The patriarch of the Lombardi family passed away five years ago and one of his final wishes was that his eldest son, Capone, would see to it that the family stayed happily together and that their Italian restaurant thrived in their small Maine town of Ogunquit. Capone has spent every moment of every day trying to be the man, the son, the brother that would make his father proud. And sometimes, that means speeding through town to pick up a lost lobster delivery before the lunch rush. Everything is great until the local police officer, Fuller Sims, pulls Capone over for speeding. Capone doesn’t mind being a little manhandled by the beefy officer…rather the opposite if the tightness of their trousers is any indication. But he draws the line at being hauled into the station before he can drop off the much-needed lobster at his family eatery. Thankfully, Fuller relents.
But in a small town like Ogunquit, news travels fast. So fast that the town has already caught wind of Fuller Sims hot and heavy traffic stop with Capone Lombardi. One that seems to inspire Capone’s younger brother to turn matchmaker between Capone and Fuller. The whole town seems to support the idea of these two local legends pairing up. Capone and Fuller both feel the spark of attraction, of desire. But neither has been successful at love in the past. There’s more than a clingy ex causing the lovebirds problems, however. Capone has to process the fact that, at times, Fuller’s job is dangerous. That is a bigger task than he imagined and contemplating the man he’s falling for coming to harm in the line of duty makes Capone lash out…just as Fuller has to aid in evacuation duties prior to a huge blizzard. Hopefully the harsh words they exchanged before the brunt of the storm hits won’t be their last.
Shouting Match is a contemporary get-together story from author Pandora Pine. It is the first book in her Amore Matchmaking series and the story is set in a small Maine town. In addition to our two main characters, Capone and Fuller, the large supporting cast comprises Capone’s family (mother, three brothers), Fuller’s work partner, and various town locals. The “small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business” trope was a big theme in the story. I was surprised the “overbearing family” trope didn’t have Fuller on the rails; instead, it was touched on via Capone assuming too much from his father’s final wishes.
Overall, I wasn’t very engaged in this story. I thought it started out strong. The introduction is set five years in the past. Capone hears his father’s final wishes. In the first few chapters, I got the impression that Capone has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Like he’s personally responsible for everyone (else’s) happiness and success in life. I was excited to see how a character like Capone would mesh with police Detective Fuller.
When Capone and Fuller first “meet” during that traffic stop, however, the story takes a hard turn into describing sexual chemistry, attraction, and arousal. I briefly wondered if this would turn into a bit of erotica to enjoy, but no. There’s not enough sex for that label. But Capone and Fuller’s dates/interactions felt very limited to me. Each date or meet-up seemed to be capped with some kind of misunderstanding. One was the panic over not having kissed after their first date. There was also a bizarre one-off featuring Fuller’s obsessive ex, making Fuller doubt for a brief moment that he can have a real relationship. Taken as a whole, it felt like there was a disproportionate amount of “how could he ever want me after what I did/what happened” compared to how much time they actually get to enjoy one another’s company. It didn’t help that they are poor communicators. More than once, they shared words that gave the impression their attempt at being a couple was about to fall to pieces.
I wasn’t thrilled with how Pine utilized the obsessive ex and the law enforcement threads into the story. Fuller’s obsessive ex, for example, literally appears out of nowhere to punch Capone in the face (Capone even gets a concussion). Yet rather than discuss how this individual may impact Capone and Fuller’s future as a couple or how it may have shaped Fuller’s wants and needs in a romantic partner, all it does is serve as a catalyst to get Capone and Fuller past their “he must not be interested in me because he didn’t call/kiss me” stage. In other words, a concussed Capone admits he wanted to kiss Fuller. The emotional dam breaks and they continue their awkward courtship. And nothing more about the ex really matters to them. As for the dangers of Fuller’s job, well…that only seems to matter when Fuller is literally being threatened and Capone is around to hear about it. The concept that police work could be dangerous never crops up until Fuller well after the two attempt to start dating.
As a whole, I thought the narrative wasn’t very strong in this book and it really showed in how stilted the romance seemed to me. Our romantic leads seem to spend a lot of time doing damage control after unvoiced expectations go unmet literally from the first date. They struggle to find out if they even have a relationship despite not having that many interactions. There is a pretty noticeable lack of communication between them, but for some reason, they’re desperate to make a go of it. If you’re a fan of anything with a law enforcement officer, you might enjoy this book. Fans of troubled couples who have to overcome long odds (even if self-imposed) might also like this.