J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer magical realism book out:
A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other's lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.
Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who run the restaurant; recently-widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.
Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.
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Matteo stared out the restaurant window into the darkness of Folsom Boulevard. It was getting dark earlier as summer edged into fall. Streetlights flickered on as cars drifted by, looking for parking or making the trip out of Midtown toward home.
The sign on the window read “Ragazzi” (the boys), lettered in a beautiful golden script just two months old. Investing in this little restaurant his uncle had left to them when he'd passed away had been their ticket out of Italy. But now with each passing day, as seats sat empty and tomatoes, pasta, and garlic went uneaten, the worry was gnawing ever deeper into Matteo's gut.
Behind him in the open, modernized kitchen, Diego was busy cooking—his mother's lasagne, some fresh fish from San Francisco, and some of the newer Italian dishes they'd brought with them from Bologna. The smells of boiling sauce and fresh-cooked pasta that emanated from the kitchen were entrancing.
They'd sent the rest of the staff —Max and Justin—home for the evening. The three customers who had shown up so far didn't justify the cost of keeping their waiter and busboy on hand.
Matteo stopped at the couple's table in front of the other window. "Buona sera," he said, smiling his brightest Italian smile.
"Hi," the man said, smiling back at him. He was a gentleman in about his mid-fifties, wearing a golf shirt and floppy hat. "Kinda quiet tonight, huh?"
"It always gets busier later," Matteo lied smoothly. "Pleasure to have you here. Can I get you anything else?"
"A little more wine, please?" the woman said, holding out her glass so the charm bracelet on her wrist jangled.
"Of course." He bowed and ducked into the kitchen.
He gave Diego a quick peck on the cheek.
His husband and chef waved him off with a snort. "Più tardi. Sto preparando la cena."
"I can see that. Dinner for a hundred, is it? It’s dead out there again tonight.”
Diego shot him a dirty look.
Matteo retrieved the bottle of wine from the case and returned to fill up his guests' glasses. “What brings you in tonight?” Maybe they saw our ad.…
“Just walking by and we were hungry. I miss the old place though.… What was it called, honey?”
Her husband scratched his chin. “Little Italy, I think?”
“That’s it! It was the cutest place. Checkered tablecloths, those great Italian bottles with the melted wax… so Italian.”
Matteo groaned inside. “So glad you came in” was all he said with another smile.
4.5 out of 5 stars
The River City Chronicles is a new contemporary story enhanced by magical elements.
So fair warning that if you are looking for a traditional romance, with just one couple being the main focus, this book is definitely not that kind of story. River City Chronicles features a large multi-generational ensemble cast which totally enriches the story. While I might consider Matteo and Diego the 'main' couple of the story, the author spends equal time with the rest of the cast.
Again the cast is diverse with both LGBTQ characters and non-LGBTQ characters from a late teen girl, Marissa, struggling after her parents kicked her out, to the recently widowed yet still feisty red-headed Carmelina, and of course our main couple Matteo and Diego who've recently moved here from Italy to open a new restuarant. This is truly an ensemble cast story as the book features each character, in equal measure. There's also a magical element floating throughout the story touching each of their lives, also weaving the thread of magic around the entire group.
I thoroughly enjoyed The River City Chronicles. I liked the entire ensemble cast and how their stories connected in multiple places. The storytelling throughout this book is a particular strength of this author as he constantly provides a full, rich storyline no matter where the character lies within the story. While the story starts off a tad bit slow, that's to be expected when setting up an ensemble cast as diverse as this one and with as complicated of backstories as they all have to share. I will admit that I'm a huge fan of this author's science-fiction and paranormal stories because of his care in the storytelling. He did not disappoint in The River City Chronicles and tells a fantastic, engaging story that keeps you reading until the end of the book.
I highly recommend this, especially now that it's summer. This is a great sit by the pool and get sucked into the story type of book. So go and grab yourself a copy and see for yourself.
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a little yellow bungalow in East Sacramento, with two pink flamingos by the front porch.
He spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.
Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com
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