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Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

I have always been a sucker for stories where one travels abroad, falls in love and lives happily ever after. I loved watching movies like If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium, A Room with a View, French Kiss, Under a Tuscan Sun, Notting Hill, Deja Vu and Shirley Valentine  Still do.  And books like Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Lucky T by Kate Brian and the Emily books by Katie Maxwell. It’s romantic and adventurous. My own story turned out quite differently.

I met someone in Wales, travelled together for a time, but it ended when I had to head back home. Now, I’m not going to say I fell in love, but it could have ended very differently. We kept in touch for a couple of years after I came back home. Always tried to make arrangements to meet somewhere, but he ended up moving to Thailand and I’m on the East Coast. It was a pretty impossible idea. If he did travel to the states, he usually only made it as far as the West Coast. I wanted to travel to Asia, but really could never afford it on my salary. We were friends, nothing more, but when a relationship I was in here in the US ended and I mentioned it in a letter, I never heard from him again.

It is possible that he thought there was more to our relationship and I dare say there could have been under different circumstances, like oceans not separating us, but it will always be one of those ‘What if’ moments that I can’t help but wonder about sometimes and it’s one of the few regrets I have about my life. Perhaps that is why I am so enamored of these travelling romance stories. So when I found Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson listed on Amazon as an upcoming release I was all over it. I pre-ordered it without even needing to read the synopsis. I was that confident it would be a good book. I waited and waited with ants in my pants, but it finally arrived. And I wasn’t wrong. It is indeed an awesome book.

Book Description:
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

My Review:
Three words. Hot…Italian…Guys… What more would you need in a book? Need a plot? Got it. And let me tell you, this book had far more depth than I was expecting. I was anticipating a light, escapist read about love in Italy, but I got so much more.

It starts with a painting in a museum. The subject of the painting is sitting in a tower room overlooking a valley and also happens to look exactly like Violet Routledge. The trouble is the painting was created hundreds of years ago in Italy and she is the daughter of a Scandinavian former model and her father is Scottish. She, on the other hand, is olive- toned with brown hair. She doesn’t look like either one of her parents nor does she look like any of her relatives on either side which has led her often to think she may be adopted, but is afraid to ever come out and ask.

She immediately identifies with the painting and obsesses over it until she hatches a scheme that sets a chain of events in motion that will change her life for good or ill. She decides she must travel to Italy to investigate the origins of the painting thinking she just might be related to the family somehow. She finds out where the painting came and vows to go at any cost. She finds an immersion program run out of a villa in the area surrounding the Castello, so she tells her mother she wants to go abroad to study Italian.

It’s not a lie per se. She is trying to get into Cambridge and needs to “broaden her range of knowledge” as she puts it. Being multi-lingual, artistic, cultured are all beneficial when applying to university. She wants to study art history, so it is the perfect alibi. Not exactly the truth regarding why she wants to go, but not exactly a lie either.

Her parents are divorced and her mother seems a bit suffocating. When Violet presents her plan to her mother, her mother immediately assumes she wants to go on holiday together. But Violet can’t go to Italy with the freedom to investigate her origins with her mother tagging along. Her mother is at first crestfallen, but soon rallies and agrees to allow Violet to go to Italy for the summer.

The course is a small group of girls. There are only four. Violet and Kelly are from the UK and Paige and Kendra are from the US. At first it seems as if they will not get on, but they become united against the catty daughter, Elisa, of the school mistress and her equally catty friend who seem to believe themselves far superior to the foreigners invading her home.

Enter hot Italian boys, page 61. Catia, the school mistress also has a son named Leonardo. When the girls first encounter him, he also brings home a friend and it is a somewhat awkward meal with the four foreign girls, Catia who seems like a cranky pants, her son and daughter and their two friends. So much so, that Kelly ends up running from the room crying and vowing to return home the next day. She refuses to come out f the room she shares with Violet, so the other three girls are taken for a night out on the town by Leonardo and his friend Andrea.

Enter Luca. He is a school chum of Leonardo’s and Andrea’s. Violet is immediately smitten by his handsome appearance, but he seems cool and aloof. Once they meet up with Luca, they all take off to Florence to go dancing at a club. Violet wanting to distance herself from Luca, heads to the dance floor. He watches her and when she finally leaves the dance floor, he approaches her. They converse and eventually end up lip locked, which is unexpected and is so out of character for Violet.

Paige and Kendra have tons of guys falling over themselves to try to attract the attention of the girls, but no one is approaching Violet save Luca. He tells her that the boys will not approach her because she looks like she is Italian whereas Kendra and Paige are exotic. This angers her immediately and she walks away from him determined to ignore him for the rest of the evening.

Violet finds him to be a bit of a jerk. He says what is on his mind and doesn’t candy coat things. He also seems somewhat moody. Unfortunately, Violet is not able to ignore Luca for long. As it turns out he lives in the Castello Violet has flown to Italy to find out about. And he’s a prince. To complicate things, Elisa seems to also have her sights set on Luca and is determined to make herself a princess.

The plot really starts to thicken when the girls all go on tour as part of their immersion program to the Castello. Luca’s mother sees the family resemblance immediately in Violet. She tells Violet that she reminds her of her husband’s sister. Luca’s parents are separated, but not divorced and as it turns out was his father was never a faithful husband. Could Violet be evidence of his infidelity?

While on tour in the Castello, Violet becomes separated from the group and ends up walking down a darkened stairway when she hears the door lock behind her. She is alone in the dark in a stairwell that ends at a locked door and the walls are too thick for anyone to hear her screaming. She is eventually rescued by Luca and they have another interlude. Was this an accident? Or is someone purposely harassing her?

I am intrigued by Luca. He’s morose, brooding. I have always been drawn to the dark, brooding type. (Batman over Superman? Heck yeah.) I am trying to get a handle on him, but can’t quite. He seems to be interested in Violet, but he runs hot and cold. When the girls all attend a party with Leonardo and Andrea, Violet finds Luca there in Elisa’s company. He then ignores her all night until she leaves the party and offers to take her home since Paige is passed out in the back of the vehicle she came in and there is no room for Violet. He seems attracted to her, but also seems to be fighting it and I’m not sure why yet. He is complex, a puzzle to solve and I like the duality of his personality.

Violet is a good character as well. She doesn’t seem to take any rubbish and she seems to have a really level head in all things except matters pertaining to Luca. She feels there is something in Italy she can uncover about her heritage and is determined to find it no matter what. She knows she should stay away from Luca. Not only because of his inconsistent behavior, but also because she has made an enemy in Elisa. She is the glue that holds the group of four girls together, the voice of reason.

Like I said, I was expecting a light hearted romance, but what I got instead was a mystery to puzzle out. There is romance, but there is also danger. There are new friends to be made, but also foes. Who is the girl in the painting? And what is connection to Violet and Luca and his family?

I am sad to say that if you think you will find these answers and more by the end of the book, you would be sadly mistaken. Flirting in Italian is only the first installment to the story of Violet and Luca. Look for the further adventures in Kissing in Italian (street date unknown).

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