A big welcome to J. Scott Coatsworth as part of his blog tour with Other Worlds Ink for The River City Chronicles, and thank you for the opportunity to review!
I have yet to read a J. Scott Coatsworth story I didn’t enjoy, and this is no exception. The River City Chronicles was originally written as a serial story on the author’s blog, but this is my first time reading it, and I think it works wonderfully well in this format too. The story starts with introductory chapters from each main character’s perspective, which gives a taste of each of their ‘set ups.’ Then, as the story gets going, all of their stories interconnect and mesh as they meet, and become friends, and in some cases, more. I like the way characters are introduced as they meet with others I’d already ‘met.’ Although this story does have some romance in it, I thought it was more of a story about friendship, family, and the latter being those we choose and make ourselves. The characters feel very real.
I loved the sprinkle of magic realism in the story. It added a little extra special feeling to the story, but wasn’t overused, and made me smile. The settings are very easy to visualize, and I particularly loved the description of the restaurant from Carmelina’s POV during the first cooking lesson. It feels warm and cozy, and very welcoming, and the line that stood out for me to the point I took note of it for this review summed up the scene nicely—“the kitchen brings the memory of the heart.”
I was drawn into the story immediately, and wanted to know more about the overarching story, the characters, and how they would interact. The chapters are a great size, perfect for diving in and out of the story although, as I approached the latter part of the book, I didn’t want to put it down as I wanted to know how everyone’s stories would end. The story is a lovely, easy, feel-good read with plenty of ‘heart,’ and I very much enjoyed it. Although I could guess how some characters were connected to others, and how their stories might unfold in places, it added to my reading enjoyment, rather than detracted from it.
I’d recommend The River City Chronicles to readers who enjoy a feel good story with real characters with a focus on the important of friends and family, both the ones we are born into, and those we choose. 5 out of 5 stars.
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.
One lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
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.
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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