Romantic Reads: “Sweet 21 Birthday Ball” by J. Adams

The thing I liked about this story was the unusual structure. It’s told mostly within the pages of  the heroine’s diary, skipping back and forth in time. Marcello Giannini, 21-year-old owner of a Venetian pastry shop meets feisty Dominique when she is only eight. Hold on now, this is not as creepy as it sounds. Their families are friends, and Marcello and Dominique form a close friendship during Dominique’s visit. When it is time for her to return to the States, Marcello promises he will visit her, and he does, coming back for every one of her birthdays. Eventually, true to her bossy nature, Dominique forbids him to marry anyone: “If a lady asks you, say no, cause you are mine, okay?” However, when her 21st birthday is just around the corner, she senses that something has changed, and she has not heard from Marcello.  Will he show up, or has he finally decided to marry another?

Such a close friendship between a grown man and a girl might seem suspicious, but J. Adams handles it very expertly, and from the very start the reader is aware of the good nature of her characters. The only criticism I have is that the exposition seems a bit too sudden, and some parts of it just sound like a summary: Eg. “Marcello has heard nothing but good things about this family and he is looking forward to meeting them.” Overall, it is a very enjoyable read. Perhaps it is appropriate that the main characters are both pastry chefs: this is a sweet cupcake of a tale. It provides all the satisfaction of a sentimental feel-good story told in simple and unpretentious style.

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