The Trials of Angelaby Millie Criswell
The Trials of AngelaShe just broke up with her cheating fiance. Her fledgling law practice is gasping for air. And her overbearing parents are moving back to Baltimore. In a word, Angela DeNero's life is a mess. But things quickly go from bad to worse when she has to argue her biggest case against arrogant, infuriating, and undeniably handsome John Franco--a man she believes would send his own grandmother to jail. Instead, he sends Angela's heart soaring with wishes that can never come true. Driven by ambition, John has no interest in marriage or anything else that would detract from his work. Until now. Bold, sassy, and smart, Angela is his match in every way. But after their sizzling sparring intensifies, John finds himself in over his head--because Angela DeNero has a few secrets that are about to turn his world upside down.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Millie Criswell has written twenty two historical, category and contemporay romances to date. She has won numerous awards, including the Romantic Time Career Achievement and Reviewer's Choice Award, the National Readers Choice Award, The Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence, and the coveted MAGGIE award. Ms. Criswell resides in Virginia, where she is currently working on her next book, Mad About Mia, scheduled for Spring 2003. She has two grown children and one neurotic boston terrier.
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- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
What’s the difference between a female attorney and a pit bull?
Angela DeNero was having a bad day.
Actually she was having a bad life.
As lives went, hers ranked right up there with having chocolate-induced cellulite, a refrigerator stocked with nothing but health food, and jeans that refused to zip up.
There was nothing worse than that.
Except her life.
She suspected she’d feel better in time. She was resilient, after all, and would bounce back.
Just not today.
The dragon she called landlady, Mrs. Foragi, was leaving daily Post-it note reminders on her door about her overzealous bulldog, Winston—threats, someone less generous would call them. The law firm she had struggled so valiantly to open was experiencing more than its share of growing pains, like clients who conveniently forgot to pay her. And to top it all off, she’d been feeling awful all week with flulike symptoms. Not to mention that her hair had gone from sleek to curly as soon as she’d stepped out in the rain this morning. Harpo Marx had nothing on her do.
Add bad hair day to list.
So when she entered the police station, Angela’s mood was as foul as the weather. Actually, her mood had soured the moment she’d picked up the phone this morning to find Sophia Russo on the other end. Sophia was the busybody of Little Italy, and the most disagreeable woman Angela had ever met. She was opinionated and domineering, and made Angela’s mother look saintly by comparison; no easy feat, considering Rosalie DeNero was no shrinking violet when it came to dispensing opinions or renderingadvice that no one wanted. She just did it with more subtlety.
“My crazy mother-in-law has been picked up for shoplifting. Dio mio! We are disgraced. You must go to the police station and get her out of jail. I don’t care if she rots there, but my husband is upset and told me to call you. He’ll pay whatever you want.”
Ah, the magic word: money.
Visions of dollar signs danced in her head, as did the knowledge that Flora Russo had sticky fingers and was probably guilty. This wasn’t the first time the old lady had been picked up for “borrowing” other people’s merchandise, though she’d never been booked before. The police, who were quite familiar with Flora’s antics, had always released her to her son’s custody. Not this time, however.
Grandma Flora had a larcenous heart, even though she rarely stole things for herself. But she was Joe’s grandmother, and since Joe Russo had been generous about giving her extra legal work at the Crisis Center, where she worked part-time, she couldn’t very well let him down.
How would it look for an ex-priest’s grandmother to be convicted of stealing? Not good, she was thinking. Angela spotted Grandma Flora as soon as she approached the front desk area. The old woman, dressed in unrelenting black like a professional mourner, was seated on a folding chair, a pocketbook the size of Minnesota on her lap, cane resting between her knees, looking more formidable than fragile, and none too pleased. Next to her stood the arresting officer. “Vaffunculo! Bastardo! How dare you treat an old woman like a criminal! I will call the President of the United States. I voted for him. He owesa me.”
“Calm down, ma’am,” the officer said very patiently. “And it would go better for you if you’d quit cursing me in Italian. I speak the language, and I don’t like being flipped off, even if it is verbally.”
“Grandma Flora,” Angela warned when the woman opened her mouth to say something else, nasty, no doubt.
Grandma turned to look at Angela. “I’va been busted. These pigs are trying to tossa me in the slammer.” It seemed obvious that Grandma Flora had been watching The Sopranos a little too diligently. “I didn’t do anyting wrong. I wanna go home now. You fix it, Angela, so they let me go home. Capisce?”
Angela heaved a sigh. She understood, all right, but that didn’t mean she could make all of Grandma Flora’s troubles disappear, though she’d give it her best shot. She turned to Bobby Malcuso, the “pig” that had brought Joe’s grandmother in. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding, Officer Malcuso. I’m sure we can get it straightened out.” Misunderstanding was lawyer talk for “My client screwed up, so how do we make it go away?”
With a look of apology, he shook his head. “No, ma’am. Mrs. Russo was caught red-handed stealing merchandise from Geppetto’s Toy Store. The owner swore out a complaint and is bringing charges against her. I had no choice but to arrest her. I feel badly about it, Miss DeNero. I’ve got a grandmother. But Mrs. Russo broke the law, so I had to bring her in.” Aware of the man’s responsibility in the matter, Angela nodded in understanding, then went on to explain, “According to her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Russo is in the habit of taking toys from Geppetto’s. The former owner used to keep track of what she took, and then Mrs. Russo’s son would come in and pay for it. They had an arrangement. Obviously she was not aware that the store had been sold.” She wished the old lady’s relatives had been here to corroborate her story, but Flora’s daughter-in-law had explained on the phone that Frank was sick and she, Sophia, didn’t drive.
The young officer brushed back his thinning, sandy-colored hair. “Mr. Patel’s lawyer intends to speak to the district attorney; he’s on his way here now. If they still want to file charges . . .” He shrugged, indicating it was out of his hands. Sitting down next to the old woman, Angela tried to reassure her, though Joe’s grandmother looked more pissed off than scared. “I think we’re in a pickle, Grandma Flora. We’re going to have to wait here a while longer to see what the store owner’s attorney has to say.”
“Nazis! They’re all Nazis. Don’t they have better tings to do than bother an old woman? You, Hitler,” she said to the officer, “I needa some water to takea my pills. Maybe I’ll drop dead, and then my son will sue you. God should make it so.” Clearly relieved to have a chore that would remove him from the old woman’s sharp tongue, he hurried off to do her bidding, though Angela doubted he’d be back any time soon. She fetched Grandma Flora a cold soda from the vending machine. A few minutes later, a tall, dark-haired man walked in. He was wearing a brown leather bomber jacket over a navy T-shirt, faded jeans, and a day’s growth of beard. Angela recognized him instantly, and a rush of pleasure swept through her.
John Franco was not a man a woman could easily forget; even if that woman had been eighteen the last time she’d laid eyes on him. She and John had attended high school together, and Angela had dated his best friend, Tony Stefano, for a brief time. Tony had been a really nice guy, and a much safer choice for a sheltered girl with no experience. And though Angela had secretly harbored a fascination for John Franco, conjuring up wildly erotic thoughts no decent girl would ever admit having, she would have never had the courage to act on them.
John Franco was forbidden fruit.
He’d been the quintessential bad boy of Bridgemont High—a reckless troublemaker with a terrible attitude. And he had never given her the time of day. In fact, he had always been rather hostile toward her, and she had absolutely no idea why. He was still very handsome, in a Russell Crowe kind of way—not pretty handsome, but rugged, virile. The man oozed masculinity.
“Ah, here comes Johnny. Soon he will help you fix tings. A good boy, my grandson Johnny.”
Grandson! Angela snapped her mouth shut, raised her eyes from the man’s . . . ah, masculinity, and hoped she wasn’t drooling all over herself.
Damn! Why hadn’t she remembered that John Franco was connected to the Russo family?
He walked over and bussed his grandmother on the cheek; there was love shining in his eyes, and maybe a hint of admiration, as well. “You’ve been a naughty girl again, haven’t you, Grandma Flora?”
Flora winked at him, and he grinned, obviously used to her outrageous behavior. “Talk to my lawyer, Johnny. Angela’s going to fix tings. Isn’t she bellisima? And smart, too. She goes to college, like you.”
John studied Angela for a moment, and she could tell the moment recognition dawned. He smiled a hundred-watt smile that sent her pulses racing. Angela revised her earlier opinion. Flora’s Johnny wasn’t handsome. He was chocolate, whipped cream, and all things yummy rolled into one fabulous package.
“Very,” he replied to his grandmother’s question, then said to Angela, “Nice to see you again, Angela.” He held out his hand and clasped hers and three hundred volts of electricity raced up her arm. “John Franco. Do you remember me from high school?” When she nodded mutely, he went on to explain, “I’m here on my client’s behalf. Mr. Patel owns the store that my grandmother robbed.”
Yummy turned crummy. Angela’s jaw unhinged, and she finally found her voice. “You’re his attorney? But how can that be? The woman your client’s filing charges against is your grandmother. And I think robbed is too strong a word, don’t you?” Good Lord! This whole situation just kept getting better by the minute.
Where was a good coma when you needed one?
Those comatose people didn’t know how good they had it. They didn’t have to worry about zipping up jeans, frizzy hair, wacky old ladies who shoplifted just for the hell of it, or high school bad boys who’d turned into respectable lawyers. They just slept peacefully in blessed oblivion, unaware of life’s many trials and tribulations.
Angela sighed. No doubt she’d be the only comatose patient in history who suffered from insomnia.
Looking uncomfortable, John rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m well aware of that, Angela. But a crime has been committed, and it’s my duty as Mr. Patel’s lawyer to—”
“She’s your grandmother, for godsake! Where’s your loyalty? Your compassion? She’s an old woman.”
“That’sa righta, Johnny,” Grandma Flora interjected, thrusting out her chin. “How come you go against your family? What will your mama say when she findsa out? Adele is a good daughter. She’s gotta big mouth, but still she’sa good to her mama. She won’ta be happy. Family is everyting.”
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Millie Criswell gives us a return trip to Baltimore's Little Italy with her new book, THE TRIALS OF ANGELA. Angela DeNero and John Franco are attorneys on opposite sides of a custody trial. John is the ultimate hero and Angela is absolutely the sweetest heroine ever. This delightful book kept me riveted to the pages from the start, to the point that when I misplaced my first copy, I had to rush out and buy a second --- I could not wait any longer to finish the story! With something for everyone, THE TRIALS OF ANGELA is just plain good fun! Millie Criswell has outdone herself, introducing innovative new plot lines and exploring life's realities in her amusing and original style, wrapped up in an excellently crafted story. The sometimes-quirky characters show us how to sweeten the sour times of our lives and live on the wild side. A funny book that will have you gasping at its audacity and doubled up in laughter as the story takes you on a roller coaster ride behind the closed doors of everyday people like you and I. The third book in Ms. Criswell's Little Italy series, THE TRIALS OF ANGELA is a wonderful story, guaranteed to be a keeper, and one that you will read again and again.
In high school in Baltimore, Angela DeNero dated Tony Stefano, but had a secret crush on John Franco (he became a lawyer not a pitcher). Surprisingly, John shared her feelings, but neither admitted the attraction probably more out of fear, but somewhat out of loyalty to Tony. Both goes on to college and law school, but during all that education, they never set eyes on one another. Seeing each other years later, Angela and John are on opposite sides of a custody case. Angela represents the Gallaghers while John¿s clients are the Rothbergs. Legal and sexual sparks fly as Angela and John argues for their respective client. Besides not really wanting a relationship at this time, Angela is pregnant from the cheating boyfriend she just dumped. However, love is the supreme court of relationships so that the appeal between Angela and John makes for an open and shut case. Millie Criswell¿s third Baltimore tale, THE TRIALS OF ANGELA, is a delightful contemporary filled with amusing family antics inside a warm romantic romp. The amusing story line is fun though the tons of humor takes away from some of the seriousness of the custody trial and the pregnancy yet leave the reader upbeat in a You Can¿t Take It With You theme. The cast engages the audience just as it did with THE TROUBLE WITH MARY and WHAT TO DO ABOUT ANNIE? and probably will with the next novel, MAD ABOUT MIA. Harriet Klausner