A Heart Most Worthy

A Heart Most Worthy

by Siri Mitchell

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The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream--and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441214690
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Series: Against All Expectations Collection , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 843,398
File size: 979 KB

About the Author

Siri Mitchell, author of Love's Pursuit and She Walks in Beauty, has written eight novels, two of which were named Christy Award finalists. A graduate from the University of Washington with a business degree, she has worked in many levels of government and lived on three continents. She and her family currently reside in the DC Metro Area.
Siri Mitchell has written nearly a dozen novels, three of which were named Christy Award finalists. A graduate of the University of Washington with a business degree, she has worked in many levels of government and lived on three continents. She and her family currently reside in the D.C. metro area. Learn more at www.sirimitchell.com.

Read an Excerpt

A Heart Most Worthy

By Siri Mitchell

Bethany House Publishers

Copyright © 2011 Siri Mitchell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7642-0795-2

Chapter One

On May 2, 1918, a short article appeared in the Boston Globe. It was only three sentences long; not an article really. Just a mention. It appeared on page twenty-four on the outside column, where most people hold on to a newspaper. I'm sure you wouldn't be very surprised to know that few people noticed it as they read the paper that morning and several people smeared jam on it as they turned the page. Only a very few read it.

* * *

COUNT BLOWN UP Heiress Disappears

On the night of April 12, the Count of Roma was assassinated by an anarchist's bomb at his house in that eternal city. His mother, the contessa, and his daughter were not harmed in the blast, but were later found to have disappeared. The new count suggests sinister persons may be involved.

* * *

Rare was the person who consulted the Globe those days for any news other than the war. There were no tears in America to spare for luckless Italian counts and their vanished daughters; there were still too many left to shed for lost sons and wounded fathers. For the scores—the hundreds, the thousands—being killed on the battlefields of europe every day. So it could be expected that a small article about an insignificant foreign incident, buried in the depths of the newspaper, garnered little attention.

except that actions committed on one side of the world have a way of impacting the other. And people previously unknown to one another happen to meet all the time. In the Italian-speaking North end that day, copies of the Globe were used to wrap fish and line cupboards, while up on Beacon Hill, the newspaper was read from page to page, top to bottom. And in one particular house, the lady of that mansion sniffed as she sipped her tea and thought how it was just like an Italian to be blown up by one of his own kind.

Two of the people mentioned in the article had access to the paper that day, but the hapless heiress couldn't read english, and the sinister persons were too busy hatching evil plans to bother with a propaganda tool of the capitalists' machinations. And so the fact that there had been an assassination registered to no one in particular. And life went on just the way it usually does.

But fate has a way of laughing at human ignorance and God spins mysterious plans, and by August that Italian count's death would start to matter very much to quite a few people who had never known him at all.

* * *

Stealthy and silent as the cats she so admired, Julietta Giordano slipped past her papa and mama, her elder sister, and her three brothers as they ate breakfast at the table.

Or she tried to anyway.

"You forgot your salame!" Mama leaned toward the sideboard, grabbed a sack, and passed it to Dominic, who tossed it to Julietta.

"I told you, Mama. Madame doesn't want any salame. Not in the shop. It stinks."

"Of course it stinks. It stinks like a good salame."

"It stinks like garlic. And it makes my hands greasy."

There was hardly a break in the rhythm of the family's eating. They all had work to do and somewhere to be. It was the nature of an immigrant family. Which made it all the easier for Julietta to lower the salame to the floor behind her legs and leave it leaning against the wall as she slid toward the door.

Little Matteo looked up at her as she turned the knob.

She winked at him.

He hid an answering smile in the palm of his hand.

"Tie your scarf tighter beneath your chin!"

Julietta jumped at her older sister's order and dutifully tightened her scarf, although her knot left something to be desired.... A stiff wind, perhaps, to carry the hated thing away and deposit it into a gutter.

While she was busy with her scarf, Julietta's oldest brother, Salvatore, leaned his chair back on two legs, scooped up the salame with a sweep of his hand, and pitched it up to her. She'd have given anything to have hit him with it, but if she didn't leave then, she knew she would be late. She did, however, glare at him.

He answered by flashing her two fingers held up in imitation of horns. He thought she'd given him the evil eye? She'd show him! She knocked him on the head with the salame and then slid out the door before Mama could yell at her.

Don't forget your salame?

She wished she could. Along with scarves and garlic. More than wishing she could forget them, she wished she could throw them all into the street. Or give them to old Lorenzo, the ragpicker, to sell to someone else. All the salami, all the scarves, all the garlic in the world. He could have them. And good riddance!

Once outside and down the block, she turned onto Prince Street, made the sign of the cross as she walked through the shadow of St. Leonard's Church, and then ducked down North Street. Had you known where she worked, you might have wondered at her circuitous route, but Julietta was a firm believer in the sanctity of women's rights. She believed that a woman like herself had the right—nay, the obligation!—to give every man in the North end a chance to admire her singular beauty. As she walked in and out of the slices of light that probed the breaks between buildings, a curious change came over the girl. Her chin lifted,her shoulders rolled back. The scarf that had so lately been secured beneath her chin had, in one deft move, been drawn from her head, twisted, and then secured around her neck in a fashion that befitted only the very smartest of debutantes up on Beacon Hill.

Her fingers pushed in and out of her waistband until, in very gradual increments, her skirt had been shortened by at least two inches. Any decent person—me, perhaps, and you for certain— would have wanted to grab the girl by her shoulders and shake some sense back into her, but by then she had become almost unrecognizable. By some sleight of hand or dark magic, her dusky complexion seemed to have lightened and, with her shoulders rolled back, she seemed to have grown several inches. She had shed the very essence of her self. She had ceased to be Italian.

In fact, that was her greatest desire and most secret plan. More than anything, she wanted to be not Italian—not some person bound by family ties and the traditions of the old country—but American. There was a whole city—a whole world!—that warm summer day, just waiting to be discovered. And she wanted to explore every single part of it!

* * *

Two blocks up the street and three minutes later, Annamaria Rossi left her own family's apartment. The leaving was less strenuous than Julietta's, even though her youngest brother, Stefano, wrapped his arms about her waist and refused to release her; even though her mama handed her a string-bound pile of newly hemmed trousers to be dropped off at old Giuseppe's; and even though her sister, Theresa, whispered into her ear to tell that handsome Giovanni Sardo that she would meet him down in the alley after dinner.

Surrogate mother, servant, maid. Deliverer of secret messages. The day was no different than any other. Her leaving that morning was less strenuous than Julietta's only because she knew her return would be more so. The bulk of her work that day would be done not at Madame Fortier's Gown Shop, where she was the expert in smocking, but that evening at home where she was also her mother's eldest daughter.

Two girls there were among a family of three boys. And as the eldest of them all, Annamaria was destined to be indentured in service to her family for most of the rest of her life. That night, she knew she would have to coax Stefano to do his english lessons and try to persuade Theresa to help her pull in the wash. And in the meantime she would help Mama prepare for putting up some plums on the weekend.

As Annamaria stepped out into the bright summer's morning, she clamped the stack of trousers under her arm as she unknotted the scarf beneath her chin and then, grasping the two ends, cinched it tighter. She retied the knot, pulled the scarf further forward on her head, and started down the sidewalk.

Ducking into Giuseppe's tailor shop on the way down North Street, she nodded at his gap-toothed greeting. But this time, for the first time, she dodged the old man when he tried to pinch her bottom. And she deliberately, on purpose, walked right by the Sardos' shop without passing on Theresa's message. She spent the next three blocks rejoicing in the feeling of triumph that buoyed her spirit. And the three blocks after that feeling exceedingly guilty for having been so jubilant. So contrary. But she hadn't known before just how satisfying it could be to say no.

Take your own trousers.

Deliver your own message.

In truth, it wouldn't have done for her to say either of those things to her family. Not at all. Not for Annamaria Rossi. Wasn't hers the life that had been fated as the eldest of the daughters? Indeed, the life that had been demanded of eldest daughters for generation after generation in her family's small village in Italy? And hadn't her Aunt Rosina, her mother's own sister, warned her against the bitterness of resentment? She pulled her aunt's medal, the medal of Saint Zita, from her blouse.

Saint Zita, that pious woman who had known the blessings of neither husband nor children. Nothing but a life of toil as a servant. Annamaria kissed the medal and then let it fall back to her chest, where it slid between breasts that would never know the caress of a lover's touch, nor the pull and suck of a newborn babe.

It might seem strange that a person so young would deny herself those things that most of the rest of the world took for granted: a husband, a child, a family of her own. But Old World customs were strange, and stranger still were the traditions that had been formed in the small villages that nestled in the rolling hills of Avellino. To those not used to having choices, it's very difficult to even imagine their existence. So we must not think less of Annamaria or be impatient with her to shed her family's odd strictures. The poor girl only wanted to do what was expected of her. We cannot blame her for that.

She stayed in the North end, hugging the shabby buildings, not straying from the filthy sidewalks, inhaling the mingled scents of garlic and coffee just as long as she could. When finally she was confronted by Cross Street, she did what she had to do.

She crossed it.

And then walked west, eventually consigning her person to that bane of modern existence, the close, cramped quarters of an electric car. But still, as she squeezed herself onto the bench, a smile curled the very tips of her lips. How easy, how delightful it had been to be disagreeable.

* * *

You might have thought that Julietta, having left several minutes earlier and intent upon arriving at the same place, would have reached Madame's gown shop in advance of Annamaria. But you would have been wrong. Other people, other more experienced, more knowledgeable people than you, had also been known to be wrong about Julietta. She was a sly and evasive one. Though kindhearted and loyal, she was just a bit ... well, more than a bit, stubborn. On this point and at this moment you'll find yourself having to trust me, but I think that I'll be proved right before long. Suffice to say that in this case, on this morning, she stopped along her way to work.

She hadn't stopped to talk. Not necessarily. Although she would have been quite willing had the opportunity presented itself. No. She stopped mostly to see. And to be seen. Which are the two main objectives in the lives of most eighteen-year-old girls, be they from America or Italy or from any other place in between.

She was really quite extraordinary, and she knew it. You might have taken offense at such extreme vanity except that she made such a picture that morning, standing in a patch of early morning sunlight, across from Zanfini's frutta e verdura. At least that's what Rafaello Zanfini thought. He paused in his labors when he saw her, breathed in a sigh, and immediately dropped a crate of cucumbers onto his foot.

Which caused his father, Mr. Zanfini, to swear, and his mother, Mrs. Zanfini, to berate his father, and the deliveryman, Angelo Moretti, to look up at Julietta over the flatbed of his truck. She only stayed a moment more, but that one moment was long enough for Rafaello to forget his pain and Angelo to lose sight, for just one second, of all his mad schemes.

But perhaps, in fact, it was one moment too long. Before she continued on her way, Julietta saw a flash in Angelo's eyes that made her wonder, for just an instant, if he was what she wanted after all. She pondered that thought as she walked along, finally deciding that of course he was what she wanted. Why wouldn't he be what she wanted? He was entirely and absolutely what she wanted by virtue of her wanting him.

And so they went to work, those two girls from the North end, separated by several blocks and the inseparable gulf of two differing perspectives. The one planning to escape her family just as soon as she could, and the other resigned to stay.


Excerpted from A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell Copyright © 2011 by Siri Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Heart Most Worthy 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
howesew More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to Siri's next book and was not at all disappointed! I really connected with the characters. As usual, her historical setting was thorough and accurate. I really felt I was getting a look into a period of American history from someone who lived it. I enjoyed the story line. I also felt I was learning about our forefathers (mothers!) without feeling like I read a textbook. I can't wait for the next book!
whatinabox More than 1 year ago
A Heart Most Worthy follows three shopgirls of completely different personalities and backgrounds, joining them as they navigate family, life and love. My favorite is Annamaria; she's sweet and kind and is learning when it's good to be rebellious. My least favorite is Julietta, by far; I found her to be dense and selfish, rather than fiery and passionate, and she made it hard for me to connect with her. Because the book is written from several points of view, Julietta also made it hard for me to connect with the other characters because every time I read through one of her sections, she yanked me out of the illusion. While A Heart Most Worthy wasn't really my kind of book, I still enjoyed learning about Italian immigrants in America. I didn't realize that the people we consider to be Italians considered themselves to be grouped by region, not country, e.g. Sicilians, Avellinos, Calabrese. The little nuances of Italian life were also surprising and unique touches to the novel. Siri Mitchell is, without doubt, an excellent writer, but this book just didn't appeal to me the way I'd hoped it would. However, if you like historicals and Christian fiction (this one is much more religious than She Walks in Beauty), then A Heart Most Worthy would be worth picking up. [This book was received for review from the publisher.]
Jill Vernarsky More than 1 year ago
Slightly confusing. Not this authors best but still a good read.
Inthehammock More than 1 year ago
I loved that the book is about everyday life and situations in 1918, it's not about politics, exact dates, and other thing we've already learned in history books. It's about women's lives at home, at work, in love, and with friends. This is what I love to read about! There are a lot of characters in this book, the three women who work in Madame Fortier's dress shop, and two older women, Madame herself and her customer, Mrs. Quinn. All of the women are very different and lead very different lives, but they all come together at the dress shop. The romances in this story are absolutely swoon-worthy! The little moments are just so romantic. And all three of the the ladies' love stories are completely different from each others'. It's an eye opening look at city life at the time and glimpse at a piece of history we don't often see. Lovely characters with engrossing stories make this book a keeper!
SusieBookworm More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a very interesting story about three young Italian immigrants living in Boston. Julietta is a headstrong, rule-breaker who has plans to do as she pleases, and love who she pleases. Annamaria is the ultimate "good girl" who always does as she is told, and knows her place in her family. Luciana is struggling with her fall from fortune, and trying to survive the assassin who killed her father. All three young ladies come together at Madame Fortier's dress shop, where they work on the third floor using their talents to create gowns for the wealthy. Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana overcome their fears, turn to God, and realize the plans He has for their lives in very different ways. There is a history lesson to be learned from this story on how Italian immigrants were viewed in the early 1900's, along with a fantastic tale of romance, danger, faith, and family all rolled into one. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's writing style and storytelling, and would recommend this book to my friends! Bethany House Publishers sent me this book for free so that I could write a non-biased review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was kind of disappointed in this book. In the past I have loved all of Siri Mitchell's books but this was as good as I hoped it would be. The story is basically about three girls named Annamaria, Julietta, and Luciana. These women meet at Madame Fortier's dress shop where they are employed to create dresses for the wealthy women in the city. Each girl has a different soty but is seaching for love. I felt that hacing three main characters made it somewhat difficult to really feel connected with them. Overall this book is okay but the plot is not very interesting. I received this book as a part of Bethany House Publishers book review program and expressed my true opinions.
KarenLange More than 1 year ago
Anyone who's anybody in 1918's Boston goes to Madame Fortier's gown shop. After all, elite society must be attired correctly. Everyone knows that. Madame Fortier does not do all the work herself, of course. In addition to seamstresses, she employs three Italian immigrants, Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana. A marvel at embroidery, Julietta is dedicated, yet a bit on the rebellious side. No, more than a bit. She's downright reckless and defiant at times. Yes, you guessed it, she's a recipe for trouble. Annamaria brings expert smocking skills to the shop. In contrast to Julietta, Annamaria is shy and quiet, and wouldn't think of being defiant. Her lot in life, as the oldest daughter in an Italian family, is to remain single, and to live to care for her parents and siblings. Beadwork is Luciana's ticket to the third floor workroom. A tragic event haunts her past, and she struggles to survive while supporting her grandmother. They recently immigrated to America in hopes of escaping horrific memories. Surely in a country as large as America they can find refuge. Can't they? Not surprisingly, their lives become intertwined not just because of their Italian heritage, but due to unsettling events in their lives and at the shop. Madame Fortier is forced to sort out some of these entanglements, while struggling to maintain her own balance. Meanwhile, Julietta finds herself torn between two suitors, one stable and secure, and the other, well, not so much. Annamaria begins to question her position in her family, and sets a daring (or daring for her, anyway) plan into motion. Luciana just tries to keep her head above water, but finds it necessary to keep looking over her shoulder. I enjoyed this book. At first, the point of view threw me a little, but once I got my bearings and figured out which character belonged to what family, job, and neighborhood, it was fine. Ms. Mitchell includes a helpful list of characters in the beginning, which made things easier, and was handy when I needed to check back and see who was who. Engaging characters and abundant twists and turns give this story personality. I look forward to new releases by this talented author.
JacobsBeloved on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Siri Mitchell's books always seem to have the most beautiful covers, and, like the last one I read, She Walks in Beauty,I was originally attracted to this book for the cover alone. Before I read the book, I skipped to the back and read the "Note to the Reader," which detailed the historical background of the book, referencing the Great Italian Emigration and the Spanish Influenza. This perked my interest in the book even more so, since I did not know anything about these references before this book. The Italian aspect also interested me since I have some Italian blood in me.One of the first thoughts that occurred to me when I began the book was how little the three girls and their separate subplots had in common. The characters do not seem to intersect at all, and all three girls are very different from one another, with the exception of the dress shop. It felt almost like three different stories that the author took turns telling. As the book progresses, that proves to be incorrect, as the different characters intersect in the most unusual ways, such as one of girl's love interest driving the delivery truck for the shop where another girl's love interest works. This aspect of the book became the most interesting for me, since Mitchell does not make a big deal of pointing out where the connections are, and I enjoyed tracking them.The owner of the dress shop, Madame Fortier, had her own subplot as well, but I was a bit dissatisfied with how hers played out, since very little about her circumstances changed - even though it was this that made her unhappy in the first place.All three girls were very likable for her own reasons, though each one's subplot ended somewhat differently. Luciana seemed to get the best deal of the three girls, though all were very happy by the end. Annamaria's ending was bittersweet, but it gave the reality of the Spanish Influenza more impact. I did not like Julietta overly much in the beginning, but the lessons she learned made me like her that much more by the end.Overall, the book was at times intriguing, romantic, suspenseful, and even frustrating, but it was definitely worth the read.
judyg54 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for giving me this book to read and review. It was a pleasure to read. This book is considered a historical fiction and it lived up to that title. I felt a deeper understanding of the Great Italian Emigration to America during the early 1900's. The lifestyles, their way of thinking, their religion, and their struggles. I also really like the way it was written; as an "omniscient point of view". It was very well done and different than the way most books are written and I enjoyed it very much.This was a story of 3 young ladies working in Boston in 1918 in Madame Fortier's dress shop. You get to know and understand where each of the girls live, how they think, what they are going through and how each of them handle "falling in love". Julietta in the outspoken one who has great plans and "loves" a little too easily. Annamaria is the quiet one who feels she has no future where love and marriage are concerned. And Luciana is the one with a secretive past that could bring danger to anyone who gets close to her. You will enjoy getting to know each one of these girls and their lifestyles. Even Madame Fortier has a history you will come to understand. Although this book was not a page turner for me where I couldn't stop reading to see what happened next, I did find myself enjoying the story and learning something of a time in history that I had very little knowledge of. It was a very satisfying book to me.
Adayriddle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fleeing from anarchist that had murdered her father Luciana seeks refuge in Boston's north end among immigrants and peasants. There she tries to leave behind her nobility and forget the privileges of that rank and life. She seeks to blend and be unnoticed in the dirty, overpopulated streets of the north end. Each day she spends her energy staying hidden ever searching for the murderous man that is hunting her down. In dire straights she seeks employment to make a meager living. By divine appointment she finds herself in Madame Fortier's shop. Little does she know how her life will soon be entwined in Madame's (who is also holding a secret that drives her). On that day she had no way of knowing that her employment would lead to the freedom of Madame to be herself, nor did she know that this place of employment would lead to her being found by her enemy and in her finding love. In this building Luciana finds herself two unlikely friends - Julietta and Annamaria. Both of these girls are also on the road of reconciling who they want to be and what is expected of them to be. This book is endearing from the start. One can not help but feel as if you know each of these girls. I really enjoyed Siri Mitchel's writing style as it reminded me of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott in different ways. Most certainly worth the read I highly recommend it.Thank you Bethany House Publishing for this review copy.
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wonderfully written. I enjoyed the vantage point of NY immigrants that Siri presented.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such a good book. I loved the way siri made each character believable and loveable
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Katie_Bennett More than 1 year ago
A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell chronicles the stories of three young Italian immigrants: Julietta, who wishes more than anything to be American; Annamaria, who falls in love on the other side of the road; and Luciana, trying to flee her past. The three young women meet in Madame Fortier's dress shop, where they spend their days creating works of art for the wealthy upper class women who patronize Madame Fortier's shop. They look for love in unexpected places, finding it in ways they never imagined. I know. Cheesy, right? It wasn't as bad as I expected, although the title lived up to the book's Christian-fictionyness. This book wasn't great. It was ok, and it got me through a long Sunday afternoon. Besides that, it wasn't terribly exciting. I think it was a little predicable how everything ended up all perfect and all. Besides that, the book was enjoyable. Favorite character: Annamarie, most definitely. I loved how she stepped out.