Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Italian Chronicles 3: Return to Bella Terra by Maryann Diorio - #review #giveaway

A mother, her son, and the man who threatens to come between them . . .

When Maria Landro Tonetta receives word that Mama is terminally ill, Maria travels to her Sicilian homeland with her son Nico. She finds herself yearning for the life she once knew as a child on Bella Terra, the family farm, now on the verge of bankruptcy. Caught between two worlds, Maria dreams of moving back to Sicily with her husband and children to save the farm. When Nico’s biological father unexpectedly appears at Mama’s funeral, Maria faces a new enemy to her dream. But is there an even greater enemy within her own soul?

“Each book in the Italian Chronicles series made me want to read the next one. Now I would like to see another spin-off series dealing with the next generation. The characters in MaryAnn Diorio’s book feel so real. They have flaws. They seek better relationships. They suffer and they rejoice. Just like us. There are people in their lives who help strengthen their faith, and there are those who undermine their faith. In this third book, Maria has to face letting go of many things, and only through seeking God first can she do that. Along with messages of faith and family, Return to Bella Terra takes you to Italy, and the vicarious experience is wonderful. Diorio sprinkles just enough Italian words (in italic) throughout the text to give you the sense of being there. You can smell the food, hear the music, and see the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend this series and any other books written by MaryAnn Diorio.” – Claudia Cuddy, Former Professor of Communications



When life presents you with problems, you can best them, or be bested by them.  Maria Landro Tonetta has been having them for years, from the time she was raped by Don Franco, a local priest.  She became pregnant and was ostracized by the local townfolk as a 'fallen woman'.  Her son, once at the village school, taught by you-know-who, was taunted with calls of 'bastard' from his classmates.  Long-time customers of her family's vinyard stop doing business with them.

One bright spot is her relationship with Luca Tonetta.  First, he gave her a job when no one else would.  They got married and added two daughters to their family.  Then they moved to America to find those 'streets paved with gold'.  Together they raised their children in an over-crowded, infested tenement in NYC.  They suffered the same discrimination that most to all Italian immigrants were subject to at that time.

Finally, in Return to Bella Terra, Maria is called home as her mother is dying.  They can barely scrape together enough for her ticket, let alone one for Luca.  Nico saves the day by offering to use his savings to go with his Mama.  They make it back to Sicily and Mama's bedside with two short days to spare.

This opening really struck an emotional cord with me, as a few years back, I travelled from Kentucky to Utah to see my dying mother.  My last words to her were, "I love you, Mom.  God loves you."  Two weeks after I had to return home, she passed.  Reading Maria's story brought those memories back again (in a good way).

Dr. Diorio's words elegantly express the soul-withering lives of the poor in general (and non-WASP immigrants in particular) in the America of that era.  (I'll use that old saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same" here, and stop at that.)  It almost hurt to read at certain points, but I couldn't put the book down.

Luckily there was a return to Sicily to also write about.  The land was slowy but surely renewing itself, bringing with it a kindred repair to Sicily's economy.  Even more than that, it provided Maria with some much needed soul food - returning to her childhood home and digging her toes in the earth, as it were.

I would LOVE to prattle on about the rest of the story, but that would do a disservice to the author, and to you, the readers, who have yet to experience this amazing saga for yourselves.  After reading The Italian Chronicles (1-The Madonna of Pisano; 2-A Sicilian Farewell; and 3-Return to Bella Terra), I feel positively renewed!


A young woman, a priest, and a secret that keeps them bitterly bound to each other…

A horrifying encounter drags soon-to-be-married Maria Landro into the shocking world of religious corruption and an unrelenting village code of honor that threatens to rob her of everything she holds dear. Shunned by the very people who should have embraced her, she withdraws into the confines of Bella Terra, her family’s farm, and remains there for several years…until she is forced to leave to ensure the formal education of her son. In a desperate attempt to protect her child from vicious tongues and malicious hate-mongers and her family farm from bankruptcy, she determines to seek vengeance against the one who ruined her life. But when Luca Tonetta enters her life, she learns a powerful lesson about forgiveness and grace.

“Beautifully written historical novel. Excellent characters, dramatic plot. Beautifully written, giving wonderful feeling for the setting in place and time. Emotionally intense situations, satisfying resolution. Among the two or three best novels I have read this year. Highly recommended.” – Dr. Donn Taylor, Author & Former University Professor of Literature


A young man, a new land, and a dream that threatens to destroy him and his family . . .

The dream of a better life for himself and his family drives Luca Tonetta to the American Promised Land with his wife of five years, Maria Landro Tonetto, and their three children. But the new Promised Land is nothing like what Luca had imagined. Forced to live in a roach-infested tenement house in the seedy section of Brooklyn, he faces the hardships, prejudice, and slanderous assaults of an Italian immigrant torn between two worlds. When Luca is accused of a crime he did not commit, he learns that a dream must first die before it can live.

“Such lovely writing–and an even lovelier story! Author MaryAnn Diorio takes her readers on a courageous journey, from the ancient romance of the Old Country to the perils and possibilities of the New Country. Well developed characters and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished this enjoyable read.” – Kathi Macias, Award-Winning Author



Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her books for both adults and children consistently receive excellent reviews for their content and their style. MaryAnn holds the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Dominic, a retired physician. They are the blessed parents of two awesome daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren. When not writing, MaryAnn loves to read, to paint, and to make up silly songs for her grandchildren.

For more information, please visit MaryAnn Diorio’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.




Click on the banner above to go to the tour page, where you will find links to more reviews of each book in .The Italian Chronicles.  You can also find out how to BECOME A  BLOG HOST FOR FUTURE BOOK TOURS while you are here!

(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the author, via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)


  1. My heartfelt condolences, LuAnn, on the passing of your Mom. I lost my Mom back in 2008 and can relate to your experience.

    Thank you so very much for taking time out of your busy life to read and review my stories. I am so glad that they blessed you.

    Warmest regards,

    MaryAnn Diorio

    1. That's so interesting that you make up silly songs for your grandchildren. I made up one for my daughter who spent 3 wks in the hospital as a preemie. These days I try to tell a story from when she was very young, she rolls her eyes and says, "How long is /this/ one going to be?" *lol*

    2. Hi, LuAnn,

      Only today (May 5th) did I read your comment above. So sorry I didn't see it sooner. Anyway, I was delighted to learn that you, too, make up silly songs for your children. It's great fun, no?

      Blessings to you!


  2. Thanks so much for hosting MaryAnn's blog tour & for your review!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

    1. I was thrilled to find out, Amy, that there was a virtual book tour company that concentrated on historical fiction! It's like being in the best museum in the world and finding a new treasure around every corner!