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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘It Happened In Tuscany’
by Gail Mencini
Book Beginnings/Guest Post
“How I Write My Novels”

image of a woman sat reading by an open window - caption reads 'will these first few lines capture our imagination' - used as the image for Book Beginnings / First Lines, posts

For all you ‘First Page Browsers’ and lovers of a great author Guest Post

Cover Image of the book 'It Happened In Tuscany' by the author Gail Mencini



Cover Image of the book 'It Happened In Tuscany' by the author Gail Mencini



U.S. Army searchlights , meant to distract the Germans, reflected off the clouds and bathed the ridgeline above with light. They created hazy moonbeams in the otherwise black sky.

Would these lights – their only protection – keep the men who hugged the base of the mountain hidden? Or would the deadly guns on the ridge blast them once they began their climb?


Army Specialist Will Mills, age seventeen, and his platoon brothers faced the most challenging route of the attack on Riva Ridge on this night, February 18, 1945….

Cover Image of the book 'It Happened In Tuscany' by the author Gail Mencini


Will licked his lips and waited among the five columns of soldiers for their 19:30 go-ahead. He would climb midway in the platoon of men scrambling up Pizzo de Campiano, which suited him fine.

Will had grown up skiing and climbing the Colorado Rockies. At a buck thirty dripping wet, he didn’t have much weight to carry up those mountain faces. Years of throwing hay bales, riding horses, and herding cattle on his parents’ ranch had sculpted his frame into one both lean and strong.

Will had skied the backcountry of the Rockies and scampered up the peaks. The elite 10th Mountain Division accepted him thirteen months ago because of his mountaineering skills. The Army didn’t look twice when Will lied and added a year to his age to make himself eligible for enlistment….

So you have taken a look, will you read the book?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Just to give you an extra helping hand, here is the book’s premise …


Cover Image of the book 'It Happened In Tuscany' by the author Gail MenciniIn 1945, Will Mills and his fellow soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division scaled Italy’s treacherous Riva Ridge in the frigid night to break through the nearly impenetrable German line of defense. Severely wounded, Will was rescued by Italian partisans and one, a beautiful girl, tended his injuries until he had the strength to rejoin the U.S. troops.

Tormented and haunted by his decisions and actions during wartime, Will knows he has unfinished missions in Italy to complete. The passage of time and years of carrying this unfulfilled need have molded Will into a bitter, angry man.

Seventy-five years later, Will’s spunky thirty-two-year-old neighbor, Sophie Sparke, faces disaster in her life. Everything is going wrong—her job, her love life, even her dog. Part of the problem is that confident and fiercely independent Sophie lets her quick mouth get her into trouble.

Grouchy, mean-spirited Will finagles Sophie into traveling with him to Tuscany to find the partisan who saved his life. Will also secretly hopes to confront the demons his wartime actions created. Sophie and Will comb enchanting Tuscan hill towns on an improbable and unfolding mission with few clues to aid them. Will’s passionate tenacity drives their quest and in the process exposes their darkest secrets. The journey alters the course of their lives, and Will and Sophie find more than they had imagined in the hills of Tuscany.

Image of author Gail Mencini



“People ask me how I write my novels”

The United States 10th Mountain Division was the first U.S. military division to recruit and train skiers and mountaineers for battles in the European mountains. They trained at Camp Hale, near present-day Vail Ski Resort, in Colorado. I moved to Colorado in 1981 and became fascinated with this unique Division of the military. The 10th Mountain Division, along with the Royal Air Force and the (U.S.) Army Air Corps, turned the course of the war in Italy and led to Germany’s surrender on that front.

I always begin my novels by imagining a premise.

War is an ugly business, and soldiers have to follow orders, even if it goes against their moral principles. The romantic in me loves the idea of trying to reunite with a long-lost love. These two ideas form the premise behind It Happened in Tuscany.

The next big step, before I start plotting, is to create my characters.

My novels contain strong, well-developed primary and secondary characters. Character development is not only great fun for me, but it is integral to my plot.

I wanted unlikely travel companions and thus created people who would never choose to accompany each other. Will Mills, a World War II veteran who fought with the 10th Mountain Division, was wounded physically and emotionally by the war. Will bristles, pushes away people, and his self-recrimination makes him unlikeable. Sophie is young, impetuous, offers false claims of her expertise, and is alone.

Secondary characters, Joe Able, with an English mother, and Margherita Baggi, an Italian, are integral to the plot development when Will and Sophie journey to Tuscany.

I worked for years in public accounting as a Certified Public Accountant, and that professional background of analysis and preciseness aids my character development. I create a workbook page for each character, add a picture of what I think they look like, detail their physical characteristics, age, background, ethnicity, motivations, and more. For my novel, To Tuscany with Love, with eight main characters and seven points of view, I also created a spreadsheet with their slang and common phraseology, to keep their individual voices consistent and unique from each other throughout the novel.

Next, I research and plot the novel. I start in my workbook, with a few sentences that describe each scene.

The last two steps, writing full scenes and revising multiple times, bring my manuscript to the level of editorial reviews.

I spent a great deal of time on World War II research to bring authenticity to It Happened in Tuscany. I enjoyed learning more about the battles fought on the ground and in the sky over Italy. I am lucky to have visited Tuscany many times, by foot, Vespa, car, and train, and loved expanding on my personal knowledge with research.

It Happened in Tuscany is a salute to the Allied Forces in World War II and a love song to Tuscany. I hope it entertains, informs, brings a smile, and perhaps a tear those who read it.

Keep up with all Gail’s news at her website

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Cover Image of the book 'It Happened In Tuscany' by the author Gail Mencini

A picture button for book beginnings at Rose City Reader

You might also like to visit Gilion, over at ‘Rose City Reader‘, where you can share links to the book beginnings from her own reading schedule and that of many of our fellow bloggers. There are always plenty of new authors and titles to be discovered.


Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • I popped this on my Kindle a while ago, possibly from a mention on here? I’m not sure, but it sounds very good. It would be a good one for Italy for my European reading challenge.

    Have a good weekend, Yvonne. We’re off to Penzance to have a few days visiting relatives. Getting it in before the country goes into lockdown, *if* it does.

    • Hi Cath,

      I recall you stopping by when I first introduced the book, and I suggested then that this might be a good one for your European reading challenge, to represent Italy. I know that several of our fellow bloggers also featured ‘It Happened In Tuscany’, but I am more than happy to take credit for being the catalyst for you adding the book to your Kindle!

      Because the story covers two diverse timelines in Tuscan Italy, I still think it could provide a good example for your challenge. The World War II opening I am reading right now, is certainly very descriptive and I’m sure you will enjoy it too!

      I hope that you enjoy your visit to Penzance. We are maybe hoping to get down that way later in the year, but that all rather depends on our friend Coronavirus at the moment. Stay safe wherever you are 🙂

    • Hi Felicity,

      The premise of this book does give quite a bit away IMHO, however for me, the detail is all in the reading and the quality of the writing.

      The dramatic part of the storyline seems to be taking place in the opening few chapters, during World War II in the Tuscan hills of Italy and whilst I am not generally a fan of descriptive war time commentary, the chapters are concise and to the point, which is definitely making it a page-turning read for me!

      Thanks for taking the time to visit and please try and stay safe during this Coronavirus emergency 🙂

  • This does look good and I found the author’s description of her writing technique fascinating. It should all come together for a great reading experience!

    • Hi Kelly,

      I must admit that I have never come across an author who seems quite so analytical in the way in which they build a storyline, develop their physical characters, and even authenticate their speech patterns! – Gail is definitely a lady after my own heart!

      Having only just started reading the book, I haven’t yet reached the point where the modern day timeline kicks in, so I am eagerly awaiting that time.

      Thanks for stopping by and stay safe during the current medical emergency 🙂

Written by Yvonne