Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Warm Family Saga From Trigiani Has Me Pining for Italy (Or, at least, for Baked Ravioli)

(Image from Indiebound)


(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Brava, Valentina, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from Very Valentine. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

I can't say this about many authors as prolific as Adriana Trigiani but I've read every book she's written, including the cookbook she created with her sisters. This doesn't mean I've loved every one, but it's convinced me that I can always turn to Trigiani for a hearty, well-written story filled with warmth, humor and a whole lot of heart. I love me a juicy family saga and Trigiani crafts them to near perfection. Not only do her stories make me want to whip up a pan of baked ravioli, but they make me want to gather my big, crazy family together to talk, laugh and argue our way through a heavy Italian meal. Her tales are that convincing, that delicious.

While Trigiani's Valentine books haven't swept me away like her Big Stone Gap series did, I still enjoy peeking in on the Angelinis. They're a funny bunch, those Greenwich Village shoemakers. When Brava, Valentina, the second book in the trilogy, opens, the family is gathered in Tuscany for Gram's wedding to Dominic Vechiarelli. While 34-year-old Valentine Roncalli is thrilled that her grandmother's found happiness with the elderly Italian, she can't stand the thought of returning to New York without the woman who has been her roommate, friend and mentor. She's even more dismayed when she discovers Gram has deeded the ownership of the family's 100-year-old custom shoe business to both Valentine and her brother, a man for whom no one is ever good enough "whether we were born after him, gave birth to him, fathered him, or married him" (130). Valentine, whose dedicated six years of blood, sweat and tears to keeping the business solvent, can't think of a worse situation than working with her least favorite sibling.

To complicate matters, Valentine's lonely without Gram, conflicted over her long-distance love affair with 53-year-old Gianluca Vechiarelli (who is now technically family), and worried about financing for the launch of her newest shoe. She doesn't need an explosive family secret to steal even more of her energy, but that's what she gets when she unearths a design from a long-lost relative. The chance to find a missing branch of the Angelini family tree takes her on a whirlwind trip to Buenos Aires that will open her eyes to a broader meaning of family, an unbelievable business opportunity and the very real possibility that the Angelini Shoe Company will always be more important to her than love.

Torn between a centuries-old craft and modern technology; things she's always believed about her family and new revelations; a mature love and her childhood sweetheart; bucking change or embracing it; Valentine is forced to make life-changing decisions. With advice from her flamboyant best friend, her sanctamonious brother, and her feisty great aunt, as well as the rest of the loud, colorful Angelini/Roncalli clan, of course. Even for a family for whom "The wolf's been at the door so many times over the years that we invite him in for manicotti" (158), this many crises in one year threatens to unravel them completely. Can Valentine, the calm, steadfast one who's always held them together keep their madness at bay long enough to make her own decisions? Or will she go down with the crazy ship, dragging the business she loves along with her?

As I said earlier, the Valentine books aren't my favorite Trigiani sagas, but they hold all of the elements fans love about her novels, including what I like to call the Trigiani Trifecta: Italian families, Italian food, and New York fashion. Oh, and interior decorating. All the detail about the former as well as the art/business of crafting shoes made the story sag a little bit for me. However, it's buoyed by the two things I love most about Trigiani: humor and heart. Even though I still pine for the Big Stone Gap characters, the Roncalli/Angelini crowd keeps me entertained. I'm not ready to say Ciao quite yet (even though the series will end when the last book comes out in February). For keeping me immersed in yet another engrossing drama, I say, Brava, Adriana.

P.S. If you're pining for Italy, click on over here for a chance to win a Adriana Trigiani Tour to Italy for you and a friend (sponsored by Harper Collins).

(Readalikes: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani; other novels by the same author)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual content/innuendo, and brief references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Brava, Valentina from the generous folks at Harper Collins in exchange for my honest review. This review was written for Adriana Trigiani's book tour, hosted by TLC Book Tours.

6 comments:

  1. I have loved every Trigiani book I've ever read, except Big Stone Gap. I didn't hate it, I just didn't love it. Rococo is my all time fave, but the Valentine books are a close second. Can't wait for the last one to come out!

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  2. That's so funny, Christy, because the Big Stone Gap books are my favorite and I actually like ROCOCO least of her books! She's a great author, one who consistently satisfies.

    After I wrote this review, I actually discovered that Trigiani has a new book out - a collection of essays, I believe. I might just have to get myself a copy for Christmas :)

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  3. I have one Trigiani book yet to read

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  4. Hmmmm...
    I wonder what you could do with that ARC?

    I should come get a stack of books you are done with.

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  5. Tara - If you want it, it's yours. Have you read the first book in the series? If not, I think I've got it around here somewhere ... You're welcome to come up anytime and grab books!

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  6. I love the idea of the "Trigiani Trifecta" - what a great way to describe it! I haven't read any of her books yet but I'm convinced that I'll enjoy them when I do.

    Thanks for the great review and for being a part of the tour.

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