Saturday, May 23, 2020

Book Blog Tour and Giveaway: The First Emma by Camille Di Maio

Camille Di Maio

Genres: Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women's Fiction
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

Scroll down for the giveaway!
The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler. Whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses – both also named Emma – and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

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San Antonio, Texas
November 12, 1914

EMMA HADN’T WOKEN with murder on her mind. Only a desperate wish that the terrible pain would go away. She’d been plagued with relentless migraines and had stayed in bed for the better part of a week. The lace curtains let in light that intensified the throbbing in her temples, so she’d darkened the room by tying her quilt to the corners of the window.

It was her mother’s handiwork, stitched in the aptly named crazy house pattern, and reminded her of better days.

A sachet of lavender from the garden lay next to her pillow, its fresh buds plucked late in the summer, but its scent had faded along with its crumbling purple buds.

She listened as the other Emma stood in the kitchen brewing tea. The water being poured into the pot, the staccato click of the gas igniting the stove. Quick moves echoed across a house that was nearly void of furniture. These were the actions of a woman who was surely anxious to return home to the arms of her adoring, though lackluster, husband in New York. Mr. Daschiel had won over Miss Dumpke even though he could exhaust an army with his droning monologues. But eloping with him had untangled her from the women’s unseemly arrangement.

To think it had all begun with such innocence.

Emma was under no illusion that the other Emma had returned for any other reason than guilt. Only scant words had passed between them these last few days. The necessary ones that allowed one to nurse the other. “How are you feeling today?” and “Here’s a cocaine lozenge for your pain.”

What else was there to say? A litany of apologies from each of them would not engender a return to what their friendship had been before it all unraveled.

By late afternoon, the few cicadas that remained for the remnants of the autumn season hummed their mating song in the distance. It was the only sound that didn’t add to Emma’s migraine—it was a lullaby of sorts. A love song nearing its end.

Like the lavender at the end of its bloom.

How appropriate.

Closer in, the sound of a motor alerted Emma to Otto Koehler’s impending arrival. It was easy to tell that it was him. Few people around Hunstock Avenue possessed such contraptions, though sharp-eyed investors believed that they would be all the rage in a few years. Five hundred dollars got you the Runabout model of Ford’s latest achievement. Bottom of the line, though Otto could easily have afforded the more luxurious Town Car.

He could afford a thousand of them.

It was not the particular hum of the automobile that announced his approach, however. It was the way in which he drove it, straining it to the limits of its capabilities, to the point that Emma could sympathize with its plea for restraint.

Otto rode with such ferocity. Eager to get the job done, much like his lovemaking.

Yes, the women had spoken of it and made comparisons.

His footsteps fell upon the stairs with ungainly effort— especially as they landed on the rotted fourth step; the one he kept imploring the two Emmas to repair. But he hadn’t hired them for their carpentry skills. They were trained nurses, brought in from the Hanover region of Germany to care for his invalid wife. So the step remained untouched and Otto shouted a curse every time he visited the home he’d purchased for his two mistresses.

It sat just blocks away from his beloved Hot Wells Hotel on South Presa. The storied resort he’d purchased after a fire bankrupted its first owner. Otto’s vision for it drew celebrities and tycoons and politicians from around the country, augmenting his already legendary status as a world-class businessman. Guests indulged in its healing sulfur waters while peacocks and ostriches raced in organized spectacles.

He was a man beloved by the public, but increasingly reviled by the women in his life.

Emma pressed a down-filled pillow over her ears as the other Emma’s voice, muffled through the cushion, mingled with Otto’s more insistent one. They were arguing. She could easily guess why.

Darkness and quiet were the only remedies for headaches of this severity. Why did Otto have to choose today to make a visit?

As he neared the bedroom, his medium build cast a larger shadow, lit from the sun-drenched window in the front of the house. Emma opened her eyes as much as she could without a recurrence of the searing pain, and she noticed that he had not shaved his substantial mustache, despite her pleas. He’d dismissed her complaints that it scratched her skin when he pressed his lips against hers.

Mary Pickford had complimented him on it a few years ago and he hadn’t been seen without it since.

Mary Pickford never had to kiss him.

Otto entered her room without knocking. It was his name on the deed, after all, and they were his employees. Well, Emma Burgemeister remained so. She was paid handsomely for her work and still received the usual funds even during this bedridden time. Fifty dollars every month for services as a nurse to his wife.

In addition, he’d dangled a promise to give her the deed to the tiny cottage and a gift of twenty thousand dollars.

It was more than most immigrant women could hope for and she didn’t complain. Security came with strings and the notion of love was a luxury built on quicksand.

But so far, neither of the offerings had come to pass.
To continue reading, please visit Story Schmoozing Book Reviews.
Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus

A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana

Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends
Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers' markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach. 

Win a signed copy of The First Emma by Camille Di Maio!
May 19-29, 2020
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