The Spia Family Presses On - By Mary Leo


I could never have done this book without the support and love from my family and friends. They nourish both my creativity and my need for someone to laugh and cry with. I’m blessed to have each and every one of them in my life.

Many thanks to Janet Wellington for her editing expertise, her spot-on suggestions and her unwavering friendship. More thanks to my writing buddies, Chris Green, Sylvia Mendoza, Cheryl Howe, Lorelle Marinello, Ann Collins, Ara Burklund, and Judy Duarte, who encourage me each and every time we meet. To my favorite roomie and cheerleader, Lisa Kessler, for convincing me to join her at the RT convention in Chicago where we made our pact. To Erin Quinn and Calista Fox who helped restore the joy of writing.

A special shout out to Laura Haug who accompanied me to Sonoma and to Italy so I could do all my research. Thanks for all your patience and laughter. To Liz Jennings who is possibly the sweetest, most generous woman I know and who helps run the absolute best conference in the entire world, the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. Thanks need to go out to Donna Bagdasarian who helped shape this book into what it is today. To my sweet daughter, Jocelyn Hughes, for her constant encouragement, her unbridled love and for making me a grandma to possibly the most remarkable baby girl on the planet . . . at least I think so. To her amazing husband and father of that remarkable baby girl, Paul Milton. To my talented and incredible son, Richard Hughes, who is always there whenever I need him.

To the members of RWA-San Diego. Hugs all around!

To my readers who really are the best!

To The Olive Press located in Sonoma, California, where all that golden liquid is made. A special thanks to Carol Firenze for her informative book: The Passionate Olive: 101 Things To Do with Olive Oil.

To Erin Kost Gentile and her amazing master-chef husband Giuseppe Gentile who provided some of the recipes in this book. If you’re ever in L.A. drop by their restaurant, Pizzeria il Fico, for an unbelievably delicious Italian meal.

And finally to my compassionate, encouraging, and loving husband, Richter Watkins, who helps make all my most seemingly unattainable dreams come true. Ti amo!

“Athena . . . posturing with Poseidon for dominion, sprung the first olive tree from the stone of the Acropolis . . . said the flesh of an olive was bitter as hate and scant as love, that it asked work to soften it, to squeeze the golden-green blood from it.”—A Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena De Blasi


The Freedom Party

I awoke out of my sleepy fog late Wednesday morning thinking now was the perfect time to take a vacation, a long vacation on an island somewhere with palm trees, white sandy beaches and suntanned, absurdly ripped single men all vying for my attention—a perfectly reasonable fantasy considering my pathetic life. I had been working nonstop for almost two years, a habit I’d gotten into after I gave up binge drinking and partying. My thirtieth birthday was fast approaching so it only seemed natural to take some time out to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Besides, I needed a break in a truly bad way. Our family business was finally in the black, and it was time to relax and allow myself some fun . . . sober fun. I was hoping that was still possible.

I considered getting out of bed and searching for island vacations on the Web, but the idea of it seemed taxing. Instead, I rolled over and snuggled in, wanting nothing more than to conjure up that white sandy beach with all those eager-to-please-me men when I heard someone running up my stairs and from the sound of those heavy footsteps, that person was in a hurry.

So much for sandy beaches and adoring men.

Grabbing my white terrycloth robe, I slid out of bed and made my way to the glass front door of my apartment where I saw my mother, Gloria Spia, holding onto the metal railing, looking as if those last few stairs were going to ruin her.

I swung open the door then held open the screen. I never locked either one at night; there wasn’t any need to. Living above Mom’s office, a converted two-car garage, on our olive orchard, the only people who had real access to this area of our land were relatives, a handful of trusted employees and close friends.

Mom never was one for strenuous