That's Amore

Wendy Markham
July 2008, Contemporary Romance
Grand Central, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446618446

Grade: F
Sensuality: Subtle

I had a big, big, big problem with this book: I simply never connected with the author’s writing style. I found it distracting, uninvolving and – from this reader’s point of view – a total failure.

Here’s the deal: Wendy Markham (a pseudonym of Wendi Corsi Staub) writes everything in the present tense. It goes like this: “Here comes Francesca, making her way towards him, stopping to chat along the way.” Or this: “The basket is lined in red and white checked cloth napkins and holds a golden heap of rolls Nina just took from the piping hot oven. Plastic two-liter soda bottles, a bottle of chianti, and a cluster of juice boxes are at one end of the table, a cut glass bowl filled with iceberg salad is at the other.” Add on to that distracting-as-hell present tense thing the fact that this is w-a-a-a-a-y too much detail about a freakin’ table for God’s sake and I just couldn’t get past it and get engaged in this book.

The story the author tells has to do with Daria, who reluctantly sees dead people, and Ralphie – yes, Ralphie – one of those scions of your basic clichéd uber-close Italian family. Daria is a commitment-phobe whose romance with Ralphie - yes, Ralphie - occurs over just a few days. They meet cute – and persistently in the present tense – at a New Year’s Eve party. And, oh yeah, one of the dead people Daria sees appears to be Ralphie's - yes, Ralphie's - dad. They eat pizza. They talk about eating pizza. They eat pasta. They talk about eating pasta. Ralphie – yes, Ralphie – has a fiancé. They break up. He meets Daria. She eats his pizza. She leaves a cell phone at his pizzaria. They finally get together. Then they don’t. In the meantime, they both think a lot about what's on tables and what people are wearing. Then they get together again a year later.

Frankly, right along with the author's writing style, which in case you can't tell by now I absolutely loathed, was the head hopping, something I'm okay with in most contexts, but not here. You’ve got Daria thinking – with absolutely no perspective other than the present tense – about Ralphie, while his character – with absolutely no perspective other than present tense – does the same. That’s bad enough, but the way the author insists on bogging down the story with w-a-a-a-a-y too much detail about completely unimportant things simply adds to the problem. To say that it didn’t work for me would be one of the understatements of the century.

Wendy Markham’s style is the book. If you can’t get past it – as I couldn’t – there’s nothing for you here. There certainly wasn’t for me. (And ten bonus points to anyone who can explain the presence of that oh-so-cute doggie on the cover. It continues to elude me.)

-- Sandy Coleman

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