cover image The Trouble with Mary

The Trouble with Mary

Millie Criswell / Author Ivy Books $6.5 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8041

Criswell, best known for her American historical romances, makes her delightful contemporary debut with a funny and sexy romance filled with eccentric Italians who live--not in New Jersey like Janet Evanovich's characters--but in Maryland. The trouble with Mary is that she's a 33-year-old virgin who yearns for independence from her strong-willed mother. To that end, she has opened an Italian restaurant and is looking to be ""zinged."" The further trouble with Mary is that the man she wants to zing with, Dan Gallagher, is the same journalist who gave Mary's restaurant, Mama Sophia, a scathing review--and he's a divorced father who has come to believe that a woman's place is in the home. Add into the mix an Italian kleptomaniac grandmother, an overbearing Italian mother, a father who invents accessories for the toilet, a wicked Jewish best friend, a 200-pound landlady and Matt, Dan's potty-mouthed son, and readers will have a pretty good idea of what's really the trouble with Mary. Though the 33-year-old virgin angle is somewhat effective, it's not entirely believable. And yet Mary's observations of the people around her, the scorching chemistry between Dan and Mary and the delicious recipes Criswell sprinkles throughout make this a worthwhile read. (Jan.) Forecast: With her move into modern romances, Criswell is sure to add to her following. Fans will look forward to next summer's What to Do About Annie?--Criswell's romance between Mary's Jewish best friend and Mary's brother Joe, a soon-to-be-ex-priest.