Thursday, 8 March 2018

Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon + Giveaway

Waking Isabella: Because beauty can't sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads, one of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads, and featured in Cover Characteristics: Women In White

Category: Adult Fiction, 250 pages
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: December 2017
Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)

Where to buy this book:

Add Waking Isabella to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Italy Book Tours

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades.

Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness.

It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.

Waking Isabella is a lovely romance that benefits from being absolutely drenched in Italian sunshine and the good life of that culture. Melissa Muldoon obviously has a great love for Italy and Tuscany in particular and this love shines through her descriptions of Arezzo, especially her evocations of the people and their special festivals. I loved learning about the history of these jousting events and about Arezzo's connection with the famous Medici family. I could easily empathise with Muldoon's heroine Nora who is struggling to identify her place in the world. As readers we can see how perfectly suited she is to the Arezzo life, but making a huge life change such as emigrating to a new country isn't always so obviously a good idea when you're right in the middle of the decision. Of course, having someone like Luca to look forward to might help!

The romance between Nora and Luca builds well and convincingly. It isn't a bland instalove so I could appreciate how their past experiences made them both cautious. I wasn't always as convinced by Nora's imaginative leaps into the past. Uncovering the stories of Isabella and Margaret was interesting in themselves, but I wondered why Nora's friends never seemed concerned when she would suddenly drift away mid-conversation!

To read further reviews, please visit Melissa Muldoon's page on Italy Book Tours.

Watch the Trailer:

Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with Melissa: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 31, 2018
Win a paperback copy of Waking Isabella. One winner will also receive a $10 Amazon gift card (3 winners total / open internationally to wherever Amazon delivers)

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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Melissa Muldoon / Women's fiction / Books from America


  1. ohh a romance story in Italian culture! I lov those stories! I love anything Italian! :)

    1. I could really feel the Italian sun coming off the pages of this novel! Great sense of its setting :)

  2. Love that cover! That alone makes me want to read it...

    1. Cover designed and illustrated by the author.
      Some folks are just too talented!