Cover Art: Paul Richmond
Release Date: 12/2/15
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.
I’m going to go on record saying that Joe Cosentino pretty much has me at hello. His writing style is incredibly smooth with beautiful details that never feel like too much or too little. Even in this very short story, I felt like I was right there in Capri with Bobby. Both the scenery and Bobby’s emotions are painted with lush, vivid detail.
I previously reviewed two other novellas by Mr. Cosentino, and while his personal flair is still evident, this one felt different to me. It had a gentle, romantic feel to it that was just right for the beautiful Italian setting. At the same time, the one similar thread I noted in all three short works was a sense of longing and deep, sensual love.
There isn’t any overdrawn angst or major event to tear apart the main characters. It’s all about the ways in which Bobby and Paolo balance and teach each other and how they grow. While Bobby is an open book, thoughtful and intense, Paolo is hard to love at first. He’s so closed off to all the good things he’s afraid to experience. The wait for him to blossom is well worth it for the payoff, though. Bobby and Paolo have an intense connection that goes from strangers to ocean deep almost in a heartbeat. I’m not usually one for instant love, but this is simply so well done that it puts every other love-at-first-sight story to shame.
One of my favorite scenes in the whole story is when Bobby is contemplating the way Jesus the radical has been changed into someone used to fuel hate and harm. It’s a tiny moment in a sea of other moments, but it’s lovely nonetheless and full of deep meaning. This is exactly the kind of writing I’ve come to expect from Mr. Cosentino, who doesn’t shy away from bringing those flashes of introspection into a story.
Overall, this is a lovely holiday read, just right for fans of the falling in love at Christmas theme. It gets 9/10 fountain pens for exceptional writing and beautifully gift-wrapped love story.
“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 adjusted the heavy book on my knees and leaned back against the headboard of my narrow dorm room bed. Since fall semester of my third year of law school was over, my roommate had already gone back to Utah to be with his father and three mothers. Normally I would go home for the holidays.
As far back as I can remember, every December twenty-third through the twenty-fifth my mother works herself to exhaustion while forbidding anyone to help her. Since I am not married, I am seated at the kiddy table, where I dodge meatball and manicotti grenades courtesy of my little nieces and nephews. Then the gifts are bestowed with price tags on them so we all know “How many hours your father and I had to work to be able to buy our children such beautiful things.” This is followed by “oohs” and “ahhs” for every gift except the presents from me, which garner comments from my parents and two sisters like, “Oh well, I can wear that for dress-down day at work… if I keep on my coat.” After the extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins arrive for dessert (cannoli grenades at the kiddy table), my mother’s side (the Mascobellos) eat the pastries, and my father’s side (the McGraths) drink the liqueurs, while I sit upstairs in my old bedroom reading law case decisions on the Internet.
This Christmas is going to be different. Throughout my childhood I heard stories about my mother’s now deceased father who had a first cousin in Capri, Italy. Mom, “too exhausted from taking care of all of you to survive such a journey,” had recently spoken on the phone to her deceased father’s cousin’s daughter-in-law (got that?), and the two women had arranged for me to spend this Christmas with my Italian relatives. This led to my Christmas in Italy with my Italian cousin, Paolo Mascobello.
Upon entering my room, I noticed Lucia had unpacked my things into a large mahogany wardrobe out of C. S. Lewis. Exhausted from my trip, I stripped off my clothes, leaped onto the gigantic, canopied four-poster bed, and slept until I felt a firm nudge on my shoulder. As I opened my still jet-lagged eyes, I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or awake. Standing next to my bed was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. About my height and age, his wavy chestnut hair framed piercing sapphire eyes, a straight nose, and full red lips. Wearing a skintight button-down red shirt, black pants, and black loafers, he gave Michelangelo’s David a run for his florin. To say his body was strong was like saying the Catholic Church had a little wealth and power. His taut, perfectly shaped muscles sprouted additional muscles of even greater magnitude. Bulging shoulders led to mountainous pectoral muscles, a narrow waist and hips, and a prominent lump between his sculpted thighs. His skin was olive-colored and so smooth it appeared as if he had no veins in his body.
“Mama said you should come down for lunch.”
Covering my rapidly growing erection with my thigh, I responded in a daze, “Who are you?”
He spoke perfect English. “I am Paolo.”
Next to Paolo, even with a swimmer’s body, I felt incredibly white and skinny. “Hello, Paolo. I’m Bobby. I think we’re related.” As I rose to get dressed, Paolo seemed to check out my body, or was that wishful thinking?
“Your grandfather and my grandfather were cousins.”
Doing the math quickly, I said, “So that makes us third cousins?”
“I guess it does.” He shook my hand. It felt warm and comforting. “We look nothing alike.”
I laughed at the understatement. “No.”
“Is this your first time in Italy?”
“Do you like it here?”
“Do you answer every question with ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”
“No.” I felt like a teenager at his first dance.
Paolo shrugged his massive shoulders. “You better get down to the dining room. Mama doesn’t like to hold lunch.”
Once dressed in a light blue sweater and dark blue pants, I said, “I don’t know how to get to the dining room.”
He smiled. “Follow me.”
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press), Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, Charles Keating, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming releases in 2016 are The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Porcelain Doll & Satin Doll & China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), Drama Muscle & Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), and Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back & Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press).
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com