Just months before our daughter was born in 2004, I moved from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn with my husband. Since then, I’ve come to love every quirky corner of this vast, diverse borough. When I started brainstorming the Romano Sisters series, I knew it would be set in New York. But I also wanted the sisters to be from a family with deep roots in their community, and Brooklyn is full of ethnic enclaves, some new, some going back a century or more. From the still-bustling Chinatown in Sunset Park to the Russian community in Brighton Beach to the last vestiges of the Italian-American community based in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn has long been home to immigrants looking to build a future in this vibrant city. I didn’t make the Romano sisters Italian and then decide where they’d live; the Romano sisters are Italian because I set the books in Brooklyn.
Carroll Gardens, the Brooklyn neighborhood where the fictional Romano clan lives, was a predominately Italian-American community for much of the 20th century. In the 1920s as recent Italian immigrants, many of whom worked the docks in Red Hook, gained financial security, they moved into the nearby middle-class neighborhood, which was then called South Brooklyn. In the 1960s gentrification began to change the face of the neighborhood as well as its name, which became Carroll Gardens, but it still bears a strong imprint of its Italian roots. Even today, although many of the original Italian-American families have scattered across the tri-state area, the population of Carroll Gardens is still nearly a quarter Italian-American.
Reminders of its Italian-American heritage are everywhere in Carroll Gardens. Shrines to the Virgin Mary (which Jessica Romano called “bathtub Madonnas in The One I Love to Hate) still abound in the atypically deep front gardens the neighborhood is known for. Several old-school private Italian social clubs are still hubs for the Italian residents of the neighborhood. Twice a year, the Procession of Our Lady of Sorrows winds though the neighborhood, bearing an icon of the Virgin Mary brought from Italy by early immigrants. There are still people playing bocce ball in Carroll Park, and many older residents still speak Italian to one another.
Many of the Italian restaurants, bakeries and butchers in the neighborhood have been in operation along Court Street for decades. Several served as inspiration for the community of businesses Gemma relies on in the upcoming Love Around the Corner. Caputo’s Bake Shop became DiPaola’s Bakery, G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store became Vinelli’s Meats and Sal’s Pizzeria became Russo’s Pizza (where Nick DeSantis, the hero of Love and the Laws of Motion, still holds the high score on their Ms. Pacman game, even though the real Sal’s doesn’t have a Ms. Pacman). D’Amico Coffee didn’t get a mention in the books, but they’ve been roasting their own beans since 1948 and my husband is absolutely addicted to their espresso!
Romano’s Bar itself, however, was based on a real bar a little closer to home. Farrell’s Bar and Grill has been a fixture of my neighborhood, Windsor Terrace, since the early 1930s. They haven’t actually served food for decades, but the sign is so iconic around here that no one would dare change it. Farrell’s is an Irish bar, not Italian, but as I started writing the books and describing the fictional Romano’s Bar, what came out on the page was Farrell’s. From the neon beer lights in the window to the pressed-tin ceiling to the white tile floor (Farrell’s finally replaced theirs with wood several years ago) to the big mirror behind the bar, Romano’s Bar owes a great debt to Farrell’s.
One of the most important things I wanted to convey in the Romano Sisters series is that these smart, strong, passionate women gain their strength, their sense of self, from their family and from a community with roots going back generations. They’re modern women tackling modern problems, but they come from a world deeply entrenched in tradition. I wanted to create a distinct sense of place and a neighborhood that felt like family. And it was important that they be descended from immigrants, people who built, and continue to build, this city. Carroll Gardens, with its deep Italian-American roots and constantly changing face, became the obvious choice, a perfect mix of Old World and New, just like the Romano sisters themselves. I hope readers find themselves falling in love with this special part of Brooklyn as much as I have.
About Love and the Laws of Motion:
Together they’ll unravel the secrets of the universe
Astrophysicist Olivia Romano has always preferred to stay close to her family in Brooklyn—even at the expense of her academic career. But with her advisor missing in action and an unscrupulous professor undermining her work, she’s forced to rely on the reformed-hacker-turned-elite-computer-genius whose sexy smile she can’t get out of her head.
Nicholas DeSantis cut ties with his family at eighteen, running away from his old-school Italian American neighborhood to make it big in Silicon Valley. When Livie comes to him for help, he can’t resist the project or the quirky woman behind it. Moving into the Romano house in his old neighborhood seems like the perfect short-term solution, if he can just continue to avoid his own family.
But while living together makes working with Livie easier, fighting his growing attraction to her becomes a whole lot harder.
When Livie’s research is sabotaged, Nick takes a huge risk to get her the proof she needs to salvage her career. Moving forward means leaving Brooklyn and spreading her wings at last—just when Nick might finally be ready to put down some roots.