Anna Fiore has a bad habit of finding those she loves in the most compromising situations. First her beloved Aunt Rose has an affair with Anna's father. Then Anna finds her boyfriend of two years in bed her bed with her boss. Even Anna admits her life sounds like the script of some overwrought soap opera, which may be why she has spent the past 20 years wandering through apartments, jobs and dead-end relationships.

In Flight Lessons, a follow-up to the bestseller The Saving Graces, Anna makes a reluctant return to her childhood home on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where for generations her family has run a quaint Italian restaurant. The Bella Sorella is in trouble, the victim of poor management, an outdated menu and a truly crushing review in the local newspaper. It's Anna's task to turn things around, and it's her intention to do it while sidestepping the messy anger she still feels toward Rose. In fact, Anna plans to leave town again as soon as possible.

But Anna finds herself drawn to the exhilaration of running a restaurant, and to the motley crew who work there. She hires and befriends a new line chef, Frankie, who has overcome an addiction and is desperate to win custody of her daughter. Then Anna meets a mysteriously scarred man, who wants to give her a reason to stay.

It's easy to trace Flight Lessons to the author's roots in historical romance, since Gaffney excels in deft plot twists and rocky relationships. But her recent novels have also proven Gaffney to be a compulsively readable expert on the essence of women's friendships, in all their fits and starts.

Gaffney writes with wit and a sharp eye for detail. In fact, Flight Lessons offers an unexpectedly fascinating and authoritative peek inside the world of a restaurateur. In a novel with more subplots and surprises than any soap opera, the fate of the Bella Sorella becomes the main attraction. Amy Scribner is a writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

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