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Anthony Capella

Dear Author

REVIEW: The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella

Dear Mr. Capella,

book review Whereas “The Wedding Officer” was a mix of historical and romance, “The Various Flavors of Coffee” is more historical with some romance and that not very satisfying to me. Yes, yes I should be reviewing what’s actually there and not what I wanted to be there but….

Robert Wallis changes as he matures and just as the initial chapter of the book promises us. There was much about him in his youth that I didn’t particularly care for. He drank, he took drugs, he visited prostitutes, he didn’t want to work and frankly was looking for the easy way out. Yet as he says, none of this was illegal then and much was treated as normal for him as a man and as an artiste. Strange that as the restraints of the Victorian Age were cast aside for the bawdiness of the Edwardian Age, Robert becomes more circumspect. The various flavors of coffee can be likened to the various flavors of love. Robert loves three women – three very different women. One used him, one stayed his friend and one became his lifelong love.

The construction of the Wallis-Pinker coffee codifier was fascinating. I can tell I don’t have a coffee palate yet am in awe of people who can discern the slightest differences in taste, aroma and mouth feel. However, I find the spitting aspect of coffee tasting (or any tasting for that matter) off putting. Sometimes I debate whether or not I should go spend the money for freshly roasted, primo coffee beans, then usually decide that I’m looking for the jolt in the java rather than an aesthetic experience. Yes, I’m a Philistine.

The letters Robert writes home on his way to set up a coffee plantation in Africa were hysterically funny. His adventures once there are fascinating yet this section ends up being extremely PC Mother Earth with the differences between Hector and Robert hammered home to be sure we Get It. And I’m wondering where the zar woo-woo stuff comes from. As well the bits about slavery vs being a company employee in debt for life were very obvious.

I despise most modern advertising so it was with wry humor that I read the early Castle Coffee ads. Yeah, make the women in the world feel like hopeless inadequates if they are not serving Castle Coffee or taking care of the ‘ring around the collar’ of their family’s clothes. Was this really the age where branding and product were born? And how about the beginning of Sainsburys and Lipton tea?

The diagnosis of “Hysteria” that Emily is given is such a face slapping reminder of the advances in modern medicine. To think that doctors once got paid, and apparently paid rather well, to induce orgasms to calm women down is mind blowing. Today we can just turn to our trusty rabbits and save the office visit. Did their husbands really realize just what they were paying the medical community to provide for their wives? Jaysus…. Emily’s participation in the Suffragette movement also reminds me how fortunate women are today – well, most women – to not even think about their right to vote. The Walt Disney song might sound light hearted but the sufferings of those fighting for women’s rights were real.

The various maneuverings of Mr. Pinker and Mr. Howell gave me a greater understanding of futures trading than I’ve had before. I also continue to feel disgust for conglomerates, market cornering and the other iron fisted business dealings of huge companies out to make the almighty profit at the expense of anyone or anything that stands in their way.

Where did ending come from? I mean, talk about left field….it feels tacked on and such a 180 degree change from the more somber feeling of the last part of the book. It does echo the lighter feel of the start of the novel but the abrupt change makes it jarring and out of place.

And I still can’t quite grasp how this all fits together. The differing parts were entertaining – coffee, Africa and the suffrage movement – but I never got as lost in the story as I did in “The Wedding Officer.” It was more a feeling of, “Oh, well that’s interesting.” instead of, “Wow, this is fantastic!” And while reading the book, I couldn’t get Frank Sinatra singing “The Coffee Song” out of my head.

I know I shouldn’t judge a book based on what I wanted to be there vs what an author actually wrote but I can’t help but be disappointed in the romance. There is one, actually more than one, actually more than two but none of them left me with the happy feeling of your last book. Perhaps if readers go in the book knowing this – that it’s more a historical fiction rather than a romance, their enjoyment will be higher than mine. B

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

REVIEW:  The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

REVIEW: The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

Dear Mr. Capella,

The Wedding Officer: A NovelI’m so glad your editor persuaded you to write this book. And for the positive buzz at various other romance review sites that brought it to my attention. I’ve also heard that it’s already been optioned for a movie and after reading it, I can see why. The descriptions of Italy and Naples put the reader right on the scene, the characters (even the secondary ones) are three dimensional, the humor is delightful yet you manage to convey what war was doing to these people and this country. It also brought to mind something I read while preparing an Advanced American History report when I was in high school. One British general is said to have remarked about the mingling of soldiers and prostitutes of Naples, “Some of you chaps stick your privates in places that I wouldn’t even put the ferrule of my umbrella.”

Captain James Gould arrives in wartime Naples assigned to discourage marriages between British soldiers and their gorgeous Italian girlfriends. But the innocent young officer is soon distracted by an intoxicating young widow who knows her way around a kitchen…Livia Pertini is creating feasts that stun the senses with their succulence–ruby-colored San Marzana tomatoes, glistening anchovies, and delectable new potatoes encrusted with the black volcanic earth of of Campania–and James is about to learn that his heart may rank higher than his orders. For romance can be born of the sweet and spicy passions of food and love–and time spent in the kitchen can be as joyful and exciting as the banquet of life itself!

Poor James has no idea what he’s getting into when he arrives in wartorn Naples. As the “Wedding Officer” he quickly learns that his job is not to facilitate weddings between British troops and their local fiancees but to prevent them. He’s also supposed to clamp down on the rampant bribery and blackmarket sales that always seems to accompany troops in any war throughout history. The locals are flumoxed by this new officer. He can’t be bribed with money, sex, flattery or any of the other things they’ve used in the past. What he is susceptible to, though they doubt he even realizes it, is food.

James finds the food of southern Italy to be far beyond merely unusual to his 1940s English palate. It’s vibrant, tantalizing and practically orgasmic to him. In fact, he finds it much as he does the lovely, earthy and sensuous Signora Pertini. Livia, on the other hand, has to be talked into working for the Allies even though she’s near to hungry exhaustion. The German occupation, though annoying, is nothing compared to what the Allies have put Livia and her family through. The scene you use to show this is gut punching and my hands were shaking by the end. The almost casual violence and depravity make it even worse than it is.

Once she begins to cook for the Field Security Service, Livia slowly begins to revise her opinion of the Allies in general and James in particular. After a false start in guessing his sexuality, Livia finds that she can love this gentle, polite young man while James falls even more deeply under Livia’s spell as their courtship moves from food to tantalizing “near sex” during lazy afternoon siestas. James, a virgin, is given hints as to how to satisfy Livia, a widow, through both cooking instructions and eating of the delectable results. The food of Naples takes center stage throughout the story and more than once I found my stomach urging me into the kitchen after reading about yet another of Livia’s feasts.

The horror of the war is never far away yet your gentle humor serves blunt it somewhat as in the following snippet which shows James serving as translator for Jumbo, an English officer, and his Neapolitan girlfriend (who’s actually a prostitute).

"Actually,” Jeffries said, "I wanted to talk to you about Elena. There's a bit of a language barrier, you see.”

James tried to look as if this possibility had only just occurred to him. "Really?”

"I need a few phrases translated. Only some of it's a bit delicate.”

"That's all right,” James said dubiously.

"For example, how would one say, 'I'm feeling a bit tired actually'?”

"Adesso son un po'stanco.”

"And what about, ah, 'That's very nice and all that, but I'd really rather you didn't'?”

"Well, it's difficult without knowing the exact context, but it's something like, '� molto bello ma preferirei che no lo facessi.'”

"And what about 'It's actually getting rather painful now'?”

"Sta diventando un po'doloroso.”

"And 'Please stop'?”

"Smettila, per favore.”

Jeffries's lips moved as he silently practiced the unfamiliar phrases. "Well, that should cover it,” he said at last.

Elena rejoined them, her nose sufficiently powdered. She and Jeffries smiled at each other coquettishly, holding hands across the table. "Tell me, James,” she said in Italian, "how do I tell him 'Aspetta!'?”

"Er–"'Wait,' I suppose.”

"Wet?” she said, trying it for size.

"Wait.”

"Wayt. Wayt! And how do I say 'Non smettere!'?”

"Don't stop.”

"And 'Facciamolo ancora ma pi๠piano lentamente'?”

"That would be–"'Let's do that again but more slowly.'”

"Slewly,” she repeated. "Slooowly. Good. And 'Svegliati, caro'?”

"Wake up, please, darling.”

"Wek erp plis dah'leeng. OK, I think I have everything.”

"Jumbo?”

"What?”

"Anything else I can assist with?”

"No, I think I'm fully kitted up now. Thanks.”

I did wonder at the last seven chapters. It’s not that they’re badly written or not compelling to read, it’s just that they seem almost as if they’re from a different book. Sort of like they’ve been cobbled onto what comes before. Do all books have to take a dark turn right before the end? Well, it’s not enough to lower the grade from more than an A to an A-. This is one book that was almost effortless to read and which I was sorry to see end.

~Jayne