Romano’s Revenge is Sandra Marton’s tale of what happens when a Boston blue blood gets involved with a San Francisco hot head through the machinations of his matchmaking grandmother. Joseph Romano is the rich, sexy corporate shark who was introduced in Marton’s 1999 romance, The Sexiest Man Alive.
While Joe Romano may be ruthless in business, he is the apple of grandma Nonna Romano’s eye. And all Nonna had ever asked of him was to eat his vegetables, get to bed on time, find a good Italian girl to marry and produce lots of bambinos.
“And he tried to please her. He ate almost all his vegetables, except the ones no real man would ever eat. He went to bed on time, through his interest in being their had nothing to do with sleep and everything to do with the succession of beautiful women who passed through his busy life.”
Well, two out of four isn’t that bad. Concerned about Joe’s lack of regular sustenance, Nonna gives him a live-in cook for his 33rd birthday. But Lucinda Barry -- armed with a diploma from Chef Florenze’s San Francisco School of Culinary Arts -- is better suited for a career as an arsonist.
Lucinda Barry is formerly of the Boston Barrys and currently of the “oh-boy, we-are-broke Barrys.” Her father had died leaving behind “ a house that was mortgaged to the hilt, a defeated wife and a disappointed mistress.” While her mother and her father’s mistress found new men, Lucinda was left to fend for herself after her fiancé left her for a woman with a big bank account. She had planned to parlay her newly acquired culinary skills out of the burger-flipping and waitressing jobs she’d held for the past two years. Just as she is about to be evicted, Nonna Romano’s job offer as a live-in cook is a godsend…until she had to prepare a meal.
Romano’s Revenge began as a worthy successor to last year’s The Sexiest Man Alive. The romance begins with a lot of sharp, rapid-fire dialogue and action. There is laugh-out-loud humor as multiple misunderstandings and Joe’s Sicilian grandmother enter the mix.
However, the bottom falls out of an otherwise entertaining story about ¾ of the way into the book. A good romantic comedy was reduced to a three-heart read due, in large measure, to the hero’s boorish behavior. Joe Romano morphed from a hot blood to a hot head and in the process transformed the straight-backed, but resilient Lucinda into a doormat.
In the end, I found myself agreeing with the wisdom dispensed by a female cabdriver much too late in the novel: “No guy is worth the sleepless nights or the agony.”