day over nine years old.

Excerpt #3: Missed Connections
LAURA OFTEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT as she went about her housework. 

It was never obsessive, as in I can’t believe the opportunities I squandered when I had the chance. But a little voice lodged itself in the back of her mind and taunted her, causing her to question her decisions, before she sought to lose herself in the immediate tasks that kept her fingers busy and her mind concentrated.

It was better when the house was full of noise and activity, the nagging doubts held at bay.

Laura looked up from sewing Francesca’s end-of-school-year play costume. The old backpack lay at her feet. A long life of travel, decades-worth of train trips and flights, had finally caught up with it. Split at the seams, it revealed a crumpled piece of paper that had been slumbering deep within.

Earlier that morning, Laura smoothed the paper gently on her lap. A sob caught in her throat. Thick black letters, scrawled in a confident hand, caused her heart to beat faster. A name. A contact. A wish.

A light breeze tousled her hair. She looked up. Swallows hurtled through the blue sky, unmarred by even one cloud. Just like a similar May day on a train, so many years ago.

LAURA PRESSED HER FACE to the train window. Brunelleschi’s dome dwarfed the skyline, its red tiles distinct against the bright blue May sky.

Pietro had promised to take her to Florence that week, her first visit.

With her semester abroad in Brussels wrapping up, she’d come to visit him before her last weeks in Belgium and her return trip to Michigan. Now she wished she’d secured a summer internship in Europe, rather than her camp counselor job in Ann Arbor, yet again.

For Laura always erred on the side of caution, a shadow forty-year-old trapped inside an attractive twenty-year-old’s body. Even the year abroad seemed out of character, too adventuresome for the cautious woman she strove to be.

Everyone sensed it eventually. Her classmates, her friends, past boyfriends. Laura was bright and pretty, but eventually others tired of her for what she lacked: that spark, that effervescence she noticed in girls she longed to count as friends, and in men from whom she instinctively withdrew.

That absence of a spark attracted her to Pietro. No one would call Pietro wild or spontaneous. No danger lurked within. Pietro was a shadow forty-year-old, too, with the added benefit of being Italian, and thereby, exotic to Laura.

The train pulled into the Santa Maria Novella station. She watched the people scurrying on the busy platform. “Firenze,” she read aloud from the sign, trying to roll the “r.”

“Not bad,” said a voice beside her. “You must be here for Italian courses.”

She detected an Irish accent. A tall figure hoisted his bulging backpack to the overhead rack. With his back turned, she observed broad shoulders, sandy blond hair, and sinewy arm muscles straining with the effort. When he turned, his bright blue eyes caught her momentarily off-guard. A hint of danger.

Laura offered a tight smile and returned to the book that had fallen open in her lap.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Something tells me you’re headed to Prague. The border guards ask you if you’ve read it before they let you in.”

Laura met those eyes. She knew the type—the flirt, the dangerous one. “Yes, I’ll be going to Prague with some friends, but I didn’t know it was law. I’m sorry it’s such a cliché for you.” She narrowed her eyes. “Tell me, what does a worldly man such as you read while he’s on a train?”

He smiled sheepishly, producing a comic book.

Dylan Dog, I see. Perhaps you shouldn’t be lecturing others.” She flipped silently through its pages. “At least you get points for originality. It’s in Italian. Or do you just look at the pictures?”

His smile was slightly crooked. It made him even more handsome.

“No points. Mum’s Italian, so I’m Irish-Italian. It’s not really hard to read in my madrelingua. What’re you doing in Italy?”

“Visiting my boyfriend in Rome.”

“Ah … an Italian boyfriend. I never recommend that.” He offered the crooked smile once again. “Unless he’s Irish-Italian, of course.”

Laura couldn’t help but smile, too.

“I’m Riccardo.”

“Laura. Nice to meet you.”

“So where did you meet your Italian?”

Clearly Laura would get no reading done, but truth be told, the words had been swirling on the page the past hour. It had been a long trip; she didn’t mind company. “In Brussels during my semester abroad. Pietro was there for an EU accounting project.”

“You live for excitement, don’t you? You go to Brussels for your semester abroad and you find an accountant. Living life on the wild side, aren’t we?”

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Author Bio:

Kimberly grew up in the suburbs of Boston and in Saratoga Springs, New York, although she now calls the Harlem neighborhood of New York City home when she’s back in the US. She studied political science and history at Cornell University and earned her MBA, with a concentration in strategy and marketing, from Bocconi University in Milan.

Afflicted with a severe case of Wanderlust, she worked in journalism and government in the US, Czech Republic and Austria, before settling down in Rome, where she works in international development, and writes fiction any chance she gets.

She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and The Historical Novel Society and has published several short stories and three novels: Three Coins, Dark Blue Waves and In The Shadow of The Apennines.

After years spent living in Italy with her Italian husband and sons, she’s fluent in speaking with her hands, and she loves setting her stories in her beautiful, adoptive country.

Website / Goodreads / Instagram / Twitter / Bookbub


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