REVIEW and INTERVIEW
What You Don't Know Now
by Marci Diehl
Author Marci Diehl stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from What You Don't Know Now. You can also read my review.
This coming-of-age romantic novel begins in the summer of 1967, and 18-year-old American Bridey McKenna is in Europe for the first time. It’s supposed to be the ultimate mother-daughter vacation, but nothing about it is working out that way. Chances for adventure, romance and enlightenment look slim-to-none until Bridey arrives in Umbria and meets Alessandro - someone who could change everything about her future. Alessandro is no ordinary singing waiter, and he’s the last person on earth Bridey’s mother wants in her daughter’s life. Bridey’s only hope is to connect in Rome with her worldly aunt and uncle - a man who holds a position at the British embassy in Jordan that no one ever quite defines. When an emergency takes Bridey off the tour, on to Athens and further into her aunt and uncle’s world than Bridey ever dreamed, the complex terrain of family, love and womanhood holds a surprising itinerary.
More than just a coming of age romance novel, What You Don't Know Now is an adventurous new adult love story of sexual awakening, and a loss of innocence for readers young and old.
In the Summer
The grass was soft and she could smell the rich earth beneath her. Some voice of reason tried to struggle up inside her as she lay stretched out with him on the ground. You’re in big trouble now, it tried to say, but her legs ignored it, they opened beneath him. The hem of her dress bunched in a creased crumple under her arms. Her bra stretched, deflated, along her neckline. She sensed the disarray, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the feeling of her breasts against the warm skin of his chest, the soft tickling of hair that spread across his breastbone.
Her head was cradled in the grass and she slipped into his eyes, a swimmer walking into the warm surf of an ocean, poised to dive in. This was what she'd wished for at the beginning, wasn't it -? The unexpected? Something real? He was all of this, and so much more. She'd prayed for something to happen, something extraordinary from this trip, but even when she was praying, she doubted. She’d wanted to come to this city least of all. What could it hold for someone like her?
Now she knew. She closed her eyes and let him take her where she needed and wanted to go.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"This debut loss of innocence/coming of age novel has romance, intrigue, romance, travel, romance, opera, romance, and the gorgeously portrayed Alessandro who catches the eye and heart of young Bridey McKenna. Marci Diehl's smart, upscale writing makes this story real and terrific. A five star must read for lovers of romance, intrigue and remembrance of things past." ~ Kathy Johncox, author of What a Kiss Can Do
"My mouth was literally agape as I read certain sections of this fun and engrossing story." ~ Cynthia Kolko, author of Fruit of the Vine
"Reawaken your sense of adventure! Have you ever read a book that gave you the feeling of packing your bags and just going where your feet will take you? What You Don’t Know Now is definitely a book to read this summer." ~ Goodreads review by Scribes23
"A gem! I felt as if Bridey had packed me in her suitcase and taken me along on her adventures. Diehl writes with vivid exuberance in an entertaining and thought provoking way. I found myself indulging in 'just one more chapter'. Would make a stunning movie. I hope there's a sequel!" ~ Amazon Customer
"Growing up in the sixties, I can totally relate to the attitudes and mores of the time.The book was very well written and Marci Diehl's writing style is A+. [...] So glad I have read this marvelous novel." ~ C. Ray
By Lynda Dickson
It's the summer of 1967, and Bridey McKenna is on the trip of a lifetime in Europe with her mother, aunt, and fourteen-year-old cousin. Bridey even gets to spend her eighteenth birthday in Venice. However, things aren't as idyllic as they should be - until a hairy bus ride through the Italian mountains lands them in Assisi. There, Bridey meets Alessandro, the charming singing waiter, and is swept off her feet. A detour to Greece brings a whole other adventure, and Bridey is forced to make the hardest decision of her life.
Based on the author's own travels through Europe, What You Don’t Know Now brings us a realistic look at life in the 1960s, and a glimpse of what long-distance romance looked like in a time before email, cell phones, and social media. The author paints a vivid picture with her words, making us feel like we are really there. She also uses dialect very skilfully to give Alessandro a true Italian "voice".
There were numerous editing and formatting errors in the version I read, as well as the use of a few too many similes and metaphors, especially at the beginning of the book. Nevertheless, the story flows well, and we are swept away with Bridey on her adventures. Bridey and the support characters are all well-developed, with the dynamics between them being both interesting and believable. The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. I, for one, would very much like to follow Bridey on the rest of her journey through life.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes.
Interview With the Author
Author Marci Diehl joins me to discuss her book, What You Don’t Know Now.
What genre is your book?
What You Don’t Know Now is a coming-of-age novel. This is women’s fiction (a commercial novel with a female on the brink of life change and personal growth, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending to her romantic relationship). It also crosses into a new genre – New Adult (a genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket, with a focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices).
Please describe the main character, Bridey McKenna.
Overprotected, raised to follow the rules, and longing for even a hint of adventure to experience, Bridey McKenna is an 18-year-old American touring Europe in the summer of 1967 with her mother, aunt and 14-year-old cousin on a 21-day, 7-country bus tour. The tour is loaded with nuns, widows, a priest and an elderly man, and worse, is inauspiciously named the Summer Vacation Pilgrimage. Smart, flippant, and self-absorbed, Bridey is a ‘60s girl with her long hair, mini dresses, and Twiggy eye makeup but she’s no hippie. She’s just graduated from an all-girls school, college-bound for Georgetown University. "She wasn’t about to follow some priest around all day. She planned on finding enlightenment in other ways."
Bridey comes from a small town in western New York State where her father is a carpenter and her mother stays at home, raising Bridey and her two brothers. But Bridey has an aunt and uncle who have lived most of her life in Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan. Bridey idolizes her glamorous, worldly Aunt Maura while feeling intimidated by her mysterious and distant Uncle Hugh, who has a job with the British government no one talks about. Bridey’s journey causes her to question old rules and roles, and stirs her rebellion, her blossoming sexuality, and her awakened sense of miraculous possibility in life and the world around her.
What made you write this story?
When I was 18, I took a similar trip in Europe and kept a travel journal. Turning 18 is a threshold for girls – a step into early womanhood, and most 18-year-olds think they know all they need to at that stage. I think I certainly felt that way. The tour I took was so terrible I knew it would make a great (possibly funny) book someday. It wasn’t until I was grown and re-read the journal that I saw myself as an 18-year-old complaining endlessly about the misadventures of the tour, not appreciating what was before me. I did see how much I loved my family for keeping their sense of humor and bond despite separation.
I imagined a different story unfolding. It was a story about the love between mothers and daughters, aunts who were like "second mothers", and the bond of sisters. I also wanted to write about the idea of the lightning-strike of love during a summer holiday, and the question of whether you fall in love with someone because of his charisma and talent. The push-pull of love.
Our trip also included dumping that tour and heading to Athens, where my aunt, uncle and cousins were staying after being evacuated out of Jordan during wartime. The uncle character in the novel is based upon my own uncle, who was a spy for the U.S. – but I had no idea as a teen that he was an important intelligence officer. I thought the idea of writing about the "normal" side of a spy’s family life was intriguing and lent an unusual element to Bridey’s story.
Who should read your book?
It’s definitely for adults at least over 18, due to the sexual content of a couple of scenes. Who should read it? Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, nieces; women who lived through the 1960’s; anyone who took a trip to Italy or Europe and found a romance (there are more women out there that did than you may imagine!). People who are interested in history, travel, operatic tenors and their incubation, Italy, the Vietnam War era, life in the 1960’s, or Greece. Or anyone who has faced the choice of giving up what you most want to keep.
Thanks for stopping by, Marci. I certainly enjoyed the book!
About the Author
Marci Diehl has been a writer ever since she was the geek who got excited when her grammar school class had to write paragraphs for English. She kept a "log" of her experiences as an 18-year-old on an ill-fated bus tour of Europe. That trip became the basis for her debut novel What You Don’t Know Now.
She spent 10 years traversing the nation as a PGA Tour Wife, from the East Coast all the way to Hawaii, Jamaica and Japan. As a traveling mother of four, she wrote for national and regional magazines - Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Success Magazine, SCORE (Canada), Jacksonville Today (Florida) on lifestyle, golf, travel, humor, and business. Behind the scenes of writing non-fiction for a living, Diehl always has a short story or novel in progress.
She's been an avid reader her entire life. When she isn't walking her dog or going to the movies for the popcorn, she is a writer, editor and producer for multi-media and marketing. She lives in the Finger Lakes area of New York State.