Daliso and Geni

To prepare for this blog, February…Valentine’s Day…the ultimate month for romance…I reread one of my all-time favorite love stories by JD Robb. It’s the first book in her futuristic series, where NYC Detective Eve Dallas, hard-ass cop with enough problems of her own, meets her future husband, former thief and current murder suspect, Roarke—multi-billionaire with the face of an angel.

I guess all love stories have their merits, but for me, one in particular comes to mind every Valentine’s Day. The enduring love story of my grandparents: Daliso Lenci, of Segromigno Monte, Italy, decides to leave the home of his birth. The lack of work in his small village in the hills of Tuscany, the lure of adventure, and hope fora better life, encourages Daliso to leave Geni Bianchi of the same village behind and travel by boat to America. Painstakingly, he saves the requisite $50.00 to show to the shipping line to guarantee a place on the voyage (equivalent to about $1100.00 today) and asks Geni to marry him and wait until he sends money for her to follow. After he leaves, Geni is determined to wait even though she is considered the belle of her village and already has had several marriage proposals.

And wait she does, for seven long years, with only two letters from Daliso. Crazy you say?

After he arrived in America, my grandfather joined the United States Army to obtain citizenship, and in doing so delayed his intent to send for Geni. After the war, he settled just outside of Chicago among a few other Italian immigrants from his village. And as the story goes, one night after a very lucrative poker game, he won enough money to send for his intended. Romantic? Not very, but Geni made the voyage through Ellis Island, married Daliso, and stayed married some forty-six years. Daliso died first and ten months later, on Valentine’s Day, Geni followed.

So, on that day, even after all these years, I always remember them and their love story with vivid memories and warm affection.

I miss them.


Annalisa Russo is a published author and master storyteller based in Chicago, IL. Currently writing with The Wild Rose Press, she has just released her fourth book: Angel Lost, Angel Found. You can read more about it and the author at annalisarusso.comFollow Annalisa Russo on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.


My Five Fave Love Stories

I like to share the best books I’ve read each month. I read fiction, nonfiction, romantic suspense, and much, much more- I hope to have book recommendations for everyone here! This month, I am sharing five of my favorite love stories, not in any particular order. Each of these I’ve read and reread many times over. I hope you enjoy them and tell me about the highlight of your reading month in the comments.

Annalisa Russo is a published author and master storyteller based in Chicago, IL. Currently writing with The Wild Rose Press, she has just released her fourth book: Angel Lost, Angel Found. You can read more about it and the author at annalisarusso.comFollow Annalisa Russo on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

A Hidden World Under Streets of Chicago


In my newest book, Angel Lost, Angel Found, my heroine, Charity O’Malley, the proprietress of a speakeasy, gets deliveries of illegal liquor through a series of underground tunnels. I didn’t use writers’ license to make my point. 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 relate 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 6 ft. wide by 7 ft. 6 in. high, lined with waterproof concrete, dry and airy. They are a constant 55°. It’s not a reach to speculate these tunnels would have been handy to 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.


Annalisa Russo is a published author and master storyteller based in Chicago, IL. Currently writing with The Wild Rose Press, she has just released her fourth book: Angel Lost, Angel Found. You can read more about it and the author at annalisarusso.com.

Follow Annalisa Russo on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Keep It Simple!

January 10, 2016

I get the mail and receive a copy of the Winter/Spring Park District Catalogue of Events for my small community. I thumb through four pages of adult fitness classes: Power Fit 45, Saturday Cardio Challenge, Pilates, hardCORE yoga, Gentle Yoga, Yoga Intensity, Vinyassa Yoga, Barre’ Yoga Fusion, Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing, Pump It!, Sculpt It!, Hit It P.O.W.E.R, etc. I’m exhausted from just reading the options, so I make myself a pot of tea, grab a legal pad, sit in my favorite spot and write at the top: KEEP IT SIMPLE!

—think small.

So…I write my 2016 goals:

  • I will eat more fruit and fish. I will read labels.
  • I will move more and sit less.
  • When I buy a can of vegetables, I will buy one for the local food pantry.
  • I will clean one room of my house per day.
  • I will be a better friend.

(Don’t limit yourself to the serious stuff)

  • I will take a short trip: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sounds right for 2016.
  • I will finally take a fun class, maybe flower arranging or butterfly gardening.
  • And I will write 1500 words a day on Angel Boy:Seth’s Story, but not beat myself up if I go for ice cream instead.

I take a break and drink my tea. I find I’m looking forward to 2016 instead of feeling guilty for not completing my goals of 2015. So, I challenge you—pick a few small goals, achieve success, keep it simple!

Happy New Year!


Annalisa Russo is published author and master storyteller based in Chicago, IL. In addition to writing with The Wild Rose Press, she has just released her fourth book: Angel Lost, Angel Found. You can read more about it at www.annalisarusso.com.

The Best Books I Read In December

December is a month when most of us are busy and cold. These factors and the promise of holiday treats encourage me to curl up in front of the fire and crack open a book. Here are five of my favorites from December. What books did you read or re-read in December?

The Christmas Diary: by Elyse Douglas

Secret Sisters: by Jayne Ann Krentz

Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog: by Grant Peterson

The Cinderella Murder: by Mary Higgins Clarke

The Welcoming: by Nora Roberts

Click here for more of my favorite reads and reviews.


My 12 Favorite Books of 2015 You Might Enjoy Reading

My 12 Favorite Books of 2015

I read a lot of books-a lot of books. I’ve listed out (not in any particular order) twelve of my favorites in hopes you might enjoy a few of them as well.

My Favorite: I don’t know if it was just the lure of Christmas cheer, but Debbie Macomber’s kooky characters and sweet romance made her Dashing Through the Snow my favorite pick of the year. Some of the reviews on this book were bah humbug, but I found it had just the right amount of silliness, crazy, and candy cane to start off the season. Looking forward to the Hallmark Channel movie!

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

Fair Play by Deeanne Gist

Divided in Death by JD Robb

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau by Mary Balogh

Midnight Jewels by Jayne Ann Krentz

After Dark by Jayne Castle

Rivers End by Nora Roberts

The Widow’s Suiter by Rose Ross Zediker

Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick

Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

Blue-eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas



Long ago, in the middle of the night before Christmas day, I remember distinctly climbing out of bed, the cool feel of the wooden floor on my bare feet, the scent of pine from the balsam set in the corner of the front room, and the quiet pelting of snow on the window. I used the cuff of my flannel nightgown to rub out a circle on the frosted glass to peek out at the sparkly pristine landscape drifting down slowly under the street lamp on the corner of Munroe and Cherry Street-definitely one of those Hallmark moments.

Moving stealthily, I plugged in the multi-colored lights to shine softly on our freshly cut tree, with the inevitable bare spot turned against the wall, and the golden Shiny Brite tree topper.

And under the tree, my much anticipated gift-Sneaky Pete’s Magic Show. I quietly opened the box and spied the Mystic Vanishing Box, Cut the Lady in Half, and the Talking Dice. I played for about half an hour in the light of the tree, then packed it all back neatly into the box with hope that neither my grandparents nor my parents would find out about my little escapade. I didn’t know it then, but my gift from Santa at $6.95 would cost, in 2015 terms, $69.15—very dear for a family with five children.

sneaky pete 2

We were a religious family so, of course, there was a manger with baby Jesus and Christmas day Mass to attend. There was never doubt of the “reason for the season” but, even as a child, I wanted to remember those important to me with Christmas gifts. So, I made homemade items, some in school, some on my own, with pennies saved scrupulously from small jobs around the house.

I followed the custom when I had my own children making a Christmas duty sign-up list that I tacked to the refrigerator the day after Thanksgiving. Tasks, other than normal chores, were listed with monetary amounts for each task. By the end of December, each child had a decent amount of money to spend (which I supplemented) to buy something for their siblings. I was always amazed at the thoughtfulness of their gifts.

Some people fault Christmas time as one of excess and commercialism. I have always thought of it a time for love, giving, peace, and the birth of the Child, one time of year that brings out the best in people—a special time where they look beyond themselves to others. And isn’t that the real message of the Child?



I go for groceries and see pumpkins, one of autumn’s colorful sculptural fruits and vegetables,piled high in front of the Jewel. Since last week, cooler temperatures inspired me to think roast, braise, and bake—hearty stews, soups, and casseroles with crusty bread. As a devout gardener, I know Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and parsnips actually grow sweeter after the first frost.


Turning leaves on their way to autumn splendor invite me to visit the bountiful farmers markets this time of year in the Midwest. I take a trip to the nearest one and come home with everything to make a hearty and flavorful soup. I mix the flavors of salt pork and root vegetables to serve up a fall favorite, my grandfather’s specialty—minestrone soup. I include it here as part of the Cavelli Cookbook we plan to post on my website soon. As Seth Truitt realizes when he returns to Bellaluna in my next book, food is at the heart of the Cavelli family. Like so many of the recipes passed down in my family, there are no portion measurements. Next time, I will share Gabriel Cavelli’s bracciole recipe with you, the one he hoped would bring Charity around to his way of thinking in Angel Lost, Angel Found: release date November 6th.

Hungry yet? Come on over. There’s always room for one more at the table!



Daliso Lenci’s Minestrone Recipe:

Salt pork: chop finely and fry slowly

Add hot water

Add chopped onions, cabbage, carrots, and celery

Add canned tomatoes

Season with salt and pepper(be careful with the salt because of the salt pork base.)

Cook 2 hours adding kidney beans ½ hour before soup is done.

(Sometimes I vary this basic recipe a bit adding chopped greens or whatever I have handy. Instead of, or with, canned kidney beans, I also use cannellini, or garbanzo beans, or a combination of all three.)

Fall’s Cornucopia (recipe included)