If the title of this novel has your inner singer sounding like an Italian crooner than you’ve already got a head start on the setting of this novel. It Had to Be You, by Janice Thompson is book three in her series entitled Weddings by Bella. It features Bella Rossi, a young woman surrounded by a very vivacious and loving Italian family who happens to run the family wedding planning business, and her husband-to-be, D.J. Neeley, a true Texan cowboy who found his way onto their family home of Galveston Island via the construction business and never left after Bella captured his heart.
If you love theme weddings and wedding chaos humor this book is full of it. I additionally found myself craving big band music and Italian cuisine after reading this. The entire Rossi clan is full of unique and wonderful characters. Bella’s main character flaw is that she is too in love with her family to say ‘no’ to them. Her own wedding is fast approaching and other family members keep encroaching on her big day with wedding plans of their own. I found myself as a reader wanting to encourage Bella to say something to her loved ones about how much stress they were piling on her! Which is exactly what the author wanted.
Bella is the classic ‘giver’. She can’t say no – even when her sister decides at Christmas to have her wedding only 3-4 weeks after Bella’s own – Bella doesn’t have the guts to tell her sister to delay her wedding a little so that Bella can get a grip on her own wedding plans and the major changes that will be happening in her life. Bella seems tossed about by well meaning family members that assume she is super human and can handle untold amounts of wedding creativity and stress on short notice because she plans weddings all the time, right? How many of us have had a hard time learning that lesson? It feels so good to help others, but at some point you just don’t have the time or energy to do anything for yourself anymore if you don’t learn to say no, or to assert the time you need for yourself into the equation.
Amidst all the wedding chaos, themes of forgiveness, not judging people by first impressions, and the power of living by example and that of prayer are woven beautifully into this at times humorous, but always loving, story. I think this book will mostly appeal to female readers, particularly those who have already lived through their own wedding chaos, or the chaos of planning weddings for other family members. Those of Italian decent (or who hail from towns who celebrate Italian heritage like I am) will also be amused by the Rossi clan and the variety of Italian stereotypes that abound in this novel.
Book Cover Review
Although I loved the book, I feel the cover design is not as strong as the writing. I’d have to say that the posture of the young man on the cover is what set it off. He seems to be not just looking over his shoulder but to be leaning backwards against the young woman in such a way that if she moves an inch he’ll be falling over. It just seems unnaturally awkward? The dress of the couple does place them in a contemporary time period, and the river walkway in the background is rather romantic (though vague and I have no idea of its location), but after reading the story I’m left wondering where the chaotic wedding/Italian family theme fits into this cover? Could they have captured those elements to draw in readers who love big family chaos and swing music … the current cover alone wouldn’t do it. That being said, this cover is attractive will capture the attention of the contemporary romance reader – but I just feel it could also have tapped into so much more.
* Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review via their blog tour program.