Playing by Heart

Playing by Heart

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Publication Date:
Format: Paperback
Pages: 278
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Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as much as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the "second sister" means she'll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia's only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father's quest for nobility. Winner of the 2018 Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA) for Children’s/Young Adult fiction.

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Sexuality: Mild

There is a sweet romance between two teen characters; Their only physical contact is touching or holding hands.

One character is a womanizer and scoundrel, but his immoral behavior is only discussed and not shown.

Violence & Gore: None Profanity: None Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking: Mild

Adults drink wine with meals, at special occasions, and for celebratory toasts, as was the custom of the time. For one toast, the two teen daughters taste wine, too.

Wine is also used for medicinal purposes in one scene.

Editorial Reviews

Martino's romantic read features lovable characters and is vibrant in setting and detail. . . . The book is filled with rich depictions of houses and clothing, allowing readers to clearly picture the historical settings of both Milan and the countryside. The attraction between Emilia and Antonio is sweet and innocent, and readers will hope for their relationship to blossom. All in all, Martino's latest is a sweet and pleasurable read.--Booklist

Martino explores the gilded passageways of Hapsburg-era Milan's white aristocracy with technically accomplished descriptions of privilege, luxury, and teenage longing.--Kirkus Reviews

Playing by Heart is a lyrical story that captures the reader from the first page. Authentic, strong character voice, rich and detailed historical setting, and an intriguing plot all come together to create a can't-put-it-down book. The novel provides a look into the fascinating world of 18th-century Italy in a way that no history book ever could. The fact that it is based on the lives of extraordinary real women who were quite ahead of their time makes it a must-read addition for school libraries everywhere.--Roxanne F. Owens, PhD, Chair, Teacher Education, DePaul University

Carmela Martino:
Carmela Martino

Carmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher who lives in the Chicago area. She wrote the middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola, while working on her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The novel was named a Booklist "Top Ten First Novel for Youth" and won a Catholic Press Association award in the Children's Books category. Her other credits for children and teens include short stories and poems in magazines and anthologies. Her articles for adults have appeared in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, Catholic Parent, Writer's Digest, and multiple editions of the annual Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Carmela has taught writing workshops for children and adults since 1998, and she blogs about teaching and writing at You can read more about her at and follow her on Facebook at

Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
A beautiful story of music and emotion
An absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love.
A beautiful symphony of words
Lyrical and heart-warming
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