In 2009, Adriana Trigiani gave her readers a big, beautiful Valentine’s Day gift with VERY VALENTINE, the first book in a series starring Valentine Roncalli, an Italian-American New Yorker and heir to Angelini Shoes, the business her grandparents created in New York’s West Village. Her legions of fans fell in love with Valentine’s warmth and wit as she struggled to find lasting love, carve out a new identity for herself in the shoe business and save her family’s company. Trigiani has followed up with a sequel, BRAVA, VALENTINE --- and readers will be thrilled to know that this latest offering doesn’t disappoint.
Valentine’s beloved grandmother, Teodora, found love at the end of VERY VALENTINE, and the new novel kicks off back in the beautiful village of Arezzo for their wedding. The entire Roncalli clan is on hand, making for much drama --- and this is where Trigiani really shines. While the “big, crazy ethnic family” shtick has been done (sometimes to death) in everything from Moonstruck to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Trigiani’s touch is deft and light. She keeps the crazy personality quirks that make families like this so much fun but is never disrespectful or two-dimensional with her characters. You sense the reality and the complexity in their relationships and struggles.
Particularly well drawn is the character of Alfred, Valentine’s brother, who is now sharing the responsibility of running Angelini Shoes with Valentine. The relationship between them is complicated and real, and while I sometimes would get annoyed with the narrator for being a bit self-righteous in her attitude towards Alfred, I only have to look at my own brothers and sisters to see the realism in her approach. Valentine struggles with the usual family trials and tribulations as she tries to make a success of her business, which her grandmother has left entirely in her (and Alfred’s) capable hands. The Roncalli family is very tightly knit, but a surprising new twist in the family tree threatens to disrupt some already tenuous ties among them. As with all of Trigiani’s novels, the theme of family runs heavily through this series like a persistent heartbeat.
But what would a Valentine’s Day novel be without true, romantic love? Although I confess to missing VERY VALENTINE’s sexy chef, Roman Falconi, while in Italy Valentine reconnects with Gianluca, the sexy Tuscan tanner who caught her eye in the first novel. Can true love be in the cards for Valentine at last? I noticed right away that each chapter bears the name of a Frank Sinatra song (a nice little surprise for someone like me, a confirmed fan of the Chairman of the Board!), which ties in nicely to a detail in the book’s text. I won’t spoil the ending, but rest assured that BRAVA, VALENTINE is rife with romance and romantic locations. Between dates in Tuscany, New York, and Buenos Aires (where Valentine manages to mix business with pleasure quite successfully), there’s romance on practically every page.
BRAVA, VALENTINE makes for a warm, romantic next chapter in Trigiani’s Valentine series --- the hallmarks of her style are all there, and her many fans will find much to enjoy here. I savored this book like a particularly delicious dark chocolate truffle, feeling very satisfied by craving just a little bit more. I can’t help but wonder what’s next for Valentine and Angelini Shoes. I’ll be eagerly anticipating next year’s Valentine.
Reviewed by Lourdes Orive on January 5, 2011