The Angelini Shoe Company, one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village, has been making exquisite wedding shoes since 1903 but now teeters on the brink of financial collapse. To save their business from ruin, thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli—apprentice to and granddaughter of master artisan Teodora Angelini—must bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century. Juggling her budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother in a quest to build a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. And in the course of discovering her true artistic voice and so much more in la bella Italia, Valentine will be turning her life and the business upside down in ways she never expected.
Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.
In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.
While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected. Very Valentine is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani's trademark heart and humor.
A Note from Adriana Trigiani
The story of this novel began with a lady on a roof. Every morning, I head over to the Hudson River Park for fresh air and a run (just found out the exhaust fumes of the West Side Highway could kill me more quickly than lack of exercise, go figure), and I became obsessed with a woman living on one of the last small buildings facing the river amidst the “progress” of glamorous high-rises and hotels. I’d wonder, “Why does she stay?” Most summer mornings she was in her housecoat tending to tomato plants that line the fence of her rooftop. I never waved or rang her bell, but I connected to her. She reminded me of my grandmothers, who had their own gardens, and for most of their widowed lives, lived alone. I began to look for the woman, and when I saw her, I felt relieved, as though life wasn’t really racing by, and that the past was somehow, in the form of this lady, still alive.
This lady, whose name I do not know and whom I have never met, brought me to the story of Carlo Bonicelli, my grandfather, a shoemaker. I keep a photograph of him on my desk to remind me of the artisans that came before me. (It’s a crowded desktop; those of you who read Lucia, Lucia know about the seamstresses in my family!)
My grandfather Carlo died when he was thirty-nine years old. My grandmother told me that while he repaired shoes and built them, his dream was to design them. He did not live long enough to see his dream materialize. With my grandmother gone, I asked my mother about him, about his work. This wasn’t easy, as my mom cries whenever she talks about her father. As those of you dutiful children out there know, when our mothers cry, it’s like somebody’s plunging a knife into our chests. But this time, I asked her not to cry, and she told me the story of the Bonicelli shoes. Then I went to Italy with my dear pal Gina Casella, (with our five-year-old daughters in tow) to learn how to make shoes. I met a few of the great artisans, who became the inspiration for the shoemakers in this novel.
The trip changed my creative life, but it also changed the substance and course of this story. I come from people who survived by the labor of their own hands in a glorious country of their choice (our United States). I always knew this, but now I understand it. I only live as an artist because they gave me their stories, and because you read them. So, Dear Reader (love it--so Jane Austen!), Very Valentine is for you. It’s about all of us: our family dynamics, our dreams, our luck or lack of it in matters of the heart, and how we negotiate going forward, in a world that’s moving so fast, even a stroll is now a blur. This is the first of three books about Valentine Roncalli and her family of shoemakers. When I wrote it, I wanted to bring you old world craftsmanship, the magical setting of Greenwich Village, in a contemporary family saga told in vivid detail. I hope you enjoy it.