I had high hopes for this one – Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, and I was hoping that this book would end up being an Italian version of Anna and the French Kiss. Sadly, it was pretty far from that. The characters were borderline annoying, there was a complete lack of chemistry, and a total absence of emotional weight or an intriguing plot.
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Do you ever watch a movie and want to yell at the main character that they’re making the wrong choices over and over again? That’s what reading this book is like. For example, she couldn’t figure out who exactly Howard (her new father figure) was, even when it was very clearly laid out for her in her mother’s journal. For context, Lina recently lost her mother and has been shipped out to live with a family friend in Italy. While the reason is tragic, it was hard to sympathize with her when she seemed to skip over mourning her mother altogether. I had zero emotional connection to this book – It definitely felt like her mother’s death was glossed over and used simply as a plot device to get her to Italy rather than a massive, tragic event in any person’s life.
Lina’s naivety drove me up the wall. At one point, another character had to explain what gelato is (as if anyone in this day and age hasn’t heard of gelato). She also had this concept in her head that she could just move home and live with her best friend instead of being with any of her appointed guardians. She just generally seems to not understand how the world works, even at the normal understanding level of a teenager. The rest of the characters were your basic one dimensional supporting cast. None of them had substantial subplots and more or less disappeared for most of the book. Given that this is a YA romance, it was especially disappointing how little chemistry there was between Lina and any of her love interests.
The plot itself was a snoozefest. Since the big mystery and main plot (who Lina’s father is and how Howard fits into the picture) was easy to figure out after only reading a handful of pages of the book, the whole book just felt like a trudge. Romances are normally pretty character and chemistry driven, but this one couldn’t even be carried by those. The book also squandered its spectacular setting – Tuscany is a spectacular area with a rich history but the book mostly just hit the main tourist highlights.
Do yourself a favor and give this one a pass. It’s impressively bland and falls flat when compared to it’s peers in the YA romance genre. If you’re looking for a good YA alternative, check out Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. If you want a more adult version of this story, check out Getting Hot with the Scot by Melonie Johnson. 1/5.