FeaturedContemporary Romance

Bella Cigna


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Fast-paced, fun, once in a lifetime escape filled with incredible characters, sights, and sounds. A leap of faith romance readers will love.


Devastated by personal loss, Sarah Flynn escapes to Rome where she finds a job teaching English. Only the girls’ school is like a nunnery and she’s expected to speak fluent Italian overnight. What has she gotten herself into? While the beautiful sights rekindle her interest in art, not even her brush finding canvas can heal all the wounds she carries. She'll need the help of a meddling nun, a nutty mathematician, and a handsome Italian admirer. Can Sarah overcome the insecurities born of a shattered marriage? Will she again take a chance on love?

Wendi Dass's Bella Cigna is about Sarah Flynn, a government worker living in D.C., 33, married, and struggling with infertility.

The story starts with Sarah sitting in her cubicle at work regretting having ever left her dream job to work in a government office in Washington D.C. Once home for the night Sarah thinks she's alone as Philip her husband isn't expected home for another hour. Then a floorboard squeaks, a dresser drawer thuds, and Sarah rushes upstairs to find Philip home. Within seconds Sarah is left speechless as Philip tells her "I'm leaving you." Sarah asks "Is there someone else?" Philip nods as if to say yes. Her lips numb with tears burning her eyes she struggles to say something but nothing comes out. Finally, she yells "jerk" and throws a trinket box at him and he seems to smile, and then with tires squealing he's gone.

Three days later and everything has changed. No calls from Philip, no babies, and for Sarah her dreams gone forever. Thank goodness for Meredith, her best friend, and her mother who have offered to keep her company "while she gets settled."

After a day spent in one of her favorite museums, Meredith reminds Sarah of another dream she once had of traveling across Europe. Sarah had given up on that dream the day she married Philip. Meredith has a plan for her friend. Sarah doesn't know it yet, but in just a few days her life is about to change forever.

With their house under contract and separation papers in hand, Sarah sets in motion a plan to travel to Italy and teach English grammar for a year at Saint Theresa School. Upon arriving in Rome, Sarah meets Sister Maria, the head of the school, and fellow teacher Anna who is much younger and more carefree than Sarah. Later that day she tours her sparse classroom that she has just days to get in order and her modest one-room living quarters where she'll live for a year. In a couple of days, she'll meet her students and then Marco and Eduardo and begin to enjoy all the sights and sounds of Rome. Did I also happen to mention her mother is planning a visit soon? 

Wendi Dass's Bella Cigna is a luxuriously written escape to Rome. From the very first paragraph, I was 100% committed to Sarah's story and wanted the absolute best outcome for this carefully created and intensely drawn character. All the characters in Bella Cigna are rich in detail so much so you are instantly acquainted with them. I loved that she was teaching abroad and enjoyed the sight and sounds of life in Rome. I love her friendship with Anna, her respect for Sister Maria, and the fact her mother travels to be with her in Rome. Bella Cigna is a mix of fairytale and slow-brewing romance all wrapped up with a pretty bow and the feeling deep down in one's soul--that dreams can come true.

Reviewed by

Avid reader with a master's degree in strategic design and management working in accounting and finance. I live in Wisconsin with my husband of twenty five years and a very energetic/comical tabby cat named Gabe. When not reading and writing reviews, I enjoy cooking, gardening, and nature.


Devastated by personal loss, Sarah Flynn escapes to Rome where she finds a job teaching English. Only the girls’ school is like a nunnery and she’s expected to speak fluent Italian overnight. What has she gotten herself into? While the beautiful sights rekindle her interest in art, not even her brush finding canvas can heal all the wounds she carries. She'll need the help of a meddling nun, a nutty mathematician, and a handsome Italian admirer. Can Sarah overcome the insecurities born of a shattered marriage? Will she again take a chance on love?

A time comes when every woman must learn what

to do with life’s lemons. Some make lemonade. Some

clean their garbage disposals. And some make a proper

cup of tea.

Sarah Flynn always chose tea.

She dumped the water from her Keep Calm and

Carry On mug into the electric kettle on her desk. The

mug, the kettle, and the Vermeer print pinned to the

privacy panel behind her dual monitors were the only

personal effects that distinguished her gray cubicle

from all the others in the D.C. federal office building.

As the water heated, she reached into her lunchbox for

the quartered lemon she’d packed that morning. She

held a wedge in her fingers, preparing to squeeze it into

her mug.

An obnoxious ding interrupted her classical music,

and an instant message popped up on her screen.

—Did you clock out for your break?—

She jerked and squirted the lemon into her face.

“Damn it,” she muttered as she blinked the sting from

her eyes. She typed a return message to her supervisor.

—Yes, sir—

She imagined her boss, Mr. Rosen, punching at his

keyboard with two index fingers in his managerial

office—a work area about four times the size of her

box, with glass walls and a window. The glass walls were a luxury, except when someone caught him with

his finger shoved up his nose—as Sarah had often done.

She squeezed the rest of the juice from the wedge

into her mug. As the scent of citrus permeated her

cubicle, she scrunched her nose. Why had life delivered

her such a strong lemon as Mr. Rosen? Leaving her job

at Central Elementary was bad enough—a job she’d

loved, with children so charming she almost didn’t

mind their hovering parents. The job at Central had

been with colleagues who’d supported her efforts to

bring the arts into her third-grade classroom.

The kettle whistled, and Sarah blinked away tears.

So much for that dream.

“Mrs. Flynn.”

Mr. Rosen’s voice jostled her from her thoughts.

She jumped, her left knee banging against the desk.

“Yes, Mr. Rosen?” She rubbed her knee. Why didn’t

companies make furniture to accommodate tall people?

He plopped down a stack of papers. “Here’s

another listing. I need it ASAP.”

The stack looked thicker than a Tolstoy novel. He

enunciated each letter as if he were delivering orders to

an international organization designed to combat

terror—though he was more than likely only delivering

misclassified purchases for ballpoint pens and toilet

paper. She checked the clock on her monitor: threethirty.

Even with the caffeine of three pots of tea, she

couldn’t get the listing done by five. “Sir, remember I

told you I’m not working overtime anymore.”

“You are today.” He walked away.

The stench of his Chinese takeout breath lingered

in the air, and Sarah scrunched her nose, but she

couldn’t summon the energy to protest. Her legs were too heavy to chase him through the maze-like

arrangement of fifth-floor cubicles to remind him she

didn’t need the extra money. Hell, the way things had

turned out, she hadn’t needed to leave her beloved

teaching job at Central to become a peon in the federal

bureaucracy of government spending. The pay increase

meant nothing now.

She poured water over a bag of English Breakfast

tea, and the steam burned her cheeks. Without waiting

for it to steep, she lifted the mug to her lips, but the

aroma did nothing for her mood. If she had to spend

one extra second in the office today, she might start

pelting Mr. Rosen with the rest of her lemons.

This day couldn’t get any worse. My life couldn’t


The phone rang, and Sarah spilled hot tea down the

front of her shirt. “Ow!” She pulled the blouse from her

skin, slammed the mug on her desk, and picked up the

receiver. “Mr. Rosen,” she began, in as firm a voice as

she could muster, “I can’t possibly get this listing done

today.” A few beats of silence ensued.

“I’m sorry, I was trying to reach Mrs. Flynn.” A

woman’s voice came through.

“Oh.” Sarah tucked her long bangs, in need of trim,

behind her ears. She softened her voice. “This is Mrs.


“Very good. I’m calling from the Georgetown

Fertility Clinic.”

Sarah’s breath caught in her throat. The

Georgetown Fertility Clinic. She’d been on the waiting

list so long she thought she’d be in menopause before

they called. What woman struggling to conceive could

pass up their guarantee? Pregnancy in six months or your money back, their brochure read.

“We’ve had a cancellation tomorrow, and you’re

next on the waiting list. Could you by chance make a


“Of course.” The words came out of her mouth

faster than Mr. Rosen could shout directives.

“Wonderful. We’ll discuss payment options with

you beforehand.”

With a quivering hand, Sarah replaced the receiver.

Suddenly, the stack of papers on her desk held renewed

purpose. Perhaps Mr. Rosen’s offer of overtime wasn’t

untimely after all.

She pulled her jar of sugar cubes from her bottom

desk drawer and dropped three cubes into her cup. So

what if she splurged? She was sure to gain a pound just

by looking at the jar, anyway. With a smile, she brought

the mug to her lips and took a large gulp instead of her

usual dainty sips. The sweet, warm liquid washed over

her like a bright afternoon sun, soothing the bitterness

she’d built up over two fruitless years of pregnancy

attempts, of hypodermic needles filled with hormones,

and of the uncomfortable prodding of obstetricians with

metal instruments and ultrasound wands.

The office bustle faded into a fog. Sarah lowered

her cup and stood. In a daze, she floated through the

office until she found herself in Mr. Rosen’s office. The

room was empty. She went to the window, overlooking

the blossoming spring of downtown D.C. The white and

pink buds of the cherry blossoms lined the street like

giant, hovering snowflakes. Inhaling deeply, Sarah

imagined the faint, sweet aroma of the ornamental trees

instead of the stale odor of Mr. Rosen’s sesame

chicken. Had winter come and gone so soon? Had three months of Philip’s mandated break from fertility

treatments been long enough?

Three months would have to be long enough. This

time would be different.

“Mrs. Flynn?”

Sarah spun. Mr. Rosen had half a donut in one

hand and a disposable cup in the other. She leaned

back, the coolness of the glass pressing through her


“Is everything all right?”

“All right?”

He nodded. “Donuts in the break room.” He

shoved the piece in his mouth.

Mr. Rosen was taking her office intrusion quite

well. Philip was always more agreeable after eating.

Sarah took a step forward. “I can’t stay late tonight.

I’ve got to get home to my husband.”

He licked his fingers. His brows met.

“But I promise I’ll work overtime for the next

two—no, nine—months. Promise.” She started for the

door. If she hurried, she’d have just enough time to hit

Philip’s favorite take-out restaurant.

Tonight will be perfect. It has to be.


When Sarah arrived home, the evening chill rushed

into the entry. Philip wouldn’t be home for another

hour, which gave her plenty of time to dress the table

with their finest china and put a bottle of wine on ice.

She transferred the lobster mac and cheese to her

ceramic bakeware and threw the Key lime cheesecake

into the fridge.

As she folded her best linen napkins, she heard a

loose floorboard from above squeak. Was Philip home before her? Maybe he had an event tonight and came

home to change? She checked the calendar hanging by

the back door, but April twelfth was blank. Her

stomach dropped. If he had some swanky dinner with a

senator whose vote he needed, why hadn’t he penciled

in the event?

The thud of a dresser drawer echoed down the

stairs, and she rounded her shoulders. She threw the

napkins over the back of a chair and marched to the

staircase. “Phil?” She climbed the stairs to the master

bedroom and found her lanky, blond husband bent over

the bed. “Phil?”

He jumped and turned to face her. “Jesus Christ,

Sarah. You scared the crap out of me.” A suitcase lay

open on the bed behind him, and he held a pile of

clothes in his arms. “I didn’t expect you home so soon.”

Packing? How had he not written a trip on the

calendar? She frowned. “I stopped working overtime

two months ago.” He wore his work clothes—a pair of

khaki pants with a light blue, button-up shirt and a tie

loosened at the neck. Business trip, for sure. Would

they still have time for dinner? “I didn’t realize you

were traveling this week. You didn’t write it on the


“Sarah,” he started then stopped and took a deep


“When’s your flight?”

“Flight?” He exhaled then shook his head. “Sarah,

I’m not traveling. I’m…”

His voice trailed off, and for a split second a hint of

sorrow grazed his eyes. Then he replaced it with the

calm gaze he used whenever he wanted something.

Sarah straightened her spine. What did he want now? Couldn’t they have a quiet evening at home together for


“I’m leaving, Sarah. I’m leaving you.”

His words tumbled off her. She must have

misheard. “What?”

“I said I’m moving out.” He resumed shoving

things into his bag.

Sarah shook her head, and her hands trembled.

“But…” The words died in her parched mouth. The

room swayed left and right, left and right. She reached

for the arm of the chair. Dropping into the seat, she

buried her head between her knees.

The geometric pattern on the carpet swirled. The

air around her thickened, and the rip of zippers, rustle

of clothes, and shuffle of Philip’s shoes echoed around

her. He was really leaving…but why? Sarah raised her


Philip added more items to the bag.

His favorite ball cap. A bottle of cologne. The

black silk boxers she’d given him for Valentine’s Day.

Wait—the ones she’d bought didn’t have little white

hearts. An iron vise wrapped around her chest,

squeezing the air from her lungs. “Is there someone

else?” Sarah could barely force out the words with the

burning sensation in her throat.

Nodding, he zipped the suitcase and put it on the


His affirmation hit her like a slap on the cheek. She

searched her mind for an expletive, but her lips refused

to move. They were numb, just like her hands and feet.

Philip exhaled. “I’m sorry, Sarah, but we both

know this relationship isn’t working anymore.”

He spoke in a singsong voice that was sure to win him an election one day. Tears burned her eyes as she

translated that vague statement in her mind. She wasn’t

working anymore. She wasn’t on his arm at political

functions, looking graceful hanging on his every word.

She wasn’t preparing gourmet appetizers to entertain

the conservative Midwest senator whose name she

couldn’t recall. And above all, she wasn’t giving him


Casting her glance upward, she watched him

through the distorted view of tear-sodden eyes.

He pulled up the retractable handle on his suitcase

and stepped toward the door. He stopped in front of her

and patted her cheek with his hand. “I knew you’d


He spoke to her as if she were a child. Then he was

gone. Sarah listened to the tread of his feet on the stairs

and the front door opening and closing. Her head still

spinning, she rushed to the window overlooking the

front door and yanked it open. “Jerk!” The word,

almost unrecognizable, tore from her throat.

Philip jumped and turned back.

With his head cocked to the side, and fern-green

eyes flickering, Sarah wasn’t sure if he was surprised or

amused. Either way, neither response was an apology.

She narrowed her eyes and reached for something—

anything—breakable atop the dresser. She grasped a

cool, hard object and hurled it out the window. The

glass box, a trinket Philip had given her when they were

dating, shattered at his feet.

Philip looked from the shards to her. His lips

formed a hard, straight line, and he shook his head.

Sarah slammed the window so hard the remaining

objects on the dresser rattled. A floor lamp teetered and fell to the side. She tightened her grip on the window

frame, partly to release the tension that had built in her

arms, and partly to keep herself from collapsing.

Philip tossed the suitcase into the backseat. Two

boxes sat beside it, and a pile of clothes rested in the

passenger seat.

A knot formed in her stomach. Sarah released her

hold on the window frame and stumbled back. This

ordeal can’t be happening.

The car engine growled. Tires squealed.

Tears streamed down Sarah’s cheeks as she

staggered out of the bedroom and climbed the stairs to

the third floor. By the time she reached the olive-green

nursery, she could barely breathe with the heaving in

her chest and the uncontrolled sobs. This nightmare

isn’t happening.

She scanned the nursery. Outlines of animals were

sketched on the walls. An old desk sat where the crib

would have gone. All were reminders that she was

losing more than a husband. She was being stripped of

a chance at a family. Dropping to her knees, she buried

her face in her hands and rocked back and forth.

Rocking, like the child she was meant to rock.

A soft hum interrupted her grieving, and she jerked

her phone from her pocket, not bothering to check the

caller ID. Maybe Philip leaving was a mistake? Maybe

he had changed his mind? “Hello.” Her voice gargled

with phlegm.

“Sarah Miller,” a digitalized voice replied. “I’m

calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. Willis.”

Sarah swallowed, her pulse reverberating in her


“Please press one to confirm or two to cancel.” Sarah held out the phone, her fingers floundering

on the touch screen as she pressed the number two. She

didn’t need the appointment now; she probably never


About the author

Wendi Dass is a math professor and author from Virginia. Her writing interests include literary short stories, flash fiction, and novel-length women's fiction and romance. When she's not devising deceptively delicious problems for her students, she can be found drafting her latest story. view profile

Published on September 30, 2020

Published by The Wild Rose Press

80000 words

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Reviewed by