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Playing by Heart

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  56 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as much as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, her position as “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent off to a convent instead. Ironically, Emilia’s pious older sister, Maria, would gladly become a nun. But Father won’t allow it—her brilliant language skills are too important to his quest for noble status.

Paperback, 278 pages
Published September 30th 2017 by Vinspire Publishing, LLC
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4.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  56 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Andrea Way
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
***ARC provided by Netgalley and Publisher.

Even though this in an arc all opinions are my own. This was a sweet historical romance that had me crying from the start. Our main character Emilia wants to do nothing more than to fall in love and carry on with her music. But as the 2nd child this is not possible and she seems to be headed to become a nun. She then loses someone close and writes a piece of music that turns everyone’s head and they sit and finally notice her talent. She falls in love a
Emilia Salvini loves music. Emilia doesn't want to be forced against her will to join a convent. Emilia wants to impress her father.

Emilia tries to solve Statement B with Statement A. If her father is impressed with her skills, he might want her to get married instead of making her become a nun. She strives to impress her music teacher, Maestro Tomassini, who constantly berates her for being female. Only when her mother dies and she uses that pain to compose a heartbreaking sonata will Maestro
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You know that feeling when you wake up excited to pick up the awesome book you've been reading . . . then the rush of disappointment when you remember that you finished it yesterday?! *sigh* This is one of those books. I'm a fan of Susan Vreeland and Phillipa Gregory, and I think Playing by Heart is in the same genre. The characters are vivid, likable, real; the story is tantalizing in an honest and clean, innocent manner. I would say this is fine for ages 12-13 and up: nothing explicit despite ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story is exciting, but at the same time, relaxing. The setting of 18th C. Milan, before Italy became a single unified country, is historically interesting, and the two talented characters who are sisters bring the period to life. I eagerly looked forward to returning to the story each evening for a relaxing visit with all the characters, to find out what beautiful gowns the females would wear, which gentlemen would show them interest, what progress Emilia would make with her music, and if M ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in 18th-century Milan, Playing by Heart is a symphony of romance and faith with an undercurrent of social commentary. Will Maria and Emilia's father sacrifice their futures on the altar of his own ambitions to join the noble class? Carmela Martino's new novel for teen readers explores family ties, vocations, and discernment of the best ways to use God-given gifts. Cue up some Vivaldi or Pachelbel and settle in for an intriguing tale.
(Review based on ARC provided by the author)
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Playing by Heart is as lyrical as the gifted musicians that inhabit its pages. Carmela Martino, in an impeccably-written story, captures both the grace and refinement of 18th century Italy and the timeless dilemmas to which the modern reader can relate - the pressure of familial expectations and obligations, living in the shadow of a sibling, the desire to direct one’s own destiny, and love tested by time, distance, parental resistance, and class.

Gifted at both performance and composing, young E
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reviewed for YA Books Central

An interesting story.

The Story:
Emilia is a young woman in Milan who has become somewhat of a musical prodigy. She's a composer as well as being adept at the harpsichord. She's also the second oldest daughter in a family with many kids. Her father has dedicated his life to gaining a noble title and wants to marry two of his daughters to noblemen. The problem? Emilia's older sister desires to become and nun and Emilia herself has already found the man she wants to marr
Theresa Linden
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Filled with beautiful scenes and heart-wrenching moments, PLAYING BY HEART by Carmela Martino is an absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love.

This story shows the dreams and trials of two talented sisters. Emilia excels in music. But her father's and the maestro's attitudes lead her to feel inadequate. So she finds herself envious of the praise and attention given to her older sister. Maria, the older sister, is humble and faith-filled. And while she lo
Teresa Cardinez
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very engaging story about the lives of girls and women in 18th century Italy, the dilemmas faced and the way that they livedout their faith.
Don Mulcare
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Playing by Heart, by Carmela Martino
Emilia Salvini, her mother, and sister Maria speak through a curtain with Zia Delia, the girls’ aunt, and a cloistered nun. Delia’s parents send her to the convent against her will because they lack money for her dowry. Emilia, Maria, and their two younger sisters realize that their family can only afford two dowries. Two daughters would be sent to the convent. The others would marry a man of their father’s choosing—often a widower whose first wife died in chi
Corinna Turner
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really lovely historical romance for teen readers—and indeed, I think adults would enjoy it as well. The characters were nicely drawn, and realistic, and the plot worked well. Faith was present in the characters’ lives and actions, without being preachy or ‘in your face’ (yey!).

One of the things I most enjoyed was how vividly and convincingly Martino drew the historical period. I especially appreciated the lack of the politically correct anachronisms that you find shoe-horned into so
Victorique Crawford
Well, this was a surprise. I never thought I will be able to love historical romances again, or even think of it as anything remotely touching. But this was the right one for me.

I mean, Emilia wants to be married and not bound to a convent. She wants more than some Tom, Dick or Harry. And she is willing to go ways for it, to ensure that she has a stable place in life and nothing to worry about.

What made me really care about her is her willingness and flaws, she can be envious. She is envious, bu
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is well-written and extensively researched historical fiction that promotes girl power, 18th-century style. Based on 2 sisters who lived in Milan in the 1700s, this story takes a departure into their inner lives and feelings and circumstances. Historically, Maria Gaetana Agnesi and her sister Maria Teresa Agnesi were math and music geniuses, respectively. Their father promoted and encouraged their education, but often for his own gain. Here, the story is a beautiful riff on this kernel of h ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a beautiful piece of historical fiction, set in 18th century Milan. The MC is a musician, and it was fascinating to watch her talents and opportunities unfold, especially during a time when the education of young women was considered unnecessary. Like her lovely compositions, I was moved by the story and the superb writing. The details were so well-researched, I never once felt anything but totally immersed in the time and place. If you like historical fiction about strong young women, I ...more
Judy Peters
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for teens and adults alike. It was so captivating, I couldn't put it down! The scenes were described in such detail I felt as if I was right there with all the characters. People now-a-days forget how women were treated as second class to men. Emilia won my heart by all the things she did to capture her feelings through her music. You can feel the intensity of her playing as you read. There is a lot of interesting historical facts that run throughout the book as well as well ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sweet, easy to read historical fiction. Loved all of the little details that brought the period to life. I enjoyed it!
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A tale of two super smart sisters - Maria and Emilia - born in the wrong time, struggling to please their father while trying to follow their hearts. Not an easy endeavor for a woman in 18th Century Milan, especially with an over ambitious father who cares more about gaining a noble title than his daughters' true desires.

Your heart goes out to Emilia as she performs the harpsichord in front of the people her father is trying to please. And, you understand Maria's shyness and nervousness about b
Virginia Lieto
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In Playing by Heart, by Carmela Martino, we meet two gifted sisters. The story, set in 1730’s, Milan, Italy, introduces us to Maria, a gifted linguist, mathematician and speaker. Her sister, Emilia, excels at playing and composing music, as well as singing. Where Maria shines in knowledge of the sciences, Emilia glistens in the arts. In 1730’s Italy, it was rare to come across educated females.

We find that the girls father’s long held desire to gain a noble title, drives the entire story; propel
Leslie Lindsay
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sweeping historical novel set in 18th century Milan features bright, spirited girls well ahead of their time.

Carmela Martino completely transported me to the historical landscape of Italy where girls were destined to become 'only' a wife/mother or join the convent. Oh, but the Salvini sisters, Maria and Emilia, have so much more they want to do with their lives.

Emilia, 'the second sister,' wants nothing more than to marry a man who loves music as much as she does. Her sister, on the other hand
Billy Buttons
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought:
Title: Playing by Heart
Author: Carmela Martino

Star Rating: 5 Stars
Number of Readers: 17
Editing: 10/10
Writing Style: 9/10
Content: 10/10
Cover: 8/10
Of the 17 readers:
17 would read another book by this author.
14 thought the cover was good or excellent.
17 felt it was easy to follow.
17 would recommend this story to another reader to try.
5 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘plotting a story’.
12 felt the au
Cindy Huff
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Carmela Martino’s characters. The Savini family, a well-crafted model of a wealthy Milan Family during the Regency period. The research is apparent when all the little details mix together to draw the reader into the setting. I’ve only read regency romances that took place in England. A change of setting was refreshing. I am unfamiliar with Italian culture, especially in the 1800s. It was interesting to learn about the time and a little Italian as well. The lessons folded in the seams ...more
Maria Theresa
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I hate good books for one teeny little reason. They end.

..this is surely one of them!

'Playing by Heart' is an enthralling and enticing read, not only for its story line and setting, but also for its characters. The story itself is deeply Catholic, without putting emphasis on it, but rather weaving the Faith into the very life of its characters, which is a literary aspect I greatly admire. There is also an exquisite use of vivid and colourful imagery. I greatly enjoyed the musical facets in the s
L. Layale
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. It's hard for me to like historical fiction sometimes, but what got me was the setting and culture. There's something romantic about Italy in the 18th century. It's a completely different culture both in values and social norms. This reminded me a little bit of Donna Jo Napoli's Daughter of Venice. There are gender stereotypes, but it's reflective of the culture and society at the time. I liked Emilia's strong desire to play music. The fact that I play as well only make ...more
Lara Kareem
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I was highly intrigued by this book, the blurb although tells you pretty much what to expect captured my attention. I was so happy when I got it, but not long into the book, I realised that it would be so hard for me to read and get into the story. For one the writing is so two dimensional, and I had to force myself to continue reading rather than not giving up. Also, the story fell into the cliche trap so often and didn't move me; I couldn't connect with the story or the characters which make f ...more
Jarm Boccio
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Compelling Historical Novel!

A beautifully written period novel rich with description of 18th century Milan. The reader feels the heat of the day and the texture of Emilia’s gown. But most importantly, one feels the MC’s heart beating as she waits for her true love. I was so captivating by this novel, I had to spread it out over a few weeks, savoring a chapter at a time. Perfect for upper middle grade, YA and adult readers alike.
Leslea Wahl
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written Young Adult novel centers around the strong faith of two sisters, Emilia and Maria, and their extraordinary talents. The book is set in 18th Century Milan, Italy and focuses on their relationships with their father and their struggle to follow the paths they believe God wants them to take. They live in a time when young women were subject to their father’s wishes. Their father hopes to showcase their incredible gifts to advance himself to nobility and is not interested ...more
Sugar Balmes
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, carefully researched story of young women living in a time of incredible restrictions who are able to find their places in their world. As a senior citizen, I think this is a love story for all ages.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful historical fiction, taking place in 18th century Milan.
It centers around the strong faith of two sisters, Emilia and Maria, their extraordinary talents and their struggles to keep their freedom in a male-dominated world.
Meggie Daly
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The beautiful book cover first piqued my curiosity; the excellent reviews motivated my purchase. However, the well-crafted plotline and character development kept me reading. This book is terrific summer read for young adults (and adults) who will painlessly learn a bit about music and Italian. "Playing By Heart" is a well-researched novel, based on the lives of two sisters, one a gifted composer and the other a mathematician—both dared to dream beyond the strictures imposed on women during the ...more
Bethany Swafford
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Emilia loves music, and she's worked hard to develop her skill. She hopes that by excelling her Father will finally recognize her use and not send her to a convent. Will she have to sacrifice her heart to save her sister?

I found it fascinating that Emilia and Maria are based on two sisters from history. Emilia seemed true to life, especially in her dealings with her sister. That sense of rivalry, in wanting to shine more than her older sister, was completely understandable. They behaved like sis
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Carmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher. She wrote the middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick Press), while working on her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.  The novel received a starred review from Booklist magazine and was named to their list of “Top Ten First Novels for Youth:  2006.” Her second novel, the historical romance Playing by Heart (Vinspire Publish ...more