As we pick up with Valentine Roncalli in this follow-up to the vibrant bestseller Very Valentine, she is taking over the family business from her grandmother, who has, in her 80s, remarried and moved to Italy. But the Angelini Shoe Company isn’t just any business—it’s been passed down through generations, each proprietor painstakingly building custom wedding shoes in the same Greenwich Village shop. But this is post-recession 2010: who has the money to buy such frivolity as custom shoes they’ll wear only once?
Valentine wants to expand the business by introducing a line of affordable yet stylish shoes to supplement the custom brand, but she’ll need the approval of her insufferable (and business-savvy) brother, Alfred. Valentine travels to Buenos Aires in search of a suitable manufacturer, but things get complicated when she discovers a long-hidden family secret that opens old wounds in the Angelini-Roncalli clan.
Valentine is one of Adriana Trigiani’smost winsome characters (yes, she even rivals the Big Stone Gap gang).She’s honest, wry and utterly human as she approaches her mid-30s without a man in sight (other than ex-boyfriend Bret and gay roommate Gabriel—both fabulous comrades but not exactly marriage material). When she again crosses paths with Gianluca, a suave, slightly older Italian who is looking for more than a fling, Valentine must figure out if she’s able to balance work and life.
“I am my best self, the most alive I can be, when I’m creating in the shop,” says Valentine. “I would never admit this to a man I was interested in, but it’s the truth. Love is not the main course in the banquet of my life. It’s dessert. My mother would say that’s why I’m still single. And my sisters would say I’m lying. But I know this to be true, that love is my treat, my tiramisu, because I’m living it.”
Brava, Valentine is laugh-out-loud funny (the Thanksgiving dinner family blowout is one for the ages), but it’s also an unexpectedly poignant examination of the power and pull of family, faith and love. Can’t wait to see what Valentine’s up to next.
Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.