Midwestern author Annalisa Russo shares a rather important biographical bit of information considering the topic of her novel. She grew up in an overpopulated first-generation Italian family in the suburbs of Chicago. This is important because it establishes her credibility in writing the Cavelli Angel Saga series that chronicles the lives of Italian immigrants in the 1920's. Her first novel, RAGS TO RICHES, won her an immediate devoted audience and hence the anticipation as she releases the Cavelli Angel Saga.
One of the many aspects that make Annalisa's books click is her personal information she shares before opening the current story: ` In this new book my heroine, the proprietress of a speakeasy, gets deliveries of illegal liquor through a series of underground tunnels. Chicago has sixty miles of forgotten tunnels under the city. Have any of you been to The Billy Goat Tavern, made famous by John Belushi of SNL fame, or braved the daunting street traffic of Lower Wacker Drive? This is only one level of underground streets below the city of Chicago. The tunnels I refer to in my book were built forty feet below street level between 1899 and 1914 to carry freight, coal, merchandise, and mail. The tunnels connected stores, warehouses, and delivery points. Some were hidden and some just overlooked. They are six feet wide by seven feet six inches high, lined with waterproof concrete, dry and airy. They are a constant fifty-five degrees. It’s not a reach to speculate these tunnels would have been handy for bootleggers and speakeasies. In current downtown Chicago, a series of underground tunnels called The Pedway are marked by a sign with a distinctive black and gold compass logo. Short for “pedestrian walkway,” this maze-like system of semi-public hallways connects the basements of over fifty Loop buildings. You can get a haircut, get a clock fixed, grab a coffee, shop for a blender, or order new license plates down there. The Pedway spans forty blocks under the central business district and was originally built for downtown travelers to pass between buildings without dealing with inclement weather. Remember the tunnels of Chicago when Charity braves them to follow her dreams.’ When an author speaks to her readers in that way, the interest in what is to follow is established.
Annalisa provides enough information in her synopsis to tie us in with the original book of the series: ‘Charity O’Malley is about to break the law of the land in order to follow her dreams. They’ll call her a whisper sister. A tarnished female. A Jezebel. As a woman who wants to shape her own destiny, she’s about to reopen her father’s speakeasy, but Big Mike O’Malley reaches out from the grave to save his recalcitrant daughter from her folly. Gabriel Cavelli, the Harley-riding bad boy of the Cavelli family, has to honor a deathbed promise to a friend to look out for his young,
educated-out-east daughter. Gabe, one of the three Cavelli boys named—or rather misnamed—after archangels, finds himself caught as he tries to rescue an unwilling damsel in distress from a crooked Prohibition man. As more threats unravel, old enemies come out of the shadows and force Charity and Gabe to band together against decades-old dark secrets—and find safety in each other’s arms.’
Romantic mystery fans will absorb the atmosphere and the genuine feeling of place and characters that are so evident in Annalisa's skilled hands. Grady Harp, July 18
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