Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou
It is a joy to be included in the tour for Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou @EffieKammenou. This is the first book in a trilogy and the author has generously shared an exclusive extract with me. The tour is run by the amazing team at @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours and you can follow it this week.
Sophia Giannakos will settle for nothing less than the rare love her parents share. At a tender and impressionable age, she has found her soul mate in Dean, the boy she has known her whole life — until secrets and deceptions pull them apart. No stranger to heartache, Anastacia, Sophia’s mother, attempts to comfort her, without revealing ugly family truths that could haunt her daughter’s future.
In the year 1956, Anastacia, a former NYU student, finds herself in the challenging role of a single parent. Left with emotional wounds from a bad marriage, she is reluctant to trust and resists her growing feelings for Alexandros, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets — ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.
The story continues in the 1970s, as their daughter attempts to negotiate between two cultures. Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, have shared a special connection since childhood. Although their desire for one another is undeniable, Dean resists her, rebelling against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage. When he can no longer fight his feelings, Dean asks Sophia to conceal their love. She hesitantly complies, until it becomes too much for her. Like her mother, Sophia loves with every fibre of her soul, leaving her shattered when Dean pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, leaving her no choice but to find a life different than the one she’d hoped for.
Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and across two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.
My three-book series, The Gift Saga, showcases many locales throughout the story. Evanthia’s Gift: Book One, is the most personal of the three books. It begins with Anastacia, an Athenian young woman, attending NYU in the 1950s.
By no coincidence, my own mother left Athens to attend the very same university. She spoke nostalgically of her days at the school, meeting new people and walking through the streets of New York City during what she expressed as a magical period in her life. It was after she passed away that I created Anastacia in order to honor her beautiful spirit and her graceful manner.
The story later moves to a town on Long Island, the very same one where I grew up. When the story changes its focus from Anastacia to her daughter, Sophia, many areas on Long Island are described during the 1970s through the 1990s.
But it’s the locations in Greece that capture the attention most of all. From the major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki to the enchanting islands of Chios, Santorini, Aegina and Kefalonia, each setting becomes a character in of itself. The reader will get a glimpse of the past in War torn Thessaloniki during the German Occupation and Kefalonia in the 1920s, as well as present day Greece.
Aegina is a short ferry ride away from Athens. There are many natives that commute daily to the mainland. It’s that close. It was for that reason I chose this beautiful and historical island for the family to own a vacation home.
In Chasing Petalouthes, I explore two new locations for this series, Kefalonia and the Champagne region of France. Kefalonia is the birthplace of my grandfather. He left as a young man to pursue a life in Athens where he met my grandmother. It’s a beautiful island, in many ways different from the others, and I describe it in detail.
It had always been my dream to visit Paris and other locations in France. When the character of Evvie found herself in Paris, she wanted to explore the Champagne region. Evvie is a winemaker with a desire to make a sparkling wine as close to an authentic champagne as possible. I had done an extensive amount of research on the champagne making process and that region in France. However, I felt I would be doing a great disservice by not experiencing the land, people and the energy of Épernay for myself.
When I approached my husband, and told him we ‘need’ to go to France for ‘research,’ he thought I was joking, mainly because I only gave him two months notice. It turned out to be exactly what I needed and a trip my husband hasn’t stopped talking about. I was able to tour a small, family owned champagne house, just like the one I wrote in the storyline. It validated all my research and enhanced my ability to describe the vineyards and the region in greater detail.
All in all, the locations in the story are places I’m familiar with, many of which hold a piece of my heart for one reason or another.
Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends. Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine. As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University. For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga follow twitter @EffieKammenou, and www.facebook.com/EffieKammenou.