Let’s be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary novels. I just have a harder time really being engaged by them for the most part, as they usually all follow the same kind of plot. However, I can now officially add Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch, to the extremely small group of contemporaries that I absolutely adore!
“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.
I really enjoyed Welch’s writing style. It was very engaging, which is something I especially look for in contemporary novels. I instantly felt transported to Florence alongside Lina. You can tell that the author has spent a lot of time there, as she is able clearly describe the city to where you can immediately picture it in your head. I highly recommend not reading this book on an empty stomach because you will be dying for some amazing Italian food, especially gelato!
It did take me a while to warm to Lina as a character. She starts out being kind of rude and acting like a brat towards Howard. I understand that she’s only a teenager and then sent to live with some guy she’s never met and has just found out is her father, but I still held it against her for half of the book. Luckily, as she spends more time in Florence and begins learning more about her mother’s life by reading her journal, she begins to thaw and goes through some growth that makes her a much more likable person. THANK GOD. Then you have Howard, who seems like the nicest guy ever. He tries so hard throughout the book to make things easier for Lina and really takes the time to try and get to know her. I was totally rooting for him to form that family bond with her from the moment he was introduced. Ren was also such a sweetheart. I loved his personality and was dying over his interactions with Howard. You could immediately tell that he was just a really nice guy, who was always looking out for Lina. I totally developed a little crush on his character and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
The plot in this story wasn’t anything really unique or groundbreaking, however, I was so engaged with the story that it surprisingly didn’t bother me too much. I had already guessed the “big reveal” before I was halfway through the book but Lina’s journey to the truth was what really made the story shine. I loved watching her develop her relationships with all of the different characters, especially Howard and Ren. While there is the whole mystery of the journal and its secrets plot, I felt that the focus was really on Lina’s character development. You get to watch how she learns to deal with the death of her mother and process that grief by getting to know her through the journal and reliving that time in the present. I really appreciated those linear experiences.
Overall this was such a cute and sweet read. It was quick and engaging, even though the focus was on character development. It’s full of fun characters and such a stunningly romantic location, that you can’t help but fall in love yourself. After this book, I definitely want to go live in Florence (or you know, just visit it!) and eat some gelato… maybe fall in love too, haha.
P.S. Welch’s next book, Love & Luck, is a companion novel that follows Lina’s best friend, Addie, as she travels through Ireland and I am already dying to pick it up!
Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars
Have you read Love & Gelato? If so, what did you think of it? Are you a fan of contemporary novels? Which ones would you recommend for someone who doesn’t normally read them?