Book 1 in the Gift Saga
by Effie Kammenou
Date Published: August 7, 2015
In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets - ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.
The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.
EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.
The air was unusually chilled for early November in NYC, but despite the dropping temperature, sweat trickled down the back of Anastacia’s neck. Unable to wish away the nausea that was taking hold of her and too ill to sit through her last class, she’d left the NYU campus, hopping on an uptown subway to return home for the day. She’d been lightheaded and queasy the past few days, but nothing as violent as what she was currently feeling. Waiting at the crosswalk, the aroma of garlic and cheese permeating from a nearby café antagonized the volcano that was about to erupt in her belly, and she prayed she would get home without incident. At last, Anastacia ducked into her apartment building, closing her eyes, and offering a silent thank you to the heavens for the safety and comfort of her home. Once inside her foyer, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet and glimpsed herself in the mirror hanging over the Bombay Chest. Pale skin and sunken eyes replaced her usual olive complexion and healthy glow. I just need to sleep off whatever this is. Her husband, Jimmy, was not expected home from work for several hours, and she hoped to be feeling better by then. Suddenly the sound of voices startled her. She walked through
the living room, following the noise. She almost forgot the motion sickness that forced her home earlier than usual as the guttural sound of rhythmic moans grew louder, interrupted only by a woman’s shrill laughter. Anastacia forced her legs to follow the cacophony and found herself at the doorway of her bedroom. She stood there frozen. Seeing, but not believing. Tears sprang to her eyes and dripped down her cheeks, and she began to shake uncontrollably. Anastacia attempted to speak, but bile rose to her throat, rendering her incapable of uttering a word. Then, a cry that seemed to escape from her very soul, revealed her presence. In that second, they knew she’d witnessed their betrayal. Anastacia was taken aback by the look of pure satisfaction that flashed across the naked woman’s face. A face that held not even a hint of guilt or remorse.
Waiting for Aegina
Book 2 in the Gift Saga
Date Published – January 7, 2016
Book Two in The Gift Saga: The continuation of Evanthia’s Gift…
In 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.
Evanthia's Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.
Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.
When Mindy first arrived at the Fotopoulos home on the island of Chios, her sole purpose was to isolate herself from the world. Content to be on her own with no distractions, she re-examined her life. What Mindy needed more than anything was to process what she’d discovered and get past it—Tyler was a happily married man with children.
As she pondered her own circumstances, Mindy’s thoughts swung from one extreme to another. One day she would think to herself, ‘I am a successful woman, fulfilling my dreams every day.’
But then, the next day, Mindy would sink into a depressing abyss convinced that she had nothing to look forward to in life and that she was destined to spend it alone—until the fateful night when she met Apollo.
One evening after spending the day binging on frappés and loukoumathes, Mindy slipped on a body-hugging dress and went into Chios Town. She had to do something to get out of her funk and she thought experiencing the local nightlife might be the cure.
The time had come for her pity party to end and she planned to dance like the locals. She came upon a taverna with a large stone patio and strands of white lights strung between the trees. Weaving between the empty tables, Mindy crossed to the entranceway. Music filled the air and as she approached she smiled, watching people of all ages dance as though nothing was as important as what they were doing at that very moment.
Spotting a table with a prime view of the entertainment, she asked to be seated. And that’s when she saw him. With a voice dripping of seduction and a face that matched, the singer locked eyes with Mindy. She’d learned a few sentences to get her by, but the words that rolled off his tongue were, well, Greek to her—but sexy as hell.
Every part of her burned. Heat rose to her cheeks causing them to flush and her heart quickened as he moved closer to the table where she was seated. His velvety voice captivated and the hint of cologne he wore mixed with the scent of the salty sea tantalized her. But as the sexy singer continued to work the room, Mindy could see that he had the same effect on every woman in the taverna and he, in turn, looked at each one as though he wanted them.
Sipping her Skinos Mastiha cocktail, a liquor made from the sap of a tree indigenous to Chios alone, Mindy watched the joy emanating from the villagers around her. Given her current state of mind, she could not relate to their exuberant joviality. Staring into her glass as she stirred, causing a mini whirlpool to form, she hadn’t noticed that the music had stopped.
“May I join you?” Mindy looked up to see who had spoken to her in heavily accented English.
She tilted her head, looking at him inquisitively. “How did you know I speak English?”
“American? I am wrong?”
“No,” Mindy laughed. “You’re not wrong.”
“I am Apollo.”
“Ah! That explains it,” she said wryly.
“Explains what?” he asked as he seated himself in the empty chair beside her.
“You know,” Mindy said, gesturing to the sky. “Greek God. Son of Zeus. God of music.”
“You are very amusing beautiful American woman who is nameless.”
“Oh! I’m Mindy. No Greek goddess name for me.”
“You should be the goddess of fire.” Apollo reached for a lock of her red mane, wrapping it around his finger. “I will call you Fotiá.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Then katalavaíno.”
His eyes sparkling with amusement, Apollo laughed. “You say that well.”
“I say it a lot. I don’t understand anything people say, so I let them know.”
“Fotiá means fire. My break is over in a minute, but promise me a dance.”
A shiver crawled up her spine with the thought of her body pressed up against his on the dance floor. Her answer came out a breathy whisper. “Yes, I’d like that.”
She eyed him as he began the song. Commanding and strong; male yet beautiful, Apollo mesmerized her. Casually dressed in black slacks and a white shirt, his sleeves were rolled just below the elbows and he’d left enough buttons undone to show a tease of hair across his tanned chest.
He curled a finger in her direction, inviting her to join him, but she shook her head. Apollo’s deep brown eyes bore into Mindy’s emerald green ones, as he extended his hand to her and pulled her out of her seat.
Microphone in hand and his other at her waist, Apollo drew her close and began to dance as he continued his love ballad. She reveled in the feel of scruff from his manicured beard against her delicate face. She looped her arms around his neck and they slowly rocked back and forth to the music. Escorting her back to her seat when the song had ended, he said, “I sang those lyrics for you alone.”
“Then kat—” Apollo pressed a finger to Mindy’s lips.
“I know, I know” he bantered. “You don’t understand. In the song, the man is telling the woman he will go crazy if he can’t see her again soon.” He motioned for the band to play. “Wait for me until I finish this set.”
It had all begun so perfectly. They talked out on the patio, ignoring the chill in the air, and when it was time for her to go, he pressed her up against the stone wall outside the taverna and kissed her with a passion so deep that every part of her body was tingling. Even when she broke the kiss, he kept his lips so close to hers that Mindy could feel his breath breezing across her face and it intoxicated her. Staring into her eyes, he kissed her again, devouring her, leaving her lip swollen from the sensual assault when he finally pulled away.
Desire built up inside her but, although she’d been tempted, Mindy resisted his seduction. She thought of her first night with Tyler. Adamant that she would not repeat the same mistake, Mindy was careful not to rush into anything. The days of one-night stands and affairs that amounted to nothing but heartache and emptiness were over.
Staring at her with an intensity that made Mindy nervous, Apollo made his intentions clear as he pressed his body to hers. What was the root of the uneasiness within her? The demand in his eyes? Or the fear of jumping into deep waters, unknown?
Mindy steeled herself and ducked out beneath his arms. The tightness in her chest and her rising panic gave her the strength to break away from him where he had her pinned against the wall. “I have to go,” she insisted.
Gripping her wrist before she was out of his reach, he held onto it with unyielding determination. “I will make you mine.”
Mindy tried to read Apollo’s eyes before walking away. Had she seen passion or intimidation? There was no way to be certain.
Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she'd thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.
Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.
Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.
Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.
As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.
Website: (foodblog) https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com
Buy Links: Amazon | Evanthia’s Gift - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B013MG484M/
Waiting for Aegina: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MT6KLN4/