Bella and the rest of the Rossi clan return for a third outing of wedding-fueled hilarity in It Had to Be You, the final novel in Janice Thompson's "Weddings by Bella" series. Bella's beloved Aunt Rosa and Uncle Laz have finally foregone constant feuding in favor of marriage, and tasked Bella with planning an elaborate forties-themed wedding, complete with live swing music. Several long-distance members of the Rossi family descend on the household for the celebration, complicating the wedding preparations with their own personal drama and opinions. When a former mob boss is added to the mix who disapproves of the bride-to-be, Bella's best friend disappears, and interest in Club Wed explodes, Bella wonders if plans for her own dream wedding to her cowboy fiancé D.J. will be lost in the drama and busyness of everyone else's lives. In order to make her own happily ever after come true, Bella has one final lesson to learn about trust and control in order to step fearlessly into her future, full of faith.
With It Had to Be You, Thompson brings Bella's story full circle. There have been times when Bella's character has been a bit frustrating, since she never seems to move past the insecurities that plague her perception of herself and her abilities. But she's seen both personal and professional success on the wedding front, since Club Wed brought D.J. into her life and his support has been integral to both the business's success and Bella's growing confidence as a wedding planner. When it comes time to realize her own bridal dreams, Bella finally learns a valuable lesson - that receiving can be as much of a gift as giving, and true freedom can be found in relinquishing control to a God one can trust to guide your steps. But more than Bella's story, this is a trilogy about family, and all of the ups, downs, drama and love that comes with the territory of belonging to a group of unique and varied personalities. The Rossis are truly the Italian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with all of the family love and drama grounded by a rock-solid Christian faith. While this installment feels a bit preachier than volumes one and two, fans of the series will not want to miss a third helping of Thompson's trademark warmth and humor.
This is as breezy and fast-paced a read as the first two novels in the "Bella" series. It's critical to read the series in order, since the events of each subsequent book follow closely on its predecessor. One of my favorite elements of this story is how the family's love of pop standards takes center stage thanks to the theme of Rosa and Laz's wedding. I loved reading about the planning involved in bringing my favorite time period to life for two characters who've been so much fun to read about throughout the series. Speaking of Rosa and Laz, I really appreciate how Thompson doesn't limit love and marriage to the younger characters alone. In Bella's life, people of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds fall in love left and right in this series, just one of the reasons that make this trilogy such a joy to read. A large part of the series' appeal is the characters' appreciation of classic song - and like the classics of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the Rossi family virtues of unconditional love, forgiveness, and support endure and make you want to spend time with Bella and her whacky family. It Had to Be You is a satisfying conclusion to the frothy fun and heart of the "Weddings by Bella" series. Once you start reading, you won't want to stop - and I can promise you'll be craving Italian food. :)