BURNING HEARTS is my first born so to speak…my debut novel. This classic whodunit with an endearing love story began its publishing journey as an ebook. It’s also been called a sweet historical romantic suspense novel. And I was thrilled to have it in electronic format and still am.
Now my wonderful publisher, Desert Breeze, has brought it out in paperback and I’m delighted.
BURNING HEARTS: (Historical Murder Mystery with Romance, mid-1940s)
—arson/murder, action, and romance
—Sweet romance, sophisticated themes presented tastefully
—Finaled in 2011 Grace Awards Romance/Historical Romance category
Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.
Long Island, New York
Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary — her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada’s house and dress shop.
She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.
Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada’s house.
She’d think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning.
Nothing would ruin this day.
She climbed Ada’s wooden front steps and opened the door.
Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.
“Ada! Ada, answer me please.” Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman’s image. “Ada can you hear me?”
Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone — no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.
She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn’t outside, she had to be upstairs.
As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.
One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing.
Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.
The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain.
She tried to stand but couldn’t get her bearings.
Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.
Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada’s bedroom.
Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees — must’ve scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn’t see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.
Poppa’s lectures on fire drills flashed into mind — stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.
Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.
Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn’t make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.
“Right from the start, BURNING HEARTS captured my imagination and tweaked my curiosity. Nike Chillemi certainly knows how to set a scene and ignite excitement.” ~~ Athol Dickson, three time Christy Award winning author of LOST MISSION and THE OPPOSITE OF ART
“The action starts with Chapter One and keeps on going… I loved the way the hero rode in to the rescue on a bike instead of a white horse and turned out to be a true hero in more ways than one. If you’re looking for a clean romance, the couple is young and innocent, and the romance has the flavor of sweet, young love that it is.” ~~ Barbara Robinson, author of LAST RESORT, posted at Southern Christian Inspirational Blog
“Burning Hearts is much more than what the title implies—romance. It is an arson murder story set in fictional Sanctuary Point, a village on Long Island, New York, during the post World War II era. Readers are swept into this 1940s period by well-researched descriptive prose as debut novelist Nike Chillemi weaves language, foods, businesses, clothes and vehicles to create a vivid step back into the past. This inspirational novel is a guaranteed page-turner…” ~~ Mark Young, Hook ‘em and Book ‘em Blog
“One of the things I most enjoyed about the story was the romance between Erica and Lorne. They were attracted to each other almost immediately, but were unwilling to act on it… enjoyed reading Burning Hearts. It is an inspirational story full of love and hope. Anyone who loves a good mystery paired with a sweet romance should certainly pick up a copy of Burning Hearts.” ~~ Long and Short Reviews