Once Upon a Winter’s Heart
By Melody Carlson
Published by: Center Street
160 Pages

Back Cover: Emma Burcelli has suffered over a decade of dating disasters. But she concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi suddenly passes, leaving her grandmother Nona devastated. To help out, Emma works in the family bookstore, which Nona insists must be decked out in sweetheart décor as Poppi would have done for Valentine's Day. Although she feels like a V-Day Scrooge, Emma quickly learns to enjoy the task with the help of a handsome family friend, Lane Forester, who shows her that hanging hearts is much more fun when done to the tune of Dean Martin. As Emma and Lane share time and memories of Poppi, she reconsiders the notion that romance is alive.

Just as Emma's heart begins to lift, however, she learns her sister has already staked a claim on Lane. Emma's mother and sister insist Lane only sees her as a future sister-in-law, but she can't help wondering if it could be something more.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for a review copy of a book by one of my favorite authors. I instantly cared for and enjoyed this cast of colorful characters. I felt a part of their family.

Emma Burcelli gets a call to inform her of her Poppi’s passing. Emma learns the funeral will be soon. She feels lead to leave her dead-end marketing-job in Seattle to go live with her grandmother, Nona.

Poppi’s death hits the entire Bucelli family hard. He was such an encourager, family anchor - part of everyone’s life and brought so much love to them all. Emma declares, “Romance is officially dead…of course, she knew that Poppi would probably argue this with her. He would launch into a passionate lecture about how love was alive and well for those who were willing to take notice…just open your eyes; he would often say to people, “Love is all around you.” But Emma had never been able to see it.” She was convinced, “True love was only to be found in old movies and classic books.”

This author has a great mix of believable characters, all facing Poppi’s death in different ways. Some comical and in denial and some sad. They also face Valentine ’s Day in very different ways too. Emma knows, “Valentine’s day is a crazy holiday for many who are not in a relationship, lost someone dear, and/or are not in that series relationship, things get complicated.”

Emma has mixed emotions about this day. She tells someone, “Valentine’s Day is a cruel joke! Bah-Humbug!” She was a Valentine ’s Day Scrooge and wasn’t afraid to say it. She marveled and reflected at how much Poppi loved this holiday. So did her grandmother, Nona. It was at Nona’s request for Emma to go to the book store they owned and decorate it for Valentine’s Day on February first. She’d to that for both of her grandparents no matter how she felt about that day. Her grandparents were love to her. She’d do it for them.

I enjoyed this novella sized book for several reasons. One, it was about an Italian family. I was raised in one and know firsthand that learning to make homemade spaghetti sauce is very important. I smiled big when they talked about this aspect of Italian family life. They said that it was important to learn how to make spaghetti and meatballs the way their family made it. It spoke love to the receiver. I remember my training and how this is so true. Second part of this story takes place in a book store. I loved that since I’ve worked in one for 10 years. And last but not least this author talks about a men’s book club. Poppi started and lead a men’s book club inside the book store. I loved reading about this aspect of the book since I’ve done the very same thing but with a group of women. Poppi had picked out the Phantom of the Opera for the men to read. He wanted to talk about different aspect of what love is. It was funny to read about the men’s book club as they discussed the book and drank wine at their meetings. It was a hoot!

My only complaint about this book is that it was too short. It left me wanting more. I wanted to hang out with this Italian family and learn more about them. I highly recommend this book for a mini get away from the worlds cares. This story will tug at your heart, make you smile and just make you feel good all over. Thanks Melody! I enjoyed meeting you this year at the ICRS Conference!

Nora St.Laurent TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network Blog
Book Fun Magazine 


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