"Deep in my heart, I know there’s no promise I’ll be free from trouble in this life. In fact, I’m usually either getting out of trouble, currently in trouble, or about to meet trouble around the next corner."...... I hope you'll stick around for my "Lucille Ball/Gracie Allen" adventures. It promises to be a wild ride.
A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband's death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either.
About the Author (from the author):
It began for me in 1954. Eisenhower was president, no one beat the Yankees, and Elvis was still an unknown. TV was three channels and two colors, black and white. Growing up, I didn't particularly like school. I liked baseball, egg rolls and comic books, and it was Superman that got me interested in reading and writing. Raised in New York and educated in Washington, I kept moving south after college, eventually learning all they left out at journalism school at the foot of street-smart newspaper editors in Florida and South Carolina. In 1985, one of those editors found me presentable enough to send back to D.C., this time as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune.
The job ended four years later, and I found myself in steep competition for a similar slot with the Charleston, S.C. paper. I remember pumping the Charleston editor's hand and pleading, "Please don't let me become a press secretary." The man was merciful, enabling nine more years of Washington reporting, and front row exposure to the real South, as Charleston is far deeper into Dixie than Tampa, geography be damned. As time wore on, my NY sensibilities blended with Southern convention to produce stories on intriguing topics such as public celebration of the Confederate flag, and segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond. It was a great time until Charleston ran out of cash and shuttered its one-man D.C. bureau.
Out in the cold, I – by this time a father of three ravenous, athletic, college-bound children – found warmth in a little known Federal agency. I began as a speechwriter and today head the web, new media, and graphics teams. Though Bella is my first real fiction, some thin-skinned politicians would say the stories I wrote about them were just as fabricated. In fact, no fiction bubbled up until I earned my license to write in the Johns Hopkins Master of Arts program in 2000. During this time, I also reentered the classroom at American University, my alma mater, and began teaching journalism classes. My insistence on clean, tight writing did no lasting harm to the three afore-mentioned children, now taxpaying adults in the fields of public relations, graphic design, and engineering. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the kids snuck secret help from their mom, Felicia Piacente, a special education administrator in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public School System.
“She was, as Frost said, an awakener, not a teacher. Now I am awake, alert even. I am not especially thrilled that my blissful sleep was disturbed. I was, to be sure, hibernating through life...Some creamy smooth women come armed like bear traps, treacherous, but not appearing so, lest you’re tempted to study one nose to tooth and get yourself snapped in two. Such blessed females are immune to the routine plagues...Women mutter Bitch; men murmur Baby…You know the kind of girl I’m talking about, and yes, of course there is a male version, and he’s just as predatory. My awakener, however, was a woman, and so it is her story, and mine, that I will tell.”
“Thirty-five Americans were killed by friendly fire in the Persian Gulf War, damned better than the 8,000 accidentally killed by fellow soldiers in Vietnam, and the 21,000 in World War II. Those were the official Pentagon estimates; the real numbers were probably higher.”
“There’s no such thing as a tidy newsroom. Narrow, half-filled spiral notebooks, old newspapers, personal knick-knacks and plastic coffee containers are everywhere. There’s also no decorum; when editors need something, they need it now and everyone know it, because the yelling as deadlines approach is nearly constant. Reporters, too, are not shy about speaking up to copy kids or the people they’re interviewing by phone. Think of a library and picture the opposite. When librarians have nightmares, they probably dream of newsrooms.”
"...used violence to achieve peace, a lesson he'd learned from his government."
“Canton Spivey had circled three items in red marker. The first said journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. The second, that journalists should remain free of associations and activites that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. The third circled item said journalists should abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
“Are you in violation, Danny?” I stared at the code I knew by heart…..
“Yes,” I said. “terrific story though, huh?”
“Yep, sure was.” ”
This book has it all. There is intrigue, cover-up, scandal, lust, and sex, and in the end, there is justice; but we must remember that justice is not always in the eye of the beholder.
I find it utterly fascinating (and sexy) that a man would write romance. It is like having a front row seat to their thoughts. No, this was not what the book was about, but I had to mention it because I am completely enthralled with the idea and I am curious as all get out. I want to read more romance written by men. I am captivated by the way their minds work. Now, with that being said, I need to write the rest of my review.
This book was like a day in the life of a reporter and the extremes he goes to get the one “big” story. Our government buries its bones and the reporters are like bloodhounds on its trail. As fast as cover-ups are constructed, the hounds are there sniffing around, digging up buried bones faster than the government can dig a hole.
I like a book that reminds me of what is important, and brings me back to the present when I’ve become too complacent with what is going on in the world.
Bella is a soldier’s wife, a soldier who lost his life to “friendly fire.” And, to compound the tragedy, the Army lied about it. She is a young wife and mother, whose determination and cunningness helps to uncover the truth about her husband’s death. Bella hones in and seduces the reporter she has handpicked to break the story about her husband’s death. She is not above using sex, tears, playfulness, or her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the reporter is consumed by her intoxicating presence. Danny falls in love with Isabel, only to find out that Isabel has shut down emotionally, vowing never to be hurt again. And, as his marriage crumbles, he is fired from the job he loves.
Together, the two of them will uncover the secrets surrounding her young husband’s death, while giving you insight in to the workings of our government and newspaper life.
The book leaves you questioning the true number of our men and women who have lost their lives serving our country under similar circumstances, only to have the government call it “friendly fire.” Steve Piacente does an outstanding job of weaving the intricacies of love, life, newspaper, and government into a story that is so believable, you forget you are reading fiction. It is also evident that a lot of research went into the writing of this book so that an authentic story could be told. This is an outstanding book and one worth reading.
Please tell the readers a little about yourself.
I was raised in New York, educated in Washington, and kept moving south after college, eventually learning all they left out at journalism school from street-smart newspaper editors in Florida and South Carolina. In 1985, one of those editors found me presentable enough to send back to D.C., this time as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. The job ended four years later, and I wound up as D.C. reporter for the Charleston, S.C. paper. It was great until Charleston ran out of cash and shuttered its one-man D.C. bureau. Out in the cold, I - by this time a father of three ravenous, athletic, college-bound children - found warmth in a little known Federal agency called the U.S. General Services Administration. I began as a speechwriter and today head the agency’s web, new media, and graphics teams. I also teach journalism classes at American University, where I earned my BA in communications. (I also hold a Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University.) My wife is a special education administrator in the Montgomery County (MD) Public School System, and we have three adult children in the fields of public relations, art therapy, and engineering.
Where did the idea for Bella come from?
Over a long reporting career, I covered several tragic events, including the murder of Adam Walsh in Hollywood, FL. I have always been interested in how people respond to profound grief I have seen some survivors withdraw to the point of near-invisibility, and others channel their sorrow into furious action that in some cases impacted public policy. In the Walsh case, parents John and Reve turned their grief into action by lobbying the state legislature in Tallahassee to pass tougher child protection laws. I’m also interested in how people act when faced with tough ethical choices – essentially what people do when no one is watching. The action in Bella is driven largely by ethical decisions key characters make on the battlefield and in the bedroom.
What would you say was the most challenging part of writing Bella?
Bella herself was the hardest character to create because she is so complex. She is striking on the outside, dreadful on the inside, at least sometimes. She is loving yet cold, mysterious and yet predictable. The tragedy that befalls her causes profound grief and reshapes her personality. That’s tough to pull off in a novel because readers are quick to draw conclusions about characters. In the end, I view her as complex but flawed, with many admirable traits.
Do you think your story will touch others or anger them?
All writers want to provoke a reaction. I think some will be touched and some will be angered. Mostly, I hope readers will find an entertaining escape from their daily lives in Bella, but also think about the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either. These are lessons that reporter Patragno learns in painful fashion.
If you were in Dan's place, would you have revealed the truth?
That’s close to a trick question, because I don’t think I ever would have gotten myself in Dan’s position. Dan violates cardinal rules on the job and at home; there are consequences for such actions, and he knows his day of reckoning is coming. All that said, I think I would have – just as he did – found a way to reveal the truth.
Did you ever think about alternate endings between Dan & Isabella?
I’ll start by saying I did not know how the story would end when I began writing the book. I like to interview my characters. As I was writing Bella, I frequently interrupted myself to put together several written questions for the main characters. Then I tried to answer each question in the character’s voice. This often took me in unexpected and hopefully interesting directions. I think the story could have ended differently, but I don’t think Dan and Bella could have ever wound up living happily ever after. We know what happens with Dan, but Bella still must work through her grief and try to resume a normal life. She still has a long way to go.
Will Dan be back in another novel?
Dan is back in a prequel to Bella that is called Bootlicker. In one of his first assignments, rookie reporter Dan stumbles on a dark, decades-old secret. Two boys, he learns, were planning to sneak a few beers in the woods. They knew to be careful; 1959 was no year for underage black kids to be caught drinking in rural South Carolina. Before the first sip, they came to a clearing. A black man was on his knees, surrounded by white men in robes. One shed his mask – the local judge. One of the boys bolted. The other, Ike Washington, froze. Reporter Patragno learns that Judge Mac McCauley weighed things in that fateful moment and offered young Ike a choice; join the man about to die, or begin hustling the black support McCauley needed to advance in state politics. In trade, Ike would enjoy a life of power and comfort. Decades later, with Dan on the story, McCauley is a U.S. senator and Ike is poised to become the first black congressmen from South Carolina since Reconstruction. Instead, he winds up in the same forest where the hanging took places years earlier, a long rope in hand. The night is noisy, but all he hears is the name his rivals have bestowed upon him: Bootlicker.
Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review.
No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post.
Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.
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