Review & Giveaway: The First Emma by Camille Di Maio


Camille Di MaioHistorical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

Scroll down for the giveaway!


The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler. Whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses – both also named Emma – and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.
PRAISE for The First Emma

“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus

“A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana

“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends

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It was love at first sight when I saw the cover of The First Emma by Camille Di Maio. The young woman in a pretty dress gazing out of a window promised me a lovely historical fiction, while the blurb teased me with a thrilling tale of infidelity, murder, and power. If any of those things appeal to you as a reader, then you will devour this book like I did.

The words “inspired by true events” always give me a little rush. I don’t know why that is, especially when you take into account that many fiction books and movies are usually based (perhaps quite loosely) on someone’s real life. But those four words seem to whisper a promise that the story you are about to hear will be that more shocking or inspiring because they are based on real life. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to admit that I have never heard of the Koehlers or of their Pearl beer, but this book has stoked my interest to the point that I intend to read the newspaper clippings for myself at a later time.

Di Maio transports the reader into two timelines: back to 1914, before the United States joined the fight and prohibition loomed on the horizon, to nearly 30 years later, with the second world war that took most of the young men in our country, along with necessities like fuel and metal. Maybe because I have lived a sheltered life, I am truly fascinated by stories of hardship. I have never had to walk through slushy streets; I have never lived alone. I like to think that if I were ever tested, I would have strength like Mabel from Baltimore.

My warm affection for Mabel came about quickly but it was Emma’s observations that solidified that attachment into something more. Di Maio’s fluid writing style and emotional depth allowed me to connect with characters that I was a little wounded to find out later did not really exist. And working from very little source material, the author spins a plausible version of these events with an intimacy that I have never encountered in any other historical fiction or romance book that I have read.

Most historical fictions, while entertaining to read, often have a scene or two, or perhaps a character, that rings false. The First Emma does not have either of these flaws. You will be shocked to later find out just how much of this story was Di Maio’s imagination and how much was based on research. I really appreciate that the author’s note at the end of the book shares where the inspiration came from and her writing process.

There are harsh moments in this book, some completely true and some fictional, but I love everything about it. It is a seamless story of feminine intellect, strength, and great lessons on self worth and loyalty.

Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach. 


ONE WINNER receives a signed copy of The First Emma 
May 19-29, 2020
Or, visit the blogs directly:

Author Video
Excerpt Part 1
Excerpt Part 2
Excerpt Part 3
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Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

2 responses to “Review & Giveaway: The First Emma by Camille Di Maio

  1. LOVELY review. I really can’t wait to read this one — had no idea about this part of Emma Koehler’s life. (I’d only heard of the Hotel Emma named after her, but didn’t know why). Thanks for a great post!

  2. Pingback: THE FIRST EMMA By Camille Di Maio – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway | Carpe Diem Chronicles by Maida Malby

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