Very Valentine / by Adriana Trigiani (c2009) A colorful cast of characters in this story of an extended Italian-American family. Set in a current day Manhattan, this story spans 100 years of history of the Angelini Shoe Company which is now threatened by closure due to financial problems. Valentine, 33 years old, is apprentice to her Grandmother, Teodora, and must find a way to bring the family's old world-craftsmanship into the 21st century. Her love for the business comes through as she problem solves to create a new design for mass production, learn new crafting skills that will separate them from competitors, and develop her business sense to keep the business and her livelihood intact. She is also diverted by her father's bout with cancer, her brother's desire to sell the business, and her budding relationship with Italian chef Roman and romantic interests of Gianluca, an Italian leather craftsman. I was fascinated with the creativity of Valentine and her passion to keep the family business in operation and push them into the 21st century. The description of the shoes, the handcrafting process, and the history of the designs is a compelling piece of this story. Another strong draw for me is the building as a character. The old building serving as business and home and conflict as family decides what to do with it. NOTE: See the picture of Grandfather Carlo Bonicelli, shoemaker at the beginning of the book. Reminiscent of the movie -- My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Slow start with the wedding but necessary to set-up the background story and the family dynamic. First book in a trilogy continuing with Brava, Valentine (c2010). My favorite part of the book is when the movie people arrive at the shop expecting the Angelini Shoe Company to fix the show being highlighted in their film. The awe and appreciation on their faces as the learn about the shoes and select the new star of the picture always makes me smile. Sequel: Brava, Valentine (c2010) continues Valentine's story as she meets challenge after challenge in taking control of the Angelini Shoe Company. Gram is leaving for Italy to marry her long-time friend and lover leaving the company in the hands of Valentine and her brother Albert. They go head to head in business decisions as a new shoe is being designed and a production factory being located to handle mass production that will bring financial stability to the company. A surprise is waiting in Buenos Aires as it is discovered that there is a second branch of the family that noone knows about that also creates quality shoes and could be the answer that the New York store has been searching for. Valentine is struggling to grow-up while deciding what she really wants from life -- a success career or love and a family of her own. The family dynamics continue in this lovable, extended family. My favorite part of this story is packing day and the whole family joining together to lovingly wrap the shoes and send them to their customers in customized packing (starting on page 162).