Although this is the second book in a series, it is not strictly necessary to read book one first, though it would give you a good background of the characters. This review will contain some spoilers for book one.
Like its predecessor VERY VALENTINE (read my review), this installment of Valentine’s family saga starts off with a wedding – only this time, it’s Gram to her secret love in Italy. After the wedding, Gram drops a bombshell – she wants Valentine and her semi-estranged brother Alfred to run the shoe company together as they try and expand their business, developing the mass-market shoe Valentine designed in book one.
I’ve got to hand it to Trigiani: she makes even the most mundane activities – such as securing a small business loan – seem fascinating. And that’s important in a novel like this which is built on small, everyday dramas rather than huge, life altering events.
This time around, Valentine has discovered that her great grandfather who founded the business had a brother. The brother moved to Argentina and his descendants run a factory that makes upscale men’s shoes. The book jacket promises some sort of major scandal at the heart of this, but even though one character makes a big deal out of it, it’s really not. So that takes the wind of this novel’s sails a bit for me.
And then there’s Valentine’s love life. Inexplicably, she has this thing for Gram’s new husband’s son, Gianluca, who is 20 years her senior and runs a tanning business in Italy. Now, first of all, Gianluca is not even the tiniest bit interesting (except for his creepiness factor, which is quite high). And then there’s the fact he lives on another continent. The major reason Valentine’s last relationship failed was because they both worked all the time and that guy was in NYC! So how is this long distance relationship between two work-a-holics supposed to work exactly? Going for Gianluca seems like an act of desperation that is beneath this character I’ve come to admire. I did not believe this romance for a second.
What I did believe was the relationship dynamic between Valentine and her gay best friend Gabriel (love that he took a starring role here), between Valentine and her ex-boyfriend Bret, and Valentine and her brother Alfred. These connections, as well as the ones between family members, formed the backbone of the narrative. Good thing too, since the main romance was so dissatisfying.
BRAVA, VALENTINE is out now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.