A memorable, gratifying glimpse into the life of a romantic restaurateur.

The Broken Heart Diet

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.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0984259311

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Tramonto Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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