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It Takes Two: A Novel

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Francesca Rivabuona is fifty and exhausted by the monotony of her life. Stuck in a stale marriage with grown children who have long since fled the coop, and desperate to escape the endless cycle of Upper East Side dinner parties and charity luncheons, she jumps at the chance to write an article about Buenos Aires for a glossy travel magazine.

Francesca is instantly captivated by Buenos Aires’s palpable rhythm. She explores the city with her new friends—a group of tango dancers ...

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It Takes Two: A Novel

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Francesca Rivabuona is fifty and exhausted by the monotony of her life. Stuck in a stale marriage with grown children who have long since fled the coop, and desperate to escape the endless cycle of Upper East Side dinner parties and charity luncheons, she jumps at the chance to write an article about Buenos Aires for a glossy travel magazine.

Francesca is instantly captivated by Buenos Aires’s palpable rhythm. She explores the city with her new friends—a group of tango dancers who give her an insider’s scoop into the best Buenos Aires has to offer—and rediscovers the sense of passion and excitement she thought she had relinquished forever. As Francesca learns to master the sensual movements of tango dancing, she begins to let down her guard—on the dance floor, in the bedroom, and in her personal life. Embarking on a steamy love affair with Argentina’s most famous plastic surgeon, she knows that she has been irrevocably transformed by the pulsing, erotic thrill of life in Argentina.

At once a tale of a middle-aged woman taking a stand against the disappointments of her life and a sexy, fast-paced, entertaining novel about the ecstasy of tango dancing, It Takes Two reads like a soulful tango: irresistible, exotic, and sensual.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I haven't had so much fun (or such very good weeps) with a novel in years. Patrizia Chen has a wickedly original voice, and with it she dances you through a tango of love and sex to tell a story that is at the same time steamy, smart, tender, trenchant, and supercool — not to mention as full of life and risk as it is wise. Remember Freud's old question: What do women want? If you still don't know, you'll find the answer in It Takes Two." — Jane Kramer, author of Lone Patriot

"The world according to tango — where miracles occur and where dance, music, and sultry nights in Argentina lead us through a maze of pleasure that turns into obsessions. Patrizia Chen's world is a place that everyone's body, heart, and mind have longed for their whole lives. Some of us see it from across the bank, others are bold enough to buy round-trip tickets there, and some, having crossed the bridge, burn the bridge." — André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name

Publishers Weekly
Former model and dance devotee Chen brings a lusty exuberance to this telenovella-like tale of a 50-year-old writer who, stuck in a staid marriage and a boring New York life, retools in Buenos Aires and in short order nails love with a handsome, younger doctor, friendship with like-minded women and gorgeous young dancers, and the tango. “I can't believe I'm the same Francesca who only a week ago sat terrified and intimidated in a corner,” the liberated ex-Manhattanite gasps. Falling in love with Roberto, whose marriage is on the rocks, awakens Francesca's sexual desires, bringing her to new orgasmic heights that, even if they don't make much sense, are pretty hot, anyway. Chen takes her adventure over the top with this breathless, lush take on middle-aged romance, sex and happy endings; people “inhale” their food, are “consumed” and “pulsing” during sex and “shiver and cry inside” from happiness. Sure, it's cheesy, but there's an undeniable charm to the optimism. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Travel writer enjoys cuisine, tango and reawakened sensuality in an airbrushed Buenos Aires. Manhattan foodie and socialite Francesca, a native Neapolitan, is not aging gracefully. Her adult children have left the nest, and her Italian recipes have displaced sexual desire in her marriage; for some time now the only nookie between Francesca and banker husband George has been gnocchi. She's resigned herself to celibacy (she doesn't take seriously George's urging to have an affair) when salvation arrives in the form of a magazine assignment. She's to do a spread on the tango culture in Buenos Aires with special emphasis on a recent phenomenon: wealthy Brits and Americans who buy Tuck and Tango vacation packages combining plastic surgery and post-operative dance rehab. In Argentina, Francesca enrolls in tango classes, and the dance, a form of stylized intercourse, inflames her long-dormant libido. A target for her lust quickly surfaces in the shape of silver-haired Roberto, 40, a plastic surgeon and entrepreneur who has profited from the T&T trend. The novel tempers the lovers' steamy grapplings with cool-down sections featuring Francesca's other Argentinean friends: Ellie, an American singleton on her biennial tango (sans tuck) break; Sarah, a keen observer of Buenos Aires society scandals; Luis, an Adonis who's risen from the barrio to international tango fame; and Analia, a danseuse who falls hopelessly in love with gay Luis during one of his capricious lapses into heterosexuality. From boudoir to ballroom, memoirist Chen (Rosemary and Bitter Oranges, 2003) displays a flair for sensory detail. However, her fictional characters transcend neither their formulaic roles (frigid epicureanspouse, sexy surgeon, etc.) nor the novel's wish-fulfilling premise of an older woman emerging from invisibility to object of desire via a simple change of hemisphere. Promising complications-Francesca's rival for both husband and lover is a billionairess in her 60s-are downplayed as minor blowback. Like Francesca's favorite dulce de leche, an indulgence for readers willing to binge on empty calories.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416570622
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 3/23/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrizia Chen

Born in Livorno, Italy, Patrizia Chen is a former professional model who has lived in Egypt, Japan, Todi and Argentina. A superb Italian home cook, Chen is renowned for her gourmet dinner parties; her first book, Rosemary and Bitter Oranges, told the story of how she learned to cook as a child in Tuscany. She is an avid tango dancer who brings her natural energy and charisma to everything she does—including contributing to numerous Italian publications and founding TangoInk—an online tango magazine. Chen lives with her husband in New York City and has two grown children.

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Read an Excerpt


(To Come Around)

"Would you like to dance?"

I look at him, surprised. "Tango? I can't dance tango..."

He smiles, and holds out his hand to lead me to the dance floor.

I follow him.

"What should I do?"

"Let yourself go. Trust me."

"Isn't it hot in here?" I ask in an effort to cover up my feelings of inadequacy. I take in the dark room, dangling stars over my head, lights flickering. Couples slowly circling us. His arms surround me, shielding me from the others; his lips brush my cheeks; the fire of his eyes burns my skin.

Oh! He can move! and how...

I can't see his body but I can sense it: tall, solidly built. My hands rest on his back, touching, exploring, savoring each of his muscles.

He's incredibly musical. I look at him and move as if hypnotized. He smiles. I like him; he's friendly, not aggressive. I dance. I follow his lead.

"Wait, it's too hot..." he says, unhurriedly peeling off his red sweater and letting it fall to the floor near a column. I like that he's not in a rush.



"Francesca..." He whispers again.

He takes me back into his embrace and folds me against his body. We move. The pleading sound of a bandoneón fills my soul and a sudden gush of notes surrounds me. I press against him, we move in unison.

We find our rhythm, forging ahead into the fierce maelstrom of tango notes, but without urgency. His mouth caresses my hair, playing with it, almost kissing, brushing my right temple. It's sweet, it's dreamy, it's slow. It's impossibly hot.

It's like the gentle rising of the tide in the Mediterranean. I begin to abandon all resistance. Maybe I am just imagining the rhythmicintensity between us. "It's a dance, just a dance," I remind myself.

But I need it so much. I need to be in a man's arms, my body yearns to follow a music I heard long ago and have forgotten for too long.

His hard-on is forced against my thigh. I stop his arm with my hand and search for his face. We don't need words. I ask myself again, is this really happening?

"You are beautiful. You are making my night..." he murmurs, looking at me seriously.

Who am I to stop this magic moment? I need to let myself go.

Why is my brain constantly at work? I must learn to forget all my worries, to relinquish all thought. Like a drug this dance slowly pervades my body. I reclaim my place in a man's embrace, snuggling against his chest, accepting the power of the warm circle of his arms. I want more.

I'm all liquidity — a stirring of desires. The music has become more insistent. My hips rotate, looking for his, trying to reach him, willing to submit to its sweetness. The unbearable force of this moment overwhelms me as his hands skim my back, following its curve down to the beginning of my buttocks, teasing. Something is happening, rapidly; it's beyond my control.

I let go. I abandon every restraint and surrender to unexpected waves of warmth. My body comes alive. I listen to the vibrations invading me, surging, crashing down over me like huge waves over a long-deserted island.Copyright © 2009 by Patrizia Chen

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2013

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. Very well written.

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. Very well written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2010

    Best Tango Fiction Book

    I enjoyed reading this book because Chen writes in such a way, I was able to get into the character's heads and feel their emotions. I also felt I had traveled to Buenos Aires and back, learning much about the culture. Chen provides great detail of how Buenos Aires captures the essence of the Argentine Tango. There was romance involved, but it wasn't all about sex like some other tango books are. There was more to it than sex. This novel has a great balance evoking every emotion and it was hard for me to put down. This is a fun book about freedom and how the sensuality of the tango enabled one woman to find her own liberation and true love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

    Entertaining. Very good for commutes or when traveling.

    I found Patrizia Chen's book to be a fun and easy read.

    Highly recommended for dull moments when you just want to escape (in this case to Buenos Aires and the world of tango), or when you are traveling/commuting and need a fun story to entertain you. A word of caution however: there is a lot of sex. Do not buy it if this may offend you.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Novel, Tango Handbook and Buenos Aires travel guide!

    It Takes Two is actually 3 books in one:

    - A useful handbook about the art of Tango. I started taking tango classes a couple of months ago and have discovered, along with a sensual dance, a great community with rules and traditions. I have often felt a bit lost. It Takes Two describes in a very accurate manner the world of Tango, milongas, behaviors, Tango etiquette, dos and don'ts. There are also numerous references about tango fundamentals such as posture, simplicity and the importance of mastering the art of walking. Priceless.

    - An interactive travel guide on Buenos Aires. I have never been to Buenos Aires. However, I heard a lot about it and am DYING to go. It Takes Two gives a precise image of the city, the different neighborhoods, restaurants, cafes, and shopping places. It also gives a good indication of the rhythm of the City. Patrizia's way to describe it makes it very "alive" and reading the book you feel like you actually are in Buenos Aires.

    - Finally a great novel where everyone can recognize himself in the different characters. Nothing extraordinary is happening in It Takes Two. The different characters have no super powers. They are normal people, like you and me, with imperfect lives like yours and mine who are trying to fill the gap between their dreams and aspirations and the mediocrity of their reality. Francesca is painted as a 50 something women, whose "arrangement" with her husband is not satisfying anymore and who desperately needs more. Trying to match her life with her expectations, she comes across moral questions and answers them with a mix of spontaneous reactions and sensitive interrogations. How European!

    In a society where youth and beauty are kings, It Takes Two proves that it's still possible to lead an extraordinary life in an ordinary environment.

    Thank you Mrs. Chen!

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    Posted October 26, 2012

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    Posted December 8, 2009

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    Posted January 13, 2010

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    Posted January 14, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews

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