On the eve of World War II, Marie Genovese looks out from her apartment window above the deeply indebted Five & Ten, wondering how she'll save the store she inherited from her mother. When a family friend, Mr. E, offers financial support — with romantic strings attached — Marie proudly refuses and instead turns to baking to earn extra money.
Hoping to change her fate, Marie dabbles in herbs and infuses them into a special cake that attracts the attention of a wealthy but unhappily married banker, Mr. Ashworth. Within weeks of their chance meeting, the two fall in love. Quickly assuming the role of his mistress, Marie now spends hours in the private apartment Mr. Ashworth has arranged for their afternoon trysts.
But whenever Marie returns from their apartment to the reality of the store and her family, her worries intensify. Along with economic pressure, Marie fears for her family's safety, as Mr. E plots more ways to remain in her life-like encouraging her younger brothers to become involved in the fascist politics that are taking root in their close-knit, rural South Jersey town.
Soon, Marie faces a choice: accept the protection of her wealthy lover . . . or break cultural norms and accept an uncertain future as a single woman. Not completely trusting the men in her life, Marie instead relies on the guidance of the powerful line of women in her family — both living and dead — to navigate a path toward independence.
Italian Love Cake is a story about love in a patriarchal society, where the lines between masculine power and feminine exaltation are blurred — and frequently crossed. Timeless and poignant, Marie Genovese will capture your heart and imagination, as she comes to terms with her sexuality, struggles to find her place in society, and claims her voice as an autonomous woman in a rapidly changing world.