by Millie Criswell

January 2001
ISBN: 0-8041-1950-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Ballantine Books
Mass Market Paperback

Mary Russo is finally ready to gain some independence and have a daring adventure which she is definitely entitled to after 33 years of living with her overbearing, overprotective mother, who likes to begin every sentence with “the trouble with Mary is...”. She has lived her life thus far taking the safe, predictable route – not doing much of anything because of fearing failure. But when the opportunity arose for her to start her own Italian restaurant, she decided to bite the bullet. However, her worst fears came true when she reads a scathing review of her restaurant, Mama Sophia’s, in the Baltimore Sun.

Dan Gallagher is not a restaurant critic by choice – he previously worked as a sportswriter for the Sun. However, since he is somewhat of a gourmet cook himself he was unhappily reassigned to the position of restaurant/food critic temporarily while the paper’s usual critic is on maternity leave. Things have not been going well for Dan all around – his ex-wife recently skipped town with her aerobics instructor, leaving their 8 year old son, Matt, with him. While he loves having Matt live with him, Matt is understandably upset with his mother’s abandonment and is blaming Dan for his troubles. To make matters worse, Dan is less than enthused about his job transfer and of course his dejectedness shows in his first assignment – reviewing the new Italian restaurant in town – none other than Mary’s Mama Sophia’s.

Mary is not about to take Dan’s review lying down so she makes a trip down to the Baltimore Sun offices to confront him about his unfair, and as far as she was concerned, uneducated, opinion. But while she does give Dan a piece of her mind, she is unprepared to find him so attractive that he gets her virginal hormones in an uproar. And while Dan doesn’t particularly care for Italian food, he finds Mary one little tempting Italian morsel he is determined to get to taste.

After reading (and loving!) Millie Criswell’s latest release, The Trials of Angela, I knew I had to read her previous releases with the other characters in Little Italy, namely this novel, The Trouble with Mary and the following novel, What to do About Annie. While I didn’t find The Trouble with Mary as humorous as the later novel, The Trials of Angela, it does have its moments. Strangely, not so much Dan and Mary, but the Russo family and the novel’s other characters make The Trouble with Mary an entertaining read. Millie Criswell wisely gives readers just enough information to intrigue us to read the story of Mary’s brother, Father Joe and her best friend, Annie in What to do About Annie. I think most readers will have a difficult time just reading one of the novels from Millie Criswell’s Little Italy series.

The Trouble with Mary is worth the purchase price for the delicious sounding recipes that begin every chapter alone. Any fellow chocoholics will find Mary a woman after their own hearts! Mary is a heroine readers will be able to easily relate to with her cellulite, somewhat dysfunctional family and common insecurities. She is a refreshing change from the “perfect” leading female character we see so often. Dan is a romantic, a loving father, and hot! What more could we want?

Reviewed in June 2002 by Nicole.

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