‘Jersey Italian Love Story’ Is a Funny and Salty New Read

Terri-Lynne DeFino's romance novel features a colorful cast of Italian Americans—and plenty of Sopranos-esque swagger.

Book cover of new novel "Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story," next to author headshot of Terri Lynne DeFino, who has purple hair
Author Terri-Lynne DeFino grew up in Wyckoff in a "large, loud Italian family.” Photo courtesy of Grace DeFino

For book lovers who want more than flowers or a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story is the perfect read.

Author Terri-Lynne DeFino grew up in Wyckoff and made a name for herself among fantasy and romance readers. Now comes her old-fashioned yet thoroughly modern family dramedy, set in the fictional town of Wyldale.

This Garden State love story begins with the titular widow deciding it’s time to actually listen to her mother and start dating again. A colorful cast of family and friends offers their help—whether the main character, Varina Palladino, wants it or not.

Along the way, there are fights and hugs, tears and romance. “Readers will be glad to immerse themselves in the Palladinos’ exuberant world [and this] bighearted story,” Publisher’s Weekly recently raved. 

“My agent said with any new book, there’s always calls [from Hollywood] asking, ‘Who owns the rights?’” DeFino says. “There have been a lot of calls.”

DeFino was born in Paterson; her father was a lawyer, while her mother raised four kids. Grandparents and lots of cousins lived nearby.

“It was a large, loud Italian family,” DeFino says. “Going off into a corner with a book was sometimes very peaceful.”

New Jersey readers in particular will recognize many of the salty Italian American expressions that open each chapter, partly inspired by another Jersey family—the Sopranos.

Though she now resides in Connecticut, DeFino is still a Jersey regular, vacationing down the Shore or sharing a pie at Patsy’s in Paterson (one of NJM’s favorite pizza spots).

“In the end,” she says, “it always feels like home.”

Hungry for more Italian American culture? Check out our roundup of delicious restaurants.

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