Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Loving Lucianna by Joyce DiPastena


Sir Balduin de Soler gave up long ago on love. He never had the means to support a wife until an unexpected advancement in his fifties allows him to reassess his future just as the lovely Lucianna enters his life.

Lucianna Fabio harbors a secret, painful memory from her past that has kept her unwed, as well. Now in her forties, she thought herself too old to marry until she meets Sir Balduin. Now suddenly their lonely autumn lives feel very much like spring again . . . until Lucianna’s brother appears without warning and threatens to revive the secret that will destroy Lucianna’s second chance at love.



Much like the scripts of plays, (which are my first literary love), Loving Lucianna has a 'cast of characters' at the beginning.  And the chapters indicate a location and year.  Both these are quite valuable for keeping order in one's thoughts when reading this enchanting book.  

A few of the characters have been mentioned or appear in previous works by this author, Loyalty's Web and Illuminations of the Heart, but it does not seem to be a series in the traditional sense.  Even so, this first taste of DiPastena's work leaves me wanting more.

Ms. DiPastena's prose is as rich as the fabrics used in a Middle Ages ladies' gown.  You know the kind you see at Renaissance Faires or in a Shakespeare play, and makes you sigh with delight when you run your fingers over it.

And, I must admit that being a 'woman of a certain age' myself, I like reading something where a woman in her 40's (which, back in those days was practically old age) can find a first romance is very heartening.

There is romance and danger, as well as secrets from the past and other mysteries in this well-rounded novel.  Loving Lucianna will appeal to people who enjoy well-written books, and especially fans of historical fiction and the Middle Ages.



Joyce DiPastena dreamed of green medieval forests while growing up in the dusty copper mining town of Kearny, Arizona. She filled her medieval hunger by reading the books of Thomas B. Costain (where she fell in love with King Henry II of England), and later by attending the University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in history, specializing in the Middle Ages. The university was also where she completed her first full-length novel…set, of course, in medieval England. Later, her fascination with Henry II led her to expand her research horizons to the far reaches of his “Angevin Empire” in France, which became the setting of her first published novel, Loyalty’s Web (a 2007 Whitney Award Finalist).

Joyce is a multi-published, multi-award winning author who specializes in sweet medieval romances heavily spiced with mystery and adventure. She lives with her two cats, Clio and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, in Mesa, Arizona.



1.  Where was your author picture taken?

At a book signing I did at the Arizona Renaissance Festival a few years ago. Usually I dress casually when I go “just for the day”, but I dressed up for the book signing. Such fun!

2.  What draws you to the medieval period of history?

People are always asking me that, and I never have a really good answer for them. I’ve always been interested in history, from ancient to pre-Industrial time periods. My mother had a set of World Book encyclopedias when I was a child, and I remember opening the M volume many times to the “Middle Ages” and looking at the pictures, so even when I was young, something clearly drew me to that era. Still, when I started college and decided to major in history, I began fairly open minded about what period most interested me, and yet again, I found myself most drawn to the classes on the Middle Ages. It helped that they were taught by a fantastic professor, Dr. Thomas Parker. I took all the classes on the subject I could find. And when I began dabbling with a new story during those same years, I set it in the Middle Ages and the more I researched for the story I was writing, the more I continued to fall in love with the time period. That story turned out to be the first full-length novel I ever completed (I’d started but never finished many stories before then). It wasn’t very well written at the time, but I always loved the plot of that novel. Last year I pulled it out and vastly revised it, using all the writing skills I’ve developed since those inexperienced college days, and I finally plan to publish it in 2015 as a romantic historical titled The Lady and the Minstrel.

3.  What is the difference between a historical romance and a romantic historical novel?

The difference, in my mind, is whether the focus of the story is mainly on the romance (historical romance) vs a story with strong romantic elements but the romance may not be the main focus or may only be one of multiple focuses of the story (romantic historical). Loving Lucianna is a historical romance. My next medieval novel, The Lady and the Minstrel, which will come out in 2015, has a strong romance in it, but the romantic relationship is not the sole important relationship that develops in the story. It also deals with a larger historical issue (the class system as defined by the medieval manorial economic system) than simply trying to get the hero and heroine together in the end. Although I do manage to pull that off in the story, too. ☺

4.  One of your cats has a short name and one has a rather long name.  How'd that happen?

Clio is named for the Greek Muse of history. I was hoping she might be my writing muse, but when I got her as a kitten she just seemed more interested in biting and scratching, so the “muse” thing never really worked out. (Still love her, though!) My second cat was a Maine Coon kitten when I got him. He was so fluffy and something about his coloring reminded me of one of those furry Russian hats the dancers wear in the Nutcracker ballet. I’d been listening to a lot of Russian classical music at the time so I decided to name him after a Russian composer. First I tried Rimsky-Korsakov, but after awhile, he didn’t look like a Rimsky-Korsakov to me, so I switched his name to Glinka, another Russian composer. My sister, who was with me when I got him, kept insisting she liked Rimsky-Korsakov better than Glinka, so I finally compromised and said I’d let him keep both names. So technically he’s Glinka Rimsky-Korsakov, but I usually just call him Glinka.

5.  Does your faith affect your writing and if so, how?

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my Christian belief system affects my writing inasmuch as it helped me decide that I wanted to keep my stories clean. No on-the-page sex scenes, no premarital sex between my hero and heroine, no profanity, no graphic violence. Clean doesn’t have to equal “boring,” however. I try to include lots of adventure and mystery, as well as lots of romantic tension, to draw a reader in and keep them reading to the end.

6.  Where is the Arizona Renaissance Festival held?

It’s held about 15 minutes from the edge of Mesa, Arizona, where I live, but it can take you a good 45 minutes to get there because it’s so popular, the traffic is always quite heavy. It’s held for 8 weekends (plus Presidents Day) every February and March and it’s like disappearing into another world when you get there. Everyone (except for some of us lazy spectators) dresses up in Medieval and Renaissance period costume. The rides are all “people powered”, the shows are all “live,” and the shops—well, fortunately they do accept Lady Visa and Master of the Card for purchases, but it’s easy to forget that little bit of modern magic in the otherwise festival atmosphere. It’s truly one of the highlights of my year because it gives me one day to escape from the stresses of the 21st century and disappear into a simpler time. I always leave with a sigh and a big smile on my face.

7.  In which of your stories could you most see yourself living? 

That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child. I love all of my stories equally and could be happy to live (temporarily) in all of them. (I’d want to come home and sleep in my 21st century bed at night though!)

8.  Which historical figure from the Middle Ages would you most like to meet?

I’ve always been fascinated with King Henry II of England. He’s best known in popular culture for his conflict with Thomas Becket, his turbulent marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his conflicts with his sons. But his contemporaries described him as a man who hated war, even though he constantly seemed to be fighting them. (And almost always prevailing, until the end when he became old and ill.) He was jealous of his royal prerogatives, yet he shunned the personal trappings of power. He had a towering temper, yet was described as allowing himself to be patiently pushed and pulled by common people who came to him with petitions. Obviously, a man of huge and fascinating contradictions. But what I admire about him the most is that he seemed to be a king who wasn’t content to just sit around and enjoy the power that came with his title. He tried to use that power to actually improve the lives of the people he ruled, mostly through legal reforms that he instituted. He tried to leave England better than he found it, and most honest historians will agree that in that aspect, he succeeded. That’s the kind of king I would like to meet.

9.  Who is/are your writing influences?

In other interviews that ask me this question, I’ve mentioned Regency author Georgette Heyer. Although I never wanted to write a Regency, I read her so much beginning around junior high school that I know, stylistically, I patterned a lot of my early writing attempts on the way she wrote. But I’m going to share with you another influence that I very rarely confess to anyone. Comic books! I grew up reading DC, and later Marvel comic books: The Fantasitc Four, Spiderman, the Avengers, and Thor were some of my favorites. It took me a long time to realize how much this type of reading influenced my writing, but many years later I looked back and realized that not only had I learned a lot about pacing from reading comic books, the theme of “good vs evil” that is (or at least, was then) at the center of every good superhero comic undoubtedly influenced the “good vs evil” themes that I just instinctively started including in my novels when I began writing them. I still can’t write a good story that doesn’t have a villain in it somewhere. That didn’t come from Georgette Heyer. That came from all the comic books I read as a child and teenager. So for anyone out there who thinks I write good villains, you can thank Marvel comics for teaching me how!

10.  What advice do you have for young writers?  

Find a story you love and really want to tell, because then you’ll write from your heart. Study books and blogs and articles on writing to learn good writing techniques. Because it’s not enough to have a great story to tell, you need to learn how to tell that story in the most effective manner so that others will enjoy reading it. Be prepared to make mistakes, know that there is a huge learning curve to learning “how” to write. Be patient. Don’t allow discouragement to derail your dreams. Don’t expect perfection all at once. When you’re starting out, know that you’re still learning and that the more you write the better you’ll get. Be prepared for failures, but have faith in your talent and give it time and room to grow. 


(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of this book from the author and publisher via Italy Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

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  1. What a beautiful review! Thank you so much for reading and spotlighting "Loving Lucianna"! I'm so happy you enjoyed it!