Playing by Heart

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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


About the Author:
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 TeachingAuthors.com. You can read more about her at carmelamartino.com and follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carmelamartinoauthor.

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Customer Reviews

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M
M.
A beautiful story of music and emotion

Another amazing book. Even though I usually don't care for historical fiction or teenage stories focusing on romance and things like that, I loved this book - the musical aspect, the portrayal of emotions, and how well it was all written. Loved it!

T
T.L.
An absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love.

This story shows the dreams and trials of two talented sisters. Emilia excels in music. But her father's and the maestro's attitudes lead her to feel inadequate. So she finds herself envious of the praise and attention given to her older sister. Maria, the older sister, is humble and faith-filled. And while she loves studying languages and philosophy, she longs to enter religious life and serve the poor. But this is an age where the father chooses the vocation of his children. Emilia and Maria’s father, driven to gain the title and status of a nobleman, makes choices that move him closer to his goals but farther from theirs.

The characters were inspired by two historical sisters who lived in the eighteenth century, so I appreciate the author’s faithfulness to research and time-period details. The engaging prose brings the scenes to life in full color! I especially loved how the descriptions took me into the heart and mind of Emilia, a talented young musician who “heard music everywhere—in the whispering of the wind and the rustling of the trees.” I also appreciated the way faith is weaved into the story.

L
L.W.
A beautiful symphony of words

This beautifully written Young Adult novel centers around the strong faith of two sisters, Emilia and Maria, and their extraordinary talents. The book is set in 18th Century Milan, Italy and focuses on their relationships with their father, as well as their struggle to follow the paths they believe God wants them to take. Unfortunately, they lived in a time when young women were subject to their father’s wishes. And their father hoped to showcase their incredible gifts to advance himself to nobility and was not interested in their desires.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author and loved her writing style. In fact, the moment I finished the book, I read her first novel Rosa Sola, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Her beautiful descriptions bring her books to life. I found the passages describing Emilia’s music particularly lovely. The author does a wonderful job of showing society and culture of 18th century Italy. This time period makes for a very interesting book, especially for young women, to see the choices and educational opportunities available to girls their age at that time in history.
This book highlights something that’s near and dear to my heart – that we all have gifts from God and we should find ways to use these gifts to help others. I loved that these young women knew their talents were from God and they longed to use them in a positive way. I also really liked the underlying passages of jealousy. This is something we all can relate to, feeling envious of another’s successes. How Emilia deals with this and works through it is a wonderful example for readers to emulate.
This historic fiction, inspired by two real sisters who lived in 18th Century Italy, would make a fantastic bookclub or classroom choice, full of many great topics for discussion.

C
C.A.
Lyrical and heart-warming

Playing by Heart is as lyrical as the gifted musicians that inhabit its pages. Carmela Martino, in an impeccably-written story, captures both the grace and refinement of 18th century Italy and the timeless dilemmas to which the modern reader can relate - the pressure of familial expectations and obligations, living in the shadow of a sibling, the desire to direct one’s own destiny, and love tested by time, distance, parental resistance, and class.

Gifted at both performance and composing, young Emilia must not only prove her skill at the harpsichord to her father and teacher but in order to secure her family’s future and her own.

With a gentle romance, a peek at European history in the age of dukes and ladies, and the push and pull of family life, Playing by Heart will warm your heart and leave you marveling at the accomplishments of the Italian sisters who inspired the story.


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