“Gratuity Not Included” (ISBN: 978-0979675539), a new book authored by Ricardo Estrada, will “strike a chord with any reader who has ever questioned best-laid plans, been inspired by love, or bound by loyalty,” according to the author.

The author describes the plot as so: Three years after high school graduation and after quitting college, childhood friends, Marcelo and Barry, are waiting tables at the popular Vineyard Restaurant in St. Petersburg, Fla. A year earlier, they’d made a pact to save and open their own place, but Barry’s wasteful spending has derailed those plans.

Gratuity Not IncludedOne evening, Barry is captivated by Emily, a new waitress on vacation from her studies at Miami State. However, her eyes are set on Marcelo. Their lives soon intertwine in the summer of 1978 – a season that would bear rewards for heroism, the bliss of romantic love and the despair of insanity.

Marcelo’s world is tossed upside down when his act of heroism propels him into the limelight. For his good deed, St. Petersburg showers him with cash for the business and the chance to return to college. He wonders if Barry was ever a good choice for a business partner.

While Emily and Marcelo’s romance blooms, Emily ignores the reason for her summer in St. Petersburg: to pressure her widowed grandmother into a retirement home. She struggles to gauge her mother’s agenda against her grandmother’s right to run her life.

Barry, delusional and hallucinating, spirals into darkness. He flees the scene of a car accident, and the next day he is horrified to learn that a teenager is now dead. Bewildered, he leaves town and goes into hiding. Consumed by madness, he longs for the life he left behind.

The novel is a dramatic, yet humorous read that brings levity to the serious topic of mental illness. It’s sure to compel the reader from beginning to end. “Gratuity Not Included” demonstrates that destiny is a myth, people build their own prisons, and hold the key to their future.

“Gratuity Not included” is available in paperback for $15 and in Kindle or Nook versions for $7.99 from the author’s website:

Author Ricardo EstradaRicardo Estrada was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, enjoying the warmth and friendliness of the Sunshine City. To complete his university studies, he moved across the bay to Tampa, the Cigar City, and attended USF. Ricardo majored in psychology, rehabilitation counseling, and education. As a result, his novels portray characters overcoming hardship and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit.

His first novel, “Sticks of Fire: The Turning Point,” a novel of recovery and redemption, was inspired by his work in the addiction recovery field. Currently, Ricardo lives in Manhattan where he is busy working on his third book, a nonfiction work.