Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine series by Adriana Trigiani

             I recent read the Valentine trilogy by Adriana Trigiani. Ms. Trigiani is an award winning playwright and television writer for The Cosby Show and its spinoff A Different World. She has several bestsellers including Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, and the Big Stone Gap series. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. I was introduced to Ms. Trigiani’s Valentine series by my aunt and while I heard that her books were filled with a detailed family story and humor, I found this series to be bogged down with too many details and very unlikable characters including the main character, Valentine.

            The first book in the series is Very Valentine which opens at the wedding reception of her baby sister, Jaclyn. Valentine is the last daughter to be unmarried in a very Italian family in New York City. The story really begins as she discovers that the shoe company that her great-grandfather had started when he came to America is failing and she scrambles to save the family business from ruin. The story takes the reader from Greenwich Village to beautiful Tuscany and to the island of Capri. While I found the descriptions of the locations helpful and I could almost see the tall buildings of New York City, the rolling hills of Tuscany and the crystal blue waters of Capri. I found the constant description of their clothes, their hairstyles, make-up, of the food and the deep family secret to be tiresome and boring. I’m not a fashionista by any means and I found the constant descriptions of the fabrics and designs for the shoes to be drawn out. I didn’t particularly find anything in this book to be overly humorous. I continued with the series hoping for a better story.
            The second book in the series is Brava, Valentine which picks up where the first book leaves off. Valentine’s beloved grandmother remarries in beautiful Tuscany. Valentine and her brother are made partners in the shoe company as their grandmother retires. They must find a way to mass-produce their shoes to stay competitive in the falling U.S. economy. They clash at first but I find their reconciliation a little too easy after the years of resentment described in the first book. Valentine’s research to find a shoe factory leads her to Argentina and another family secret. This secret seemingly tears the family apart and reveals the family’s intolerance. I won’t reveal the secret but when I read it I was expecting a much larger scandal than what was revealed. I thought “okay so what?” But I suppose that this secret would matter to an Italian New Yorker and not to a French-Irish-English Californian. There was a few humorous lines in this book but they don’t occur until the near end and its one particular scene. Again, I continue to the third book just to finish the series and see how Ms. Trigiani ends it.
            The third and final book in the series is The Supreme Macaroni Company. The book opens at Christmas time and another dramatic scene of family anger bubbling over again and again. Location after location. I know the stereotype is family holiday get-togethers are often filled with drama and old grudges but come on!!! From the beginning, there is a sense of a pending tragedy coming and Ms. Trigiani makes it fairly whose death is coming. She alludes to it several times and when it happens, there is no surprise. No shock. No “oh no!” moment. There is also a great deal of reconciliation that seems too easy given the history of resentment that the author talks about at great length since the beginning of the series. It seems that all the family problems get resolved and every one’s happy in a nice package. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing series.

            Valentine was a very unlikable character. She had more wild mood swings than a bipolar person. She would be fiery angry one minute and it wouldn’t take much to cool her down and everything is right with the world. I found her commitment issues an “ok, I get it” series of moments rather than a reason to sympathize with her. Valentine just a stereotypical woman whom I had no interest if she found whatever she was looking for. If I would rate this series, I would give it 3 out of 5. It was an okay story but the characters left it wanting.