The Thief of Hearts

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Ever since Jessup Norton came into her life he has been a thorn in the side of Sofia Parker and her family. Norton is a city councilman in Sofia's hometown of Cabot Falls, a small business owner, and the Parkers' next door neighbor. 

First the municipal curmudgeon seeks a court injunction to stop their sons, Luke and Matthew, from building a tree house in their backyard, but then things really get ugly. A fire during the town's Founder's Day celebration destroys A New U, Norton's fitness gym, and he accuses Matthew of setting it. Sofia must discover who is behind the arson in order to clear her son's name. 

At the same time, she is also pulled into the mystery of the ninth block of her grandmother's heirloom quilt, a silvery-pink square that seems to date back to Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century. Entries in the antique journal that accompanied the quilt cryptically refer to a Hannah Reed and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

There seems to be a connection between the person who donated the block of material for the quilt and the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. Could Hannah have been one of the first female Pinkerton agents? 

Sofia really could use a detective as she tries to prove the origin of the ninth quilt block, while also determining who the modern-day firebug is. If she doesn't, Matthew could be held responsible for a crime he didn't commit. And, as a string of arsons continues, Cabot Falls could become the next "hot time in the old town." 

The Characters

Sofia Parker is a stay-at-home mom with four children. She loves to paint and she really enjoys baking confectionery masterpieces on the side. One day she hopes to combine these two talents into a business of her own. But she lacks confidence, often feeling overshadowed by her two older sisters and father -- all three hold advanced degrees in the sciences.

But as Sofia loses herself in researching the compelling stories of her ancestors -- other female guardians of the same heirloom quilt -- she begins to feel a connection with her roots ... and is filled with a whole new confidence in her personal identity and creative potential.

Jim Parker, Sofia's husband, is 42, tall, lean and has thick blond hair and blue eyes. He is a math teacher at Cabot Falls High School. He is also a kind man who loves his family and is supportive of Sofia's desire to use her creative talents and open her own business.

Elena is Sofia's late grandmother. Because Sofia's mother died when she was little, Elena was very much the maternal figure in the lives of her grandchildren. Elena surprised everyone by bequeathing the priceless heirloom trunk and quilt to Sofia. But Nonna never did anything without a reason. What old secrets did she hope Sofia would uncover?

Caterina Vasari, 17, and her mother, Vedette, are seamstresses known for their fine smocking, embroidery and beadwork. Caterina is also an aspiring artist. They live together in a house on the village square of Ponte San Vincenti just outside of Florence.

Caterina tries to bear the brunt of the intricate stitching work because her mother has advanced rheumatism. They need both of their incomes to survive, and they especially need the income from the two gowns they have been commissioned to create for Lisabetta, the daughter of the esteemed Donati family.

Caterina is secretly in love with an apprentice winemaker at the Donati's family vineyard and hopes one day to marry him.

Caterina is a direct ancestor of Sofia.

Lisabetta is 16, well-bred, strikingly gorgeous ... and miserable, because her father is forcing her to marry a repulsive nobleman. Her true love is the handsome Gianni Medici ... and Lisabetta wishes she had the courage to defy her Father.

Bertrando is Lisabetta's fiance. He's cruel, foul and more than twice her age. But he is also wealthy. Lisabetta's father is selling her into this marriage solely to shore up the family's dwindling finances.

Handsome and young, Gianni is the secret true love of Lisabetta Donati. He says he will do anything to be with her ... but does that include murder?