Lukewarm follow-up to Very Valentine (2009).
In that novel, Valentine’s 80-year-old grandmother Teodora surprised everyone by getting engaged to her secret boyfriend, a tanner she met on trips to Italy while buying supplies for her custom shoe business. Here, the whole family assembles in Italy for Teodora’s wedding. It’s a bittersweet event for Valentine. Not only is she losing her mentor and roommate (she and Gram shared an apartment above the Greenwich Village shop), now she has to run her decisions by supercilious brother Alfred, her most severe critic and new business partner (Gram named him CFO). A talented designer, Valentine has big plans to expand the business from couture wedding shoes to mass-produced daywear. Ex-fiancé Bret is working with Alfred on the money end, while Valentine flies to Buenos Aires to reconnect with a long-lost cousin in the shoe-manufacturing business. Meanwhile, her gay friend Gabriel moves in to redecorate her apartment in fabulous Hollywood Regency style, and pious Alfred begins an extramarital affair with a representative from the Small Business Bureau. None of this compares in excitement to Valentine’s long-distance romance with Teodora’s new stepson. Hunky, 50ish Gianluca began wooing Valentine before the wedding; now he’s turned up the heat and writes long romantic letters declaring his love. But Valentine is a modern woman, filled with the usual angst and uncertainty about how to manage love and career, so of course she pushes perfect Gianluca away. Trigiani’s Italian-American family is appealing, but this middle installment of a planned trilogy delivers a very thin plot via an endless interior monologue by Valentine.
A likable heroine doesn’t compensate for a lackluster narrative.