Three Coins by Kimberly Sullivan Genre: Women's Fiction, Romance
One Eternal City. Three women. Three wishes. Three coins.
Emma, an American expat living in Rome for twenty years, can’t count on her ex-husband to help out with the kids when things get tough. Dario Rinaldi, famed plastic surgeon to the stars, is too busy gallivanting around Europe with young women to take an interest in his family.
Beautiful Tiffany, born and bred in Iowa, is desperate to get a spot as a dancer on an Italian television show. But is she willing to do whatever it takes to make her dreams of TV stardom come true?
Annarita, from an Italian-American family in Yonkers, teaches English to over-privileged Italians and regularly has her heart trampled by boyfriends all wrong for her. As her mother is always quick to point out, nothing has gone right for her since she moved to Italy. And she isn’t getting any younger, either.
Emma, Tiffany and Annarita all meet up by chance at a 1950s movie night while on a restorative holiday at a beach resort off-season. The triumphs and hardships of these three very different women become intertwined as they form an unlikely friendship and work to better their messy lives.
The corners of Headmistress Green’s lips tilted upwards, but her stern grey eyes remained unconvinced. “I’m pleased to hear that. Too often, divorce can lead to decreased involvement by one of the parents. But in these cases, it’s our experience that two parents working in partnership can turn a situation like this around.” She stood, signaling the end of the meeting. Emma scrambled to her feet.
“I hope to hand Chiara her diploma on graduation day. Don’t hesitate to call me if you or Doctor Rinaldi have any concerns you wish to discuss.” Just shake hands with the woman and make it to the door without crying. She followed Mrs. Green to the door, her Prada heels clicking with each uncertain step. She blinked rapidly, a desperate attempt to stave off the tears. She offered a weak smile to Mrs. Green at the door, and another to the receptionist, before exiting the office and walking out of the building. The fresh air calmed her. It was a glorious autumn day, unseasonably sunny and warm for mid-October. The tourists were still wandering around the city’s historical center in shorts and tank-tops, wondering at the tropical temperatures compared to Stockholm, or London, or Hamburg. Usually, Emma was pleased to visit this campus, with its lush green yard and rolling hills, always finding it hard to believe this peaceful countryside was still, technically, a part of Rome. But today being on campus afforded her no pleasure. She hurried down the hill to the entrance gate as fast as her fashionable but impractical heels would carry her.Please don’t let me bump into Chiara or the twins.She kept her head low, as if that could mask her identity should her children cross her path on campus, on their way to lunch or gym class.
“Emma! Why, it’s been ages!” A voice rang out when she’d nearly reached the school gate. Emma turned on her heel to see a woman she knew had been one of Dario’s patients on more than one occasion. Her nose had been redone, her lips plumped, and cheek implants strained against artificially tight flesh.
“Margherita! What a pleasant surprise.” Emma stepped forward and kissed the woman on each silicone cheek. “It’s been ages. My fault. I need to contact you to see when I can help out with PTO activities. Isn’t the international luncheon coming up?” Margherita waved her hand, attempting a smile on skin that was no longer elastic. “Oh, that. We all do what we can. I know how hard it’s been for you, what with …” she lowered her voice. “The divorce.” The horrified expression accompanying her words would have been equally suitable for “your drug conviction” or “the mafia killings you ordered.” Divorce was surprisingly rare at the Fairmont School, as Emma was quickly learning. “Oh, it’s fine. I forget about it half the time.” Dragon Lady didn’t need to know the truth. Margherita sighed. “But still, so tragic. I always thought you were such a perfect couple. Although, I must admit,” she chuckled. “I never would have peggedyoufor a plastic surgeon’s wife. Although that was always part of Dario’s charm. He’s known for creating perfection on his patients, but never demanding it from his own wife.” A steady throbbing began behind Emma’s right temple. “I’m over it, really. Thank you for your concern.”
“I’m sure you are, my dear. Especially if Dario could … sweeten the pot, shall we say, with his departure. It’s important we hold them to their financial obligations, eh?” She winked. “But still, it’s a shame for Chiara. Lucrezia tells me how upset she is, how she always complains the divorce ruined her life.” She shook her head. “You know how dramatic teenagers can be.” Margherita stood, expectantly, her head tilted. Emma silently counted to five. “Thanks for your concern. It was tough for Chiara at first, but I think she’s starting to accept it.” Margherita’s lips formed a dainty little ‘o’. “That’s not what I heard. But I’m always behind on these things. How nice that everything is going swimmingly, and I’ve been misinformed.” There was a hard glint in her eyes. “Let’s be in touch for the international luncheon. Bye, Emma dear.” With quick kisses on the cheek, she turned on her heels and made her way up the slope to the school. Emma watched the receding figure, her head still spinning. A double whammy of Mrs. Green and Margherita. Surely, things couldn’t get any worse.
I write the women’s fiction stories I love to read, both contemporary and historic tales of women and the rich lives they lead along their journeys of self-discovery. A lifetime admirer and longtime resident of Italy, I’m often guilty of sneaking the bel paese into my stories.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a multi-character story, told though the perspective of three women thrown together by circumstance, who gradually become friends and learn to lean on one another to improve their lives. Emma, Tiffany and Annarita are three very different American expatriates living in Rome, Italy. As the novel opens, each is facing seemingly daunting challenges that find each woman at the breaking point.
Realizing the need to get away and regroup, each woman finds her way to a seaside resort close to Rome, thinking this will be an opportunity to retreat, reflect and return stronger.
Of course, November is a dead period for these seaside resorts and these women are the only tourists in town. They meet at their hotel at a 1950s movie night, featuring the classic Hollywood film “Three Coins in The Fountain”. I thought it would be fun to revisit this 1954 tale in modern Italy, with three American women seeking happiness, love and fulfilling lives in the Eternal City.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I loved writing my contemporary women’s fiction, Three Coins, but generally I write more historical fiction. I have my next two historical fiction novels scheduled for next year. My second novel, Dark Blue Waves (the title is a line in a poem by Lord Byron) is a time slip story that will be released in April 2022.
Janet Roberts is a young American woman studying nineteenth-century English literature, who can’t believe her good fortune when she’s accepted into a Jane Austen graduate seminar in Bath, England. She settles in among fellow seminar colleagues, content to live, eat and breathe Jane Austen.
Suffering an accident, Janet regains consciousness in her own room—back in Regency England. While desperately attempting to make sense of her dilemma, Janet treads a thin line between trying to blend into her new world and not being unmasked as the imposter she is.
This was great fun to write. I adore nineteenth-century literature and history, and I absolutely loved writing about a character familiar with the period, who should know better, but still manages to constantly get herself into trouble in her new world. There’s a lot for her to reflect upon in her new (old) world: friendship, customs, love, the role of women in the past, but in the end, it’s very much a story that recognizes how similar lives, hopes and dreams are – even across centuries. And there’s a pretty compelling love story, too.
My third novel is a dual timeline contemporary/historical novel set in Abruzzo, Italy, a mountainous region east of Rome. My historical timeline is set during WWI, a time of devastation and rapid change for the region. This novel is currently in editing and planned for release in autumn 2022.
What’s something quirky about you?
I’m not sure if it’s truly quirky, but I like to tell the story of how I wound up in Italy. I’ve always loved Europe and had visited and studied languages in European countries as I was growing up, but I first moved to Europe after college, working as a journalist in Prague, Czech Republic.
I remember sitting with a new friend, another young American woman, in one of the elegant art deco cafés I love so much in central and eastern Europe. Conversation turned to men and I remember we were both pretty adamant (as only twenty-year-olds can be) about the type of men we would never date. Embarrassing to admit it now, but topping both of our lists were Italians.
A few months later, my new friend started dating an Italian, who would go on to become her husband. A short time later, I followed in her footsteps, dating an Italian whom I later married. I’ve now lived in Italy for almost a quarter of a century, love Italy and feel fully at home here - and the bel paese tends to work its way into most of my stories.
My sons–obviously Italian themselves–always get a kick out of the story and about my absolute certainty that I would “never” date an Italian. So I tell them the moral of the story is, obviously, “Never say never.”
Anything specific you want to tell your readers about your novel?
Although parts of my novel take place in the Italian seaside town of Sperlonga and in hilltowns in Umbria, the bulk of the story is set in Rome, where all three characters live. In my story, there is a plaque that plays a small, supporting role–and inadvertently influences all three women.
When I started writing this novel, my family and I were living close to the Circo Massimo, where this plaque was located, and I passed it each day. My children and I wondered at its cryptic message “I was lost” and a twenty-first century date in Roman numerals. Like my sons and me, Annarita, one of my characters, discovers this plaque and wonders what it is and why it was placed there.
This plaque was too mysterious not to weave into my novel, where it serves as a reminder to all my characters as their lives are unfolding in ways they hadn’t envisioned.
Sadly, the plaque, which was obviously placed in that spot unofficially, has since been removed. I only have a photo of it. But I’m pleased I was able to memorialize it as a part of my story. And I loved that it played a small role in encouraging my characters to pursue their dreams.
Who designed your book cover?
Oooh, I love my cover design! I worked with amazingly talented artists and graphic artists Joanne Morgante and Roberto Magini of Maxtudio. I love how they fully captured the mood I wanted to convey with this story of three new friends in Rome. And, of course, it had to also succeed as a throwback to the 1954 film, with the Trevi Fountain front and center.
One of the great things about being an indie author is maintaining full control over the cover choice. While I am an embarrassingly bad artist myself (I never realized what a handicap that was until I had kids begging me to “Draw this! Draw that!” while I shifted into panic mode), I love art and graphic arts, so working with my designers was a dream. I love their bold colors, clean designs and their eye for great fonts.
We’re already at work on my second novel, and I’m so excited to collaborate with my favorite designers once again.
And yes, I fall firmly into the You-can-judge-a-book-by-its-cover camp. I tend to fall in love with covers for books I read.
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