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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

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

8 Comments

  1. Culinary Schools » Blog Archive » REVIEW: The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella
    Sep 26, 2007 @ 15:32:28

    [...] Devil’s Snare wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptDear Mr. Capella, I'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… [...]

  2. Keishon
    Sep 26, 2007 @ 22:49:12

    I bought this in ebook a long time ago, glad to see you enjoyed it, J.

  3. Jayne
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 05:18:31

    Keishon, this is another book that almost read itself. The pages just seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I was almost finished. But it’s best NOT read on an empty stomach! ;)

  4. Catherine
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 10:41:10

    This sounds like a really good book. Just a question before I run out to buy it. Are there any sex scenes that involve them eating/making out with food? Cause that is a huge pet peeve of mine and it squicks me out. I just want to be prepared for it. I’ve had it sneak up on me in a book before and I had to put it down for a long time before I could start again. I’m a freak like that. I think it all started with a Nicolas Cage movie where his girlfriend and him get down using chocolate cake. *shudder* That was the most disgusting wannabe sex scene I’ve ever seen.

  5. Jayne
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 12:19:22

    Catherine, I don’t recall anyone being slathered with anything but here’s an example of how Livia used food to teach James how to make love.

    For lunch one day, Livia served the British officers a steaming dish of snails, which exuded a delicious aroma of garlic and tomato. James looked around for a knife or fork, but Livia had not put any cutlery out.

    “These are a real delicacy,” she said. “We call them maruzzelle. They're harvested from plants that grow by the sea, which gives them a special salty flavor. Then we just cook them like this in their shells.”

    Horris picked one up and looked at it doubtfully. “In England we don't really eat snails. Or slugs, come to that.”

    “There's a lot of things you don't do in England,” she said. “Or so I gather.”

    “What's that supposed to mean?” Horris asked suspiciously.

    James had also picked up a shell, enticed by the rich, deep, earthy smell emanating from it. “How do I eat this?”

    “Just as it is.”

    James put the mollusk to his lips and sucked. At first, nothing happened. “You may have to loosen it,” Livia added.

    He wriggled his tongue into the shell and sucked again. This time, the flesh moved a little. He wriggled harder, sucking at the same time, and felt a slither as the meat popped into his mouth, followed by the buttery juices. It was heavenly, and he gasped with pleasure.

    One by one, with varying degrees of squeamishness and dexterity, the other officers followed James's example. Livia, however, seemed particularly interested in how James was doing. “There are more juices in the shell,” she instructed, watching him. He pushed his tongue in again, working the tip around the shell's crevices until all the sauce was gone.

    “That's fantastic,” he breathed as he put the empty shell down. “Livia, you're a genius.”

    “Good,” she said. She sounded pleased. “Have another.”

    When the snails were all gone she brought out a bowl of fresh peas, still in their pods. “Now, the way to eat peas,” she explained, “is quite like eating snails. You need to open the pod with your thumbs, like this.” She demonstrated. “And then you need to put your tongue in and lick the peas up with it, like this.”

    James tried to copy her, but all the peas rolled off onto the floor.

    “It's a funny thing,” Jumbo said, “but when I was in officer selection, they used to tell us that there was a proper way to eat peas too. But that was something to do with using a knife.”

    James tried again. This time he managed to lick up all the peas except the very last one, the smallest one at the very tip of the pod. “Can't quite get the last one,” he complained.

    “It's the last one that's important,” she said. “Trust me.”

    Peas skittered over the table like tiny green marbles as the British officers tried to wrap their tongues around the elusive legumes. “Actually, the knife was a lot easier.” Jumbo sighed.

    “Don't worry; it comes with practice,” Livia said.

    James waited until she was clearing the dishes, then followed her to the kitchen. “Livia,” he said, putting down the empty dish he was carrying, “what's all this about snails and peas?”

    “Hmm,” she said. “Well, they're both very interesting. Let me put it like this. Sometimes it's nice to have the peas first. Usually, though, you want to start with the snails, and then go on to a few peas, and then have a few snails again before you finish off the peas. But that's when you have to be sure to get the last one in the pod.”

    “Well, that's as clear as mud.”

    After lunch, though, when everything was quiet, she came to his room again, and suddenly it all did become clear. He realized then that the little cries of pleasure he had wrung from her previously were nothing compared to the shuddering, gasping spasms he could elicit when he went from snails to peas, then back to snails, and finally worked his tongue under the very last pea in the pod.

  6. vanessa jaye
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 15:03:32

    okay, i was intrigued before, and kept coming back to see what others were commenting, but that last excerpt got me. lol. I’m going to look for this book after work. I can see what you mean about the writing just sucking you (heh) in. There’s a certain charm to the author’s voice. That passage you posted was erotic without being graphic or heavy handed.

  7. Catherine
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 15:41:14

    Thanks Jayne. I don’t mind that kind of writing. It was actually pretty sexual without being too heavy (like vanessa jaye mentioned).

  8. Jayne
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 16:42:50

    For those interested in them, this is available as an ebook as well.

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