Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (Advanced copy received from publisher)
The last thing Lina wants to do is spend her summer in Florence, getting to know the man that is supposedly her long lost father. But to honor her mother and her mother’s dying wish, Lina goes. But once there, she can’t seem to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. She’s homesick and missing her mother more than ever.
When she’s given a journal – the journal that her mother kept while she lived in Florence – things start to change. Suddenly Lina isn’t seeing the Florence as it is, she’s seeing her mother’s Florence. The one filled with art, Italian pastries, and a secret lover. Beyond that, she’s getting to know the mother she’s lost all too soon.
With the help of new friend Ren, Lina soon discovers, not only the wonders of living in Florence, but like her mother, the wonders of falling in love in this beautiful Italian city.
Love & Gelato, written by author Jenna Evans Welch, is a debut novel full of love, life, and of course (my favorite of all) gelato!
Author Welch’s writing is strong, fresh, and engaging. As a reader I couldn’t help but be invested in, not only the story, but the lives of the characters. Beyond that, Welch’s words have true transportive powers. Even though logically I knew I was in New Jersey, while reading I often felt as if I was in beautiful Florence. I could see the sun rising above the olive vineyards. I could taste the sweetness of the gelato. I was fully there in both mind and spirit. And that’s attributed to Welch’s lush descriptions. She doesn’t just tell a story, she shows us one.
At first glance it appears that Love & Gelato is a love story. But upon further inspection, readers will come to see that it is so much more than that. It’s more like an examination of relationships. First there was the relationship between Howard and Lina. Though often strained and awkward, readers will see the growth, and the will sense the exact moment when trust begins to blossom.
Then there’s the relationship between Lina and Ren. Admittedly, it’s instalove. The connection between these to is so strong it’s tangible. Readers will be able to sense the initial hesitation, see the friendship grow, and feel the heat from the sizzling sparks that will soon fly.
And finally there’s the relationship between Lina and her mother. It’s not a spoiler, Lina’s mother dies early on. Welch’s handling of Lina’s mother death is sensitive and skilled. Even though she isn’t “present” in the book, her presence is definitely felt. Though her journal, not only does Lina get to learn about her mom, but so do the readers. Welch treats her mom as a main character – not a subplot or a plot point to move to story along.
Speaking of main characters, Love & Gelato is chock full of them. Readers will easily connect with and root for Lina. She felt like the most authentic, most realistic character that I’ve met in a long time. And what made her so was her flaws. Admittedly there were times I want to shake her, but the growth and progression readers will recognize is payoff enough. But Lina isn’t the only great characters. Howard is the perfect comic relief. And then there’s Ren, who just oozes charm.
It’s obvious that I really enjoyed this book. And honestly readers, I think you will too! So, go forth and read this perfect. It seriously is a perfect summer read!