by Adriana Trigiani
Source: won in Goodreads First Reads contest from HarperCollins
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Athena Smith, the costume curator for a Chicago museum, is elated to finally see the legendary vintage gowns worn by a city icon, Bertha Palmer. But the gowns are owned by the Clayworth family, who are not on good terms with Athena's family. The Clayworths just fired Athena's father from their company for unknown, but scandalous, reasons. So Athena has little hope of gaining the gowns for an exhibition at the museum. While looking at the gowns, she inhales a toxin which acts as a truth serum. Wh...more I was lucky enough to win this book in a Goodreads First Reads contest. I had heard great things about the first book in this series, and jumped at the chance to read the sequel. The book is a funny but heartfelt story of a young Italian American woman trying to find herself against the backdrop of her large overbearing family and the family custom shoe business.
Valentine and her grandmother had been partners in running the Angellini Shoe Company as well as roommates in the apartment above the business. So Valentine feels a major blow when Gram gets remarried and moves to Italy with her husband. Now Valentine can't hide behind her cozy life with Gram and also take a backseat as Gram runs the company. She has to step up and figure out what she wants from life and the business. Valentine is used to letting her family define who she is and what she does, and she doesn't make her own life for herself. When Gianluca, her grandmother's new stepson, makes his feelings known to her, she has the opportunity to step up and build her own life, not do what she's expected by her family. But will she try to make the change or will she keep to her steady, predictable pattern?
I loved all the vivid characters in Valentine's family and her friends June and Gabriel. These characters and Valentine's relationships with them were really what made me enjoy this book.
However, there were aspects of the novel that I didn't like. I really had trouble with the age difference between Valentine and her love interest, Gianluca-18 years!! She is 34 and he is 53. I'm not really a fan of this type of romance, but if that interests you, you will love this story! Another reason why the age difference didn't work for me is because Valentine is already admittedly immature. Then when she becomes infatuated with a 53 year old, it reinforces the idea that she wanted a father figure- someone else to take care of her and make her decisions for her.
There was a tone of melancholy throughout the book, especially in the last third, because the theme of cheating was prevalent. Three married couples deal with cheating in this book, and it started to get sad, especially because her father's affair was mentioned over and over as a hurdle for their family.
Main Characters: 3/5
Supporting Characters: 5/5
Bottom Line: The book is written very well, with great plotting and pacing, the characters are deep and developed. If you like books with a full cast of character, with real life struggles, then this is the book for you!!