Thursday, June 28, 2018

Blog Tour ~ The River City Chronicles by J. Scott Coatsworth (Review + Excerpt + Giveaway)

Blog Tour ~ The River City Chronicles by J. Scott Coatsworth (Review + Excerpt + Giveaway)


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.

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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.

Exclusive Excerpt – The River City Chronicles

Diego slammed the last of the dirty pans into the sink, earning a stern look from Matteo from the restaurant floor. Dinner service was over for the night, and his stomach was churning. He’d put this off as long as he could. He had to tell Matteo tonight.
But Matteo had been acting strangely all evening. For days, really. His responses had been curt, and he wouldn’t meet Diego’s eyes. He knew Matteo like he knew his cooktop—where all the hot spots were and where things just simmered.
Matteo was hiding something.
Diego grunted. He had his own secrets.
He set to work on the dishes. They’d sent the help home early again to save money. He scrubbed the pans with a vengeance, trying to get them perfectly clean.
Matteo popped his head into the open kitchen. “Keep it down back here—we still have guests.” He sounded more annoyed than usual.
Diego glanced out at the dining room. Two guys stared back at him, and he realized he must have been making quite a racket. He waved and flashed his best Italian smile. “Sorry!”
One of the guys grinned and waved back.
“I try the best,” he said to Matteo.
Matteo looked like he might say something else, but then he just nodded and backed out of the kitchen.
It wasn’t like him to hold his tongue. Diego was used to getting a tongue lashing, which he would return in true Italian style. But not this time.
Diego frowned, his sense of unease growing.
More than anything, he wanted to just close up the kitchen and run upstairs to bed. But he’d waited too long. It was now or never.

* * * * *

Matteo waited anxiously for the last couple to leave. They took their time, of course, ordering several bottles of Italian vino, for which he was thankful, along with i contorni, i primi piatti, i secondi piatti, and le dolce—a full four-course meal. It was their tenth anniversary, one of them had told him, and part of him was thrilled they’d chosen to spend it at Ragazzi.
But the other part, the one he locked carefully away behind the genteel smile and generous nature of the restaurant host, was practically screaming at them to get out.
Diego had calmed down a bit in the kitchen.
Matteo shot him a worried look. It wasn’t like him to make such a ruckus with his kitchen tools. Something must have him really worked up.
At last, the couple finished and paid the bill, leaving with a ringing of the bell at the front door. The restaurant was empty.
Matteo locked up and carried the last few dishes into the kitchen, where Diego took them without a word and rinsed them, placing them in the dishwasher and starting the cleaning cycle.
Matteo looked around. The kitchen was spotless. “Wow, you worked fast tonight.” Maybe he could manage to put this off just a little longer.
Possiamo parlare in Italiano?”
“In Italian? Sure.” There was no one around, and Diego had been practicing his English enough to earn a night off.
He sighed. It was now or never.
Dobbiamo parlare,” they both said at the same time. We need to talk.
Matteo laughed. “I guess we do,” he said in la bella lingua.
Diego’s face was grim. “Not here,” he said, looking around. “Let’s go upstairs where we can be more comfortable.”
Matteo agreed. He followed his husband to their flat, wondering what Diego wanted to talk to him about.

4 stars

This is a book celebrating the diversity of life. While it follows a lot of different people and stories, all of them were connected in some way or another. From the beginning of this book, I felt like it was pure sunshine. It just had so much life and was everything I wanted. It was well-written and refreshing. Once I got a little further in the book, there were some characters I cared about more than others, so I tended to speed through some chapters.

It was emotional in many different ways. It followed many people with different struggles, successes, heartaches and just life changes in general. 

I wanted more of Matteo and Diego's story, though! They were by far my favorite characters. This book was different from anything I have ever read but overall, I enjoyed it!

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

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.

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