Fifty-five, frumpy, and flung to the curb like an old floral sofa…
Losing her Silicon Valley job to a younger woman was bad enough. Catching her husband in the arms of one is the final straw. Something’s gotta give, like the last threads of Perla Palazzo’s sanity.
Then, a plan so wild and reckless it’s just an inch to the left of self-destruction.
With a bank foreclosure hanging over her head and staring at the last of her savings, Perla books a trip to the Amalfi Coast in the hope of fulfilling her dreams to become a travel writer. But Capri’s deep azure waters are home to more than old wrecks and lost sailors, like Parthenope, an embittered, hard-drinking mermaid who believes the only way to enjoy men is crudo, with a sprinkle of salt and a generous squeeze of lemon.
When Parthenope gives Perla an enchanted cameo just days before she meets a dashing Italian tour guide, it seems the divorcée’s fortunes have turned. Timeless beauty, self-confidence—perhaps even love—are suddenly within tantalizing reach. But the siren’s song is both seductive and deadly, and a moment of weakness will leave Perla facing unthinkable consequences.
Troubles abound for fifty-five-year-old Perla Palazzo. Booted from her Silicon Valley job, dumped by her husband, and teetering on bank foreclosure, Perla is at wit's end. She gambles the last of her savings on a trip to Italy's Amalfi Coast in a last ditch attempt to reinvent herself as a travel writer. While swimming off the island of Capri, she encounters Parthenope, a mysterious woman sitting waist-deep in a grotto drinking limoncello. They pass the bottle and debate the merits of beauty and the evils of men. Parthenope gives Perla a cameo necklace and reveals herself as a mermaid. Perla flees in terror.
Perla musters her courage and returns to the grotto intending to give back the dubious gift. She and Parthenope strike an awkward friendship. Parthenope convinces Perla to keep the cameo, claiming it will protect her and provide “what she needs”. The next day Perla wears the necklace and discovers it makes her look 25 years younger.
Perla pens her articles for the travel writing contest while reveling in her faux youth and beauty. As the cameo continues to reveal its powers, Perla learns of Parthenope’s tragic history, encounters other immortals, and makes new friends - as well as a few enemies. She meets Luca, the blind musician, rubs elbows with Circe, the murderous temptress, and falls in love with Vito, the handsome tour guide. Perla feels guilty deceiving Vito about her age but cannot stop seeing him. Parthenope becomes jealous of Vito and has a falling out with Perla.
When Perla reconciles with Parthenope just days before a planned road trip with Vito, she makes a terrifying discovery: without the cameo, Parthenope's age has accelerated to the brink of death. Perla must choose between saving Parthenope’s life and losing Vito’s love. She decides to return the cameo - after one last weekend with Vito.
Perla and Vito visit an ancient hilltop village and a powerful earthquake strikes. While helping survivors, Perla’s necklace comes off. Vito sees her face just before she's knocked unconscious in an aftershock. Perla wakes up in a hospital five days later. She’s lost her lover, missed the contest deadline, and likely killed her best friend.
Perla returns to Capri and desperately searches for Parthenope but cannot find her. As a last resort, she beseeches Janus, Parthenope's terrifying oracle friend, for a second chance. Hours later, Vito reappears. Perla discovers that he, in fact, had not seen her older face after the earthquake. Her moral conviction again wavers but she chooses honesty and removes the necklace in front of Vito. The cameo's true magic is revealed: all along, Perla was the only one who saw herself as younger. She gets a surprise job offer in Italy.
The next day, Perla finds Parthenope barely alive. She persuades her to wear the cameo and to meet her friend Luca. Parthenope reluctantly agrees and is restored to youthful perfection. Parthenope and Luca make beautiful music together, fall in love, and accept the limitations of their mixed-species relationship. Poseidon, the bane of Parthenope’s existence, at last relents and grants her mortality and human form.
Give a brief description of your debut novel, A Trail of Pearls.
It's like Under the Tuscan Sun meets Wizard of Oz. My story is an an urban fantasy about a chance meeting between Perla Palazzo, a laid-off Silicon Valley executive who travels to the Amalfi Coast in order to reinvent herself as a travel writer, and the beautiful Parthenope, a hard-drinking, man-hating mermaid who, instead of ruby slippers, gives Perla a magical cameo with cosmetic powers better than Botox. Their awkward friendship is complicated when Perla is swept off her feet by Vito, the handsome tour guide. Ultimately, she's forced to choose between Parthenope’s life and Vito’s love.
Why did you write this story?
I think there's a shortage of mermaid stories that women over forty can relate to. The genre overflows with sweet, wide-eyed teenage mermaids who live in Atlantis. My antagonist, Parthenope, is a deeply flawed old soul with a tragic past who lives in present day Capri. So much more interesting.
Why do you like mermaids?
Bad girls of the sea! What's not to like? I think the wrongness of feminine perfection mixed with savagery, and sexuality mixed with violence, is what makes them alluring. Mermaids don't take crap from men, they eat them. Parthenope is a beautiful avenging angel with fabulous hair and her own code of justice, like Wonder Woman with fins. Her message is that you don't need a tail to be a mermaid, just a mermaid attitude.
How did you write about a mythological creature with such intimacy?
I sat on a beach in Capri and imagined myself meeting a mermaid. What would I say to her? How would we react to each other? Where would we go together? What we would do? What was her life like? What wisdom might she offer? Parthenope became a tough-love fairy god-mermaid who calls out Perla's weaknesses and kicks her down the road to self-awareness and positive change.
How did the idea for this novel come about?
While on vacation in Sorrento, Italy, I bought a mermaid cameo necklace from Bimonte Sorrento, a jewelry store that specializes in traditional, hand-carved cameos. Christian, the owner, told me the legend of Parthenope, the mermaid from Greek mythology who appears in his logo. In Homer’s Odyssey, she was one of the three sirens who tried to shipwreck Odysseus and his crew. She’s like a rock star on the Amalfi Coast – they really take their mermaids seriously there. I wanted to tap into that enduring love and resurrect a 21st century Parthenope.
What else have you written?
This is my first novel. I’ve taken Continuing Education fiction writing courses at Stanford University over the last few years, but that’s it. I have a BA in history and a MA in Psychology and have spent the bulk of my career in advertising sales. After A Trail of Pearls is published, I plan to adapt it into a screenplay.
What was your greatest challenge writing your debut novel?
Believing I could do it. My first in-class workshop was heart-stopping. I almost turned the car around and went home that night. I was mortified because everyone else’s work was so much better than mine. My teachers and classmates graciously hid their eye-rolling though, and I stuck it out.
What aspects of your life helped inspire this book?
I’ve struggled with my own transition into later middle-age. I hope women can relate to my protagonist, Perla, and her rocky path to a new identity. She experiences what most women experience, to some degree, as they grow older: loneliness, loss of social capital attached to youth and beauty, rejection, invisibility, feelings of worthlessness and despair. After decades of sacrifice and compromise, Perla discovers herself alone in her mid-fifties, stripped of the job, marriage and lifestyle by which she defined herself. A Trail of Pearls is her quest for self-discovery and self-acceptance.
What do you do in your spare time?
Stretch out on the sofa in my crocheted mermaid tail with a bag of Goldfish crackers and peruse Amazon for the latest historical fiction, urban fantasy, and women's fiction.
Are there any writers whose works inspire you?
My favorite author is Diana Gabaldon. Her Outlander series is a masterfully woven tapestry of action, romance, history, and magical realism. I also love Ariana Franklin's, Mistress of the Art of Death series.
What can readers hope to learn from this book?
A Trail of Pearls is a story of friendship, love and the courage to trust that the people most important to you will accept you as you are.
Book Title: A Trail of Pearls
Release Date: 2/28/2021
Genre: Paranormal Women's Fiction
Self-published on Amazon in Kindle and paperback
Professionally edited and formatted by Victory Editing
Author's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Website: www.trailofpearls.com
Age Category: Mature Adult
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Sexual Assault, Not-Too-Graphic Sex Scenes, Alcohol Consumption
Copyright © 2021 A Trail of Pearls - All Rights Reserved.