Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Bobby McGrath’s Christmas trip to the beautiful Italian island of Capri to meet his eccentric extended family offers stunning views—none more stunning than his third cousin, Paolo Mascobello, a real stocking stuffer. As the two young men embark on a relationship, Bobby, a driven law student, learns to relax and bask under the old Italian moon, and Paolo realizes there’s more to life than a frolic on the beach. For the two to find everlasting amore, Paulo must overcome his fear of commitment and learn to follow his dreams, and Bobby must get his wish for happily ever after.
Joe Cosentino’s A Home For The Holidays reads like a loving tribute to his family Italian background and the gorgeous island of Capri. From the moment we meet Bobby McGrath, an overly serious young law student, whose life consists of family and college, Cosentino brings us deep into the arms of a family (Irish and Italian) who embraces the best and what most annoys about each other. Its funny, lighthearted and will remind most of us of our own holidays and families. What this family wants for Bobby is for him to have some fun, so his mother arranges for him to meet his Italian relatives in Capri for a vacation, one he will never forget. It all starts with a conversation with his mother, president of her local PFLAG:
“Bobby, every Christmas your father and I buy you a nice gift and you return it. So this year before we go shopping, I’m asking you. What do you want for Christmas, exactly?”
I was tempted to answer, “How about the new Zeb Atlas DVD, Mom?” No longer reading my law textbook, I pressed the cell phone against my ear and responded, “My red sweater is getting frayed. I guess I could use a new one, Mom.”
“I don’t like red on you. I’ll get you a green sweater. It will go nicely with your eyes. You’ll be twenty-four in June. Nobody ever caught a husband wearing red clothes, except for Mrs. Klaus, and then look how overweight he was.”
I loved this bit of dialog. The loving but exasperated tone, the almost rote answers that said they both had had this conversation many times before. Perfect. The author obviously is channeling well known family dynamics and it works so well to make us care not only about Bobby but his family too. What do they give him? A trip to Italy and another family to love.
Off to Italy Bobby goes, luckily speaking Italian (thank you high school and college courses) and winds up happily in the middle of another large upscale Italian family and sometimes unhappy family dynamics. His cousins own a large company that is a green energy corporation, live in a villa on Capri and is full of cousins of various ages and matrimonial status, uncles, aunts and the heads of the family, ‘Nonno’ and ‘Nonna’ Mascobello. Bobby also meets the gorgeous and uninhibited Paolo, his third cousin, who is everything a young serious American virgin has dreamed of. Yes, virgin meets unrepentant island slut. Trouble indeed.
I adore the character of Bobby, nose in his books, the rest of him, heart and body belongs to his family. So he definitely gets a shock to the system when he awakes to see a Italian god bending over him to wake him from his nap at the villa after arriving. Yes, that would be cousin Paolo and their first introduction. Paolo been ordered to throw his partying aside to show his newly arrived American cousin around and Paolo’s being a bit sullen however lovely. Too bad, Bobby’s smitten and the damage done.
The author does turn the character of Paolo around and gives him a foundation for his behavior that works. However, the reader has to commit to the idea of a instant love here for Bobby and Paolo. I could see it for Bobby only if it faded into real friendship by the end of the visit with the promise of something more realistic for them both. Bobby is a smart young man but hey, he is a virgin on a magical island and a young god who loves sex just happens to be right in front of him. Who wouldn’t fall right over the edge? How you stand on their relationship and romance, whether you believe fully in it or not, might make this book for you.
What really works for me here, aside from all the heartwarming family moments? The vivid and almost lyrical descriptions that Joe Cosentino uses when Bobby is arriving on Capri or sightseeing all over the island with Paolo. Air fragrant with aroma from the flowers blooming everywhere, the noises and sounds are conveyed along with the vibrancy of the people and the brightness of the sky and the sheer beauty to be found everywhere you look…the love the author has for Capri and the people there flows off the page in every word he has written.
“When we arrived at Piazza Vittoria in Via Caposcuro, Paolo took a bag from the scooter’s compartment and led me to a chairlift, which hoisted us into the sky. With my legs dangling over the dark Tyrrhenian Sea, I felt as if I were flying through a black hole. I waved to Paolo in the seat behind me, and he smiled like a proud parent at an amusement park.
When we arrived at Mt. Solaro, we stepped off the chairlifts. Paolo looked down at the homes nestled on layers of rocks. “This is the highest point on the Isle of Capri, five hundred and eighty-nine meters above sea level.”
“All I see in front of me is a thick blanket of fog. Is that because it’s been warm for winter?”
“Wait and watch.”
Paolo sat me down next to him on a flat section of the mountain, then nudged my side with his elbow and pointed to the fog. As if he was Moses parting the Red Sea, Paolo looked triumphant as the sun came up and the wind blew the vapors of fog upward, crowning the clouds and revealing stunning views of the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and the mountains of Calabria in the distance. As we looked out over the turquoise water, white mountains, and azure sky, I felt like I was in heaven.
I pressed my shoulder against his. “It’s sheer magic, Paolo! And pretty amazing science.”
“We call it Acchiappanuvole, the cloud catcher.”
Trust me, when you finish reading this story, you will want to book your own flight to Italy and boat to Capri. Maybe see your own or be your own version of Bobby and Paolo, you never know. Adult fairy tales do come true they tell me, why shouldn’t Bobby have his? Tis the season for the holiday stories to start arriving, pick up Joe Cosentino’s A Home For The Holiday’s and get started on your holiday reading today~
Cover artist Paul Richmond does a cute job with the characters and a wonderful job with the location.
Expected publication: December 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press