River City Book 1
A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other's lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.
Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who run the restaurant; recently-widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.
Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.
Narrated by Michael Lysan.
- 1 Read list
Matteo stared out the restaurant window into the darkness of Folsom Boulevard. It was getting dark earlier as summer edged into fall. Streetlights flickered on as cars drifted by, looking for parking or making the trip out of Midtown toward home.
The sign on the window read “Ragazzi” (the boys), lettered in a beautiful golden script just two months old. Investing in this little restaurant his uncle had left to them when he'd passed away had been their ticket out of Italy. But now with each passing day, as seats sat empty and tomatoes, pasta, and garlic went uneaten, the worry was gnawing ever deeper into Matteo's gut.
Behind him in the open, modernized kitchen, Diego was busy cooking—his mother's lasagne, some fresh fish from San Francisco, and some of the newer Italian dishes they'd brought with them from Bologna. The smells of boiling sauce and fresh-cooked pasta that emanated from the kitchen were entrancing.READ MORE
They'd sent the rest of the staff —Max and Justin—home for the evening. The three customers who had shown up so far didn't justify the cost of keeping their waiter and busboy on hand.
Matteo stopped at the couple's table in front of the other window. "Buona sera," he said, smiling his brightest Italian smile.
"Hi," the man said, smiling back at him. He was a gentleman in about his mid-fifties, wearing a golf shirt and floppy hat. "Kinda quiet tonight, huh?"
"It always gets busier later," Matteo lied smoothly. "Pleasure to have you here. Can I get you anything else?"
"A little more wine, please?" the woman said, holding out her glass so the charm bracelet on her wrist jangled.
"Of course." He bowed and ducked into the kitchen.
He gave Diego a quick peck on the cheek.
His husband and chef waved him off with a snort. "Più tardi. Sto preparando la cena."
"I can see that. Dinner for a hundred, is it? It’s dead out there again tonight.”
Diego shot him a dirty look.
Matteo retrieved the bottle of wine from the case and returned to fill up his guests' glasses. “What brings you in tonight?” Maybe they saw our ad.…
“Just walking by and we were hungry. I miss the old place though.… What was it called, honey?”
Her husband scratched his chin. “Little Italy, I think?”
“That’s it! It was the cutest place. Checkered tablecloths, those great Italian bottles with the melted wax… so Italian.”
Matteo groaned inside. “So glad you came in” was all he said with another smile.COLLAPSE
Anne Barwell on Drops of Ink wrote:
All the characters here are so beautifully created, so multidimensional that they are all on equal footing. Each and every one is so important to the story and will gain equal measure in your heart. It’s a large cast but it simply doesn’t matter. You invest yourself completely in their lives and their stories. You hurt with them, you laugh with them…the entire spectrum of emotion will be trotted out here between the kids thrown out of their homes to the May/December romances and so much more.
The River City Chronicles is a rich tapestry of lives…messy, complicated, wonderful, human lives. It’s filled with love, cooking, Italy through the language and recipes, and the singular location of Sacramento. And I can’t get enough of it.
I want more of it.
Like visiting that restaurant you have picked out as yours and visit over and over because the food is perfect, the atmosphere warm and welcoming, the people inside familiar and everything about the place makes you anticipate an evening that will fill your heart with love and memories. That’s how The River City Chronicles makes me feel as well. I hope that J. Scott Coatsworth feels that there’s more tales to tell here. I certainly hope so. Ragazzi is doing so well, so are the cooking classes. Who knows who will show up next? Scott, are you listening?
Trust me, this book is magical. I highly recommend it.
I was drawn into the story immediately, and wanted to know more about the overarching story, the characters, and how they would interact. The chapters are a great size, perfect for diving in and out of the story although, as I approached the latter part of the book, I didn’t want to put it down as I wanted to know how everyone’s stories would end. The story is a lovely, easy, feel-good read with plenty of ‘heart,’ and I very much enjoyed it. Although I could guess how some characters were connected to others, and how their stories might unfold in places, it added to my reading enjoyment, rather than detracted from it.
I’d recommend The River City Chronicles to readers who enjoy a feel good story with real characters with a focus on the important of friends and family, both the ones we are born into, and those we choose. 5 out of 5 stars.