After her beloved grandmother upends their lives by marrying her longtime love in Tuscany, Valentine Roncalli returns to New York City with a heavy heart. Though happy Teodora has fallen in love all over again with Dominic, she’s anxious about running the family business, Angelini Shoe Company, alone — or, more accurately, with her difficult brother, Alfred.
With a business background and a no-nonsense attitude, Alfred is the lone boy in the Roncalli’s sea of women — and he is determined to take Angelini Shoes to the next level. Valentine is hard at work on her latest creation, an adorable and affordable flat shoe, and must relinquish some control to her brother. Even though that’s basically the last thing she’s comfortable doing.
Heating up Valentine’s life behind the scenes are the letters drifting in from Gianluca, a handsome Italian tanner with whom Valentine has done business in the past. Infatuated with Valentine and sending her enough romantic prose to keep a serious flame burning, Gianluca probes our heroine to consider his feelings for her . . . and her feelings for him. Only she doesn’t quite know what they are.
Adriana Trigiani’s Brava, Valentine boasts a narrator who is, in short, afraid of failure. In business, yes — Angelini Shoes has been running for decades on the back of her family’s hard work. And in her family, who needs her — particularly after her father’s health concerns. But most of all — most of all — in love. Because after the nastiness of her fall-out with Roman and the disintegration of her serious relationship with Bret Fitzpatrick, her first love and current business partner, she’s learned she can’t trust anyone but herself.
Trigiani’s strength here — and with all her novels — is the impeccable way in which she describes both characters and scenes. These people are realistic, interesting and tangible; as a reader, I felt like I could have jumped into the factory to lend a hand with some of the lush designs. Whether describing scenery (Tuscany, Buenos Aires, New York), food (all types of local cuisine) or shoes (stacked heels, luxe fabrics, impeccable designs), I was practically drooling.
After falling in love with Very Valentine in 2009, this one was far from disappointing. The Roncalli family is big, boisterous, complicated and riddled with family secrets. They’re fascinating to read about, faults and all. Our title character is, of course, my favorite person in the book; I really adore Valentine. She’s complicated and a little broken inside, but who isn’t? And her struggles with love — letting it in, seeing it for what it is — were both painful and uplifting. We’ve probably all been there, too.
Brava, Valentine is a highly readable, highly delicious sequel to a book I absolutely loved. Seeking romance, adventure, delectable scenery and a host of lovable and complicated characters? Well, I’ve got a series for you. And, you know, that paperback cover is pretty much to die for.
These books make you want to hop on a plane right now, I’ll tell you that. And if, like me, you’re yearning to visit (or return to!) Italy, HarperCollins is giving away a seven-day tour and trip for one winner and a friend to Florence, Arezzo, Pisa and Tuscany. Go for the delicious pizza and pasta, the gorgeous art or the hot Italian men (and I can personally attest to the hotness). Details are available here! (I’m all signed up, y’all — may the best (wo)man win!)
4.5 out of 5!