In The Shadow of The Apennines

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Pub Date 21 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2023

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An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess.

Separated by a century, united by common dreams

The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and disastrous university career. Eager for a fresh start, Samantha begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway.

At first, the mountain retreat appears idyllic, but an outsider’s clumsy attempts at breaking into the closed mountain community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover Samantha’s snarky blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants.

Increasingly isolated in her mountain cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and a survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates the two women, Samantha feels increasingly drawn into Elena’s life, and discovers startling parallels with her own.

An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess.

Separated by a century, united by common dreams

The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her...

Advance Praise

“A poignant and hopeful story of one woman’s search for herself.”-Kirkus Reviews

"An emotionally nuanced thrill ride. Sullivan’s poignant latest novel delivers kaleidoscopic settings and a heartfelt coming-of-age story. The novel succeeds as both a contemporary fiction and a thoughtfully told story of a heartbroken woman trying to come to terms with the new circumstances of her life. A tale of heartbreak, grief, courage, and self-realization that will resonate with many."-The Prairies Review

"A compelling literary work. Sullivan’s novel is romantic in the way only foreign travel can be, with the prose beautifully describing the sights and sounds of Italy, as well as unveiling the captivating story of two women’s seemingly disparate lives woven together across time." -Self-Publishing Review

"From the start, Sullivan’s remarkable storytelling drew me in and had me hooked to the end. The story is filled with delightful descriptions of Italian culture, the breathtaking Apennine Mountains, and details about the hardworking, courageous people who have called Abruzzo home for centuries. This is an unforgettable story about hope, finding the strength to face the past,  and embracing new beginnings."-Readers’ Favorite

"In author Kimberly Sullivan's newest novel, Samantha Burke unearths comfort and solace in Italy's idyllic towns and cultures and an awe-inspiring journal of fortitude and adversity. A fascinating fiction with resonant themes."-Feathered Quill Review 

“A poignant and hopeful story of one woman’s search for herself.”-Kirkus Reviews

"An emotionally nuanced thrill ride. Sullivan’s poignant latest novel delivers kaleidoscopic settings and a heartfelt...

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ISBN 9781737729389
PRICE $4.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 38 members

Featured Reviews

Five stars! Italy, NY, starting a new life, finding a century old journal, being transported into the journal all lead to this amazing book. She has rich descriptions interwoven with captivating dialogue. I highly recommend this book! Thank you to NetGalley for the copy to read.

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I highly enjoyed this read. The writing flows beautifully and the ending solidified the love that I have for the romantic Italian story. I hope to follow the next books from this writer, they have captured my heart.

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Thank you to NetGally and the author for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES by Kimberly Sullivan is a women's fiction novel set in modern day and flashes back via journals to an Italian shepherdess's life about 100 years in the past. There's an incredible parallel between these two women, and the journals serve to comfort the protagonist after the many mistakes and tribulations she suffers.

The protagonist, Samantha Thorpe, is seeking a life reset after her recent divorce and dismissal from her job at the university at which she met her husband who is now a big shot professor. Through flashbacks, we see what she's experienced and how much it has hurt her. She buys a small home in the mountain town of Marsicano to escape and start anew, perhaps with a writing career. But the words don't come.... at first.

What you should know about this story is that it will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride, in the best sense. At times, I felt sympathy for Samantha, but sometimes I'd feel frustrated with her decisions, then come around again to sympathy, and even protectiveness. There are not many books that can make me run through such a wide range of emotions, and I applaud Ms. Sullivan for her skills in that area.

My favorite part of the novel is when Samantha discovers and reads Elena's diaries. It happens in the latter half of the novel, so stick with Samantha's story because the payoff when you get to the diaries is worth the pages the author dedicated to getting you there. The diaries keep Samantha company during a difficult and isolating part of her journey. Elena's story drew me (and Samantha) in, and I found myself cheering for this young shepherdess. What a compelling story within a story! There's romance, tragedy, and family and town politics to keep up the interest and the tension.

Ms. Sullivan's attention to detail and lush descriptions made me feel emersed in the novel. Whether we were on a college campus, or in the shadow of the Apennines, it impressed me how well the author knows her settings. They came alive for me, and I really enjoyed that.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES is an escape into a beautiful mountain village in Italy, with lush descriptions and a satisfying main character arc. Come for the emotional rollercoaster ride, stay for the escape into historic Italy.

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I went on a long and engaging journey. It was beautiful and just the right book during this cozy weather.
Discovering who and what you can do is the pivotal part and there was something about novels that give you wonder and the breeze of thoughts and whirlwind of emotions. But what will stay with me is the place and the immersion it gave. I would love to read more from the author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Although the various plots of this novel are not always as fluid and smoothly connected as they might be, there is something enticing about the different characters and their personal growth and search for strong relationships. Kimberly Sullivan, thoroughly comfortable with the striking imagery and the beautiful settings of the Italian Alps, is able to weave romance, tragedy, politics, and culture into the story of Samantha, Elena, Michael, and the villagers. Sullivan's ability to connect characters who are many decades apart but who share similar goals and dreams is deftly drawn. I found the history of the villagers and the inevitable war into which many of them are drawn to be an important backdrop to the story. Samantha's tale has the texture and wonder that comes from dropping the protagonist into a foreign and new environment. This book went quickly and enjoyably for me, and I appreciated all the pieces of plot from which this book is created. Most of all, I learned from Elena's adventures and from Samantha's appreciation of Elena's adamantine character how two women from entirely different eras can become close.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

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In The Shadow of The Apennines by Kimberly Sullivan is a women's fiction novel about overcoming challenges that one faces throughout their life. After her husband leaves her for a younger women and she loses her job at the university, Samantha flees to Marsicano, a town situated in the mountains of Abruzzo in Italy. She is eager to start her writing again, which she set aside many years prior for her husband. While fixing up the cottage that she buys, she stumbles upon a diary written by a young shepherdess over a 100 years ago. As she reads through her diary, she discovers a lot of similarities between their lives. Reading through the grief, trials, and tribulations that she goes through in her young life, Samantha finds courage and strength to conquer her own and create a life that she truly loves.

This book will leave you feeling so many different emotions at once. At times I sympathized with Samantha. Other times her choices confused me. And yet other times I was balling my eyes out. Samantha's and the young shepherdess' stories tugged at my heartstrings. They both go through so many struggles, but always find a way through it. Also, the way that Kimberly Sullivan describes each settings is impeccable. As the reader, you feel like you are a part of these places and not just reading words on a page. I especially loved the descriptions of Marsicano and its beautiful scenery. And the characters occasionally speaking in Italian made me feel like I was in Italy myself.

Anyone who has ever had something unexpected change how they saw their life going, will relate in some way to this inspiring story of overcoming life's obstacles. I cannot recommend this book enough. Thank you so much to Kimberly Sullivan and NetGalley for a digital ARC for review. I can't wait for this book to release in a couple of weeks on October 21, 2022!

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Set in the rugged Apennine mountains of northern Italy, Kimberly Sullivan deftly weaves a dual timeline tale of an American woman's escape there after a soul-crushing divorce and an Italian shepherdess' struggle to survive love and loss after a devastating earthquake strikes the same town during WWI.

In the course of settling into her new home and life far from contemporary US academia, Samantha, the modern-day protagonist, stumbles across the diary of Elena, the young Italian woman who lived in her stone cottage a century earlier. The emotional journeys of the two women become increasingly parallel as Samantha discovers more and more about the events that shaped Elena’s life. Love and loss are just as joyous and heartbreaking regardless of the time period in which they are experienced.

I loved Samantha’s alternating feelings of belonging and anomie in her new home – Sullivan’s ability to pen Samantha uprooting herself from all she has known – felt absolutely spot-on. At the same time, Elena’s life during the ‘War on Snow and Ice’ period of Italian involvement in WWI appealed to my abiding interest in all things WWI. Definitely one to re-read when I need to escape my own life and revisit an Italian mountain village.

Thank you to Kimberly Sullivan and NetGalley for the opportunity to review In the Shadows of the Apennines.

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Highly recommend this book. I read it in a day and was completely engrossed. This is my third book by Kimberly Sullivan, and she has an amazing ability to immerse you in a different setting and ambiance and time period. This one takes you to an Italian mountain village nowadays and back in 1914.

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In the Shadow of the Apennines transported me straight to village life in Abruzzo, Italy and made me feel like I had known the characters all my life. I became quickly invested in their stories and that feeling only increased the more I read! The book follows Samantha, who has just lost her university job and her husband of 25 years (to a younger woman). In hopes of healing her heartbreak and re-igniting her writing career, she moves to a small town in Abruzzo, Italy and tries to settle into rural village life while still haunted by her past. After running afoul of the locals, she is effectively shunned and secluded in her small mountain cottage. It’s then that she finds the hidden journals of Elena, a 16 year old peasant girl navigating the harsh rural life and struggling with poverty on the eve of World War I. Samantha becomes fully engrossed in Elena’s story (I did too!), which although separated by a century, has shocking similarities to her own.

Beware that the book’s synopsis is quite deceiving, as it focuses on Samantha finding Elena’s journals, which doesn’t happen until past the halfway mark. This can leave you trying to speed through to get to “the crux” of the story, but that does a huge disservice to the first half of the book, as the flashbacks of Samantha’s life and marriage and the chapters of her settling into village life and meeting the local cast of characters are great and integral to the story.

P.s. I’m hoping for a sequel!

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I picked up this delightful book on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was instantly transported into beautiful Italy!

When Samantha, an American divorcee, flees from her failed marriage and ruined career, she decides to start a new life in Italy. She purchases a stone cottage, starts renovations, and totally immerses herself into village life as she awaits inspiration for her writing. Soon however, she needs money and she resorts to writing a sarcastic blog poking fun at the people who live in the village. When everyone turns their backs on Samantha she is forced into isolation. She finds a diary that once belonged to a young woman who lived in the cottage over 100 years ago. Samantha reads the diary and soon becomes totally engrossed in another world as she discovers that the writer of the diary was on a similar path!

I really enjoyed this author’s writing style. I loved the descriptions of Italy, the food, and the people. The main character, Samantha, mourned the loss of her marriage, her career, and family relationships. It took her awhile to work through her pain and move forward. I always enjoy an introspective story where issues get resolved! Read this if you enjoy women’s fiction, travel stories, or ‘starting over’ stories.

Thank you
@KimberlyInRome @KateRockBookTours for my #gifted digital copy. My thoughts are my own.

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A truly heartfelt thank you to Kimberly and to Kate Rock with Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the tour and for this AMAZING story!

Samantha, our main character flees from her failed marriage and lost job in New York. She runs to an Italian Mountain to seek refuge and start again. Her plans are to begin writing again after years of not being able to. Things begin great but, take a detour when the towns residents discover Samantha’s blog about them, which isn’t too kind. After being outed, she discovers a hidden trunk and in it are some very old diaries. Diaries that keep her interested, curious and reveal some very sad and wonderful words. The diaries of Elena’s refresh Samantha’s life and she feels connected to Elena, even after being separated by an entire century!

I devoured and craved this book and thoroughly enjoyed this story! The way these two womens lives were intertwined was a breath of fresh air. I loved the way the past was included in the present. The stories, the hardships, the tragicness. It was beautiful and it kept my attention, in fact, I actually want more like this. I love the idea of being able to intersect the past with the present, secret diaries that hold so much truth and love and sadness. The ability to learn and change our current lives based off of history is a wonderful thing. Kimberly did a truly awesome job of writing this, the creativity is there and in your face. The setting sounds breathtaking and makes me want to fly to Italy now! I’ve always been interested in small towns that have rich histories. This is a definite highly recommended read! Five stars!!

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It’s a rare joy to be pulled into a book where I begin by disliking the protagonist. I was fascinated by the way Samantha Burke pushed my buttons.
Her personal and professional life are both failures. She’s fled to the seclusion of a remote Italian village because the isolation and simplicity it offers drew her there. She wants what they have. Yet she still publishes a blog that belittles the town and its residents.
Belittles them in favor of what? An acerbic, overeducated divorced woman whose life is such a wet firework she felt compelled to travel halfway around the world to escape it? Enduring a writing career that’s rewarded neither herself nor her sparse population of readers, perhaps she’d be better served aiming that rhetorical buckshot at herself and not at the neighbors she went far out of her own way to choose.
I was so put off by Samantha’s journaling I almost wanted to close the book and forget about her.
A two-fanged promise kept me reading IN THE SHADOW APENNINES, and this dyad was delivered with a joyful bite: the majestically vivid descriptions of the Marsicani mountains (how I’d now love to visit!) and the historical fun of meeting Elena, a teenager whose own century-old diary rocks Samantha’s world.
The power of human expression bridges time and space to unite two very distinct women living utterly different lives. The discovery of Elena’s antique journal kickstarts a much-needed process of self-reflection for Burke.

Reading deeply into Elena’s experience with a natural disaster and the trials of World War I, Samantha grows and at least one reader becomes grateful he stuck around for a wonderful, original story.

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There are several reasons why this book is different from others in the Italian historical fiction category. I just love the setting in the high mountains of Abruzzo. I love the emotional journey of the characters and how they transform over the course of the story in unexpected ways. The author joins the two women's journeys in an enthusiastic and compelling novel.
My only suggestion is that I would like to see the shepherdess story-line begin earlier in the book. But in another way, it became the carrot I was reading towards. In the Shadow of the Apennines is a fine work that allows readers to challenge their feelings and learn about this time in Italian History.

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I was not sure what to think about that book at first. Kimberly Sullivan spends a lot of time developing Samantha’s life, an American divorcée who decides to immigrate to Italy to start her life over. It is sometimes slow, very slow, the author spending a lot of time explaining her heroine’s backstory. But I particularly enjoyed all the depictions of the country. There is a lot of delicious food and beautiful scenery. There is no stereotype. The author definitely loves the country and shares it in her book.

The story takes a very interesting turn when Samantha discovers the diaries of Elena, a young shepherdess that lived in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. At that point, the novel becomes part historical novel and we discover the destinies of not one, but two women linked by their love of writing.

In The Shadow of The Apennines is a cozy novel, with romance, history, culture and mystery. I overall enjoyed it, despite some events happening unexpectedly to Samantha, making her character sometimes difficult to like. If you love stories taking place in beautiful Italian mountains, travel and woman fiction, this novel will be perfect for you !

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"Always know your own worth. Don't ever let anyone allow you to doubt just how special you are."
"Love makes liars of us all. Even the most honest and best intentioned of us will eventually resort to deception to see the one we pine for."

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Sexual Assault, Mention of Abortion, Infertility, Suicide Attempt (All briefly mentioned)

The sleepy Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and university career. Eager for a new start she begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway. Her new home at first appears idyllic, but her clumsy attempts to join the closed community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover her blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants. Increasingly isolated in her cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates them, Samantha is increasingly drawn to Elena's life, and discovers parallels with her own.

This book begins in the middle of the story providing just enough information to set the tone. It then goes back in time and fills us in on the events that led to Samantha residing in this town and a world away from friends and family. The first half of the novel shows Samantha very retrospective of her life and contemplating all the what ifs. Sullivan does a marvelous job of drawing the reader into Samantha's world and it quickly becomes possible to empathize with her. Samantha is seeking to start over again and do something for herself after being in a relationship where she lost herself for her husband.

I will admit that at first I felt the story was dragging but I didn't even care because the author managed to paint a wonderful narrative. I could visualize all the things she was discussing with no problem. I found myself completely immersed in the story and wanting more. And once Samantha discovered Elena's letters and diaries, I was so enthralled I could not put the book down. The author does an amazing job of creating a parallel between 16 year old Elena's life and Samantha's. Elena's journal entries were engaging and her story so fascinating that I just wanted more of it the whole time. The story is written so well that you are instantly transported to 1914 with Elena. Sullivan has created a marvelous story showcasing two amazing women. You will not regret reading this one.

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Absolutely riveting story! I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.

In The Shadow of the Apennines, the new novel by Kimberly Sullivan, is the wonderfully mesmerizing story of a woman coming to terms with her life and future as everything around her implodes. Samantha Burke Thorpe is a believable and sympathetic character who makes some understandable and human mistakes when her life goes off the rails.

This poor woman is hit with a double whammy; her professor husband of 24 years leaves her for one of his Ph.D. students, and she loses the job she loves all in the space of months. Either of these events would be devastating enough, and I ached for this woman. Samantha isn't weathering these blows from a position of power, either. She's pretty much subjugated her own dreams and personality to reflect her successful husband's glory, so there is an introspective look at her past and how she got to where she is as the novel opens. She has regrets and doubts and questions how things would have turned out if she'd made other choices in her life. Then the surprises start, and plot twists keep coming.

The story is that of two women, Samantha in the present day and Elena, a prior occupant of the cottage, at the start of World War I. Elena's story is revealed to Samantha through her discovery of Elena's journals. I loved the parallels between the two women's lives (and the similarities between their mothers' experiences.) The details and tidbits of the area's history and time period were fascinating.

Set in the fictional village of Marsicano in the Apennine Mountains of Italy, you can almost breathe the mountain air, much like each newcomer to the area notes. The descriptions of the village, the mountains, and some of the locations Samantha visits had me wanting to plan a vacation right away. The story was even set at the same time of year when I was reading it (Christmas, winter), making it that much easier to visualize the locations. There are some great supporting characters, many of whom the main character alienates when she comes under the spell of social media success.

With an exceptionally relatable main character, an exciting and compelling setting, and an absorbing dual timeline plot, I recommend IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES to readers of contemporary and historical women's fiction.

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IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES is a beautiful story embracing the theme of women helping women, and author Kimberly Sullivan gives the theme an inventive twist by creating the emotional connection across time.

In present-day Italy, a newly divorced woman. Samantha, travels to a remote Italian mountainside village to take stock of her mistakes and attempt to find a fresh start. In blind pursuit of a new future, she falters and sabotages herself. Alone, desperate, she discovers the forgotten journal of a young Italian girl, Elena, two generations into the past, and through its pages forms a connection.

Time dissolves as Samantha and Elena share common life circumstances: Their young innocence and naivety have been taken advantage of by a man’s manipulation. They are both isolated and lonely and yearn for something better. Their physical settings interweave too, such as when Samantha visits the archeological sites where Elena once lived. These parallels engross Samantha in Elena’s story – for if Elena overcame her mistakes, perhaps she will too. The reader gets caught caring for both women’s stories to resolve happily.

In addition to the emotional story, I enjoyed Sullivan’s vivid descriptions of the gorgeous Appenine Mountain vistas. She also deftly weaves in past historical events—like the 1915 earthquake that destroyed Pescina, a mountain town, as well as the beginning of WWI and Italy’s vacillation on whether to join the war—to give the reader a window on Italy’s worldview at that time. Sullivan delivers a novel as a wonderful reflection of how the past can burst to life in the present.

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An uplifting book about overcoming one's hardships. This book felt relatable in some ways. It gave me compassion, empathy and understanding for Samantha, the main character. This book had some laugh out loud moments but also moments which brought on tears. Absolutely enjoyed this one.

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