The Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary Seduction

Written by Anthony Capella
Review by Helene Williams

In 1944, war-ravaged Naples was not at her best; food and jobs were scarce, and just about the only way to survive was to sell goods on the black market. Enter Captain James Gould of the British Army, assigned to Field Security Service in Naples due to his linguistic skills. Part of his job is to stem the rampant prostitution (and consequent syphilis outbreaks) as well as the theft of military goods, especially the new wonder drug, penicillin. James’s other duty is to serve as “Wedding Officer,” in which he interviews countless women who need his approval to marry British servicemen. Naïve and idealistic, James discovers nearly all of them are prostitutes, and his efforts to shut down the black market activity in Naples results in the limited food and supplies disappearing further into the underground market. A clever restaurateur named Angelo has a plan, however, to loosen James up and indoctrinate him into the ages-old way of life in Naples, which has always involved back-door dealings and good-looking women. He arranges for Livia Pertini, a wonderful cook and beautiful widow, to cook for Gould’s officers, and the culinary seduction begins. Livia introduces James to food far beyond the usual British fare of gravy and overcooked vegetables, using ingredients funneled to her by Angelo.

The descriptions of the meals, and James’s seduction into a world of sensory pleasure, are truly sensual, and they don’t take a back seat to the evolving romance with Livia. The beauty of Naples also shines through; the city and its surroundings, including the powerful and threatening Mt. Vesuvius are living, breathing characters in this war romance. Capella’s tale is based on actual events (yes, there was indeed a “Wedding Officer”), making it an even more delightful read.