With paranormal elements, Formaro’s (co-author Alfonso, the Christmas Pumpkin, 2009) debut romance is told from the unusual point of view of the spurned male.
Dante Palermo is on top of the world. Vacationing in Las Vegas, he’s about to propose to his girlfriend, Abby, in the town where they met. When they return to San Francisco, he’ll sign the papers to open his first restaurant in North Beach. But things don’t go as planned. First, Abby breaks up with him before he can pop the question. Then, after returning brokenhearted to San Francisco, he learns that his prospective business partner has fled the country ahead of investigations by the FBI. With the help of friends Bird, Charly, business partner John Sierra and whiskey, Dante stays afloat—just barely. His new restaurant, Pane Rubato, hovers on the brink of success, seemingly sabotaged by John’s now-widow and his own ennui. For every step forward, Dante takes two back. His true savior turns out to be his beloved grandmother Nonna Isabella. She may have died years ago, but her ghost still pays him late night visits when his despair overwhelms him. Her counsel, cooking and assurances that he can now cure broken hearts not only bring him success but help him discover his true love. Dante’s vulnerability will make readers ache for him, although there are instances when his boneheaded behavior incites a different response. The unique point of view elevates this novel; many readers of romance will be accustomed to cursing the male character, not sympathizing with him. However, the novel is far more than a romance, as it chronicles Dante’s business struggles and the meteoric rise that feels empty to him. Formaro emphasizes the value of family and true friendship (as well as the devotion of a good dog) in healing a broken heart. The only times the novel falters are in its moments of slapstick; the climactic scene in Rome also suffers from the ridiculous scheming of Dante and his relatives to arrange a meeting with what could be true love.
A memorable, gratifying glimpse into the life of a romantic restaurateur.