Title: Flirting in Italian (Flirting in Italian #1)
Author: Lauren Henderson
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Europe, Mystery
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 12 June 2012
Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads):
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!
The cover is cute, the blurb – adorable. The novel? Something I didn’t expect. (Note: The blurb I’m referring to on the back of my copy is a quote from one of the girls about super hot boys – nothing about mysteries, danger and castles)
I wanted to read this book because when I was sixteen, I spent the summer in Italy – an Australian summer which turns out to be a very freezing European winter. But none the less – I read this book to reminisce and I feel a little cheated. I was expecting a fluffy but fun read about teen romance, boys and the Italian sun. What I got was a contradictory heroine, a bizarre mystery and boys that I found to be a little more creepy than charming.
The story starts with Violet (whose name we don’t find out until page 25 and that’s after a rather long deep and meaningful with mother… names just never came up. Weird, huh?) browsing a museum. When she comes across a painting where the subject is her doppelgänger – Violet is flawed. This is not just a case of slight similarity… the woman in the portrait could be Violet’s identical twin! That is – if Violet lived hundreds of years ago and came from Tuscany – where the painting is said to have been originally painted. Feeling like she never really belonged in her family – but apparently too polite to ask her mother if she was adopted, Violet manages to get her absent father to fund her trip to the Italian country side so she can go to a finishing school. Why you might ask? Because the castle where the painting of Violet’s spitting image apparently originated from is not open to the public – except, that is, for the students at the cultural course that Violet is enrolled in. And by culture course – I mean finishing school complete with flower arranging.
It’s in Italy that Violet meets Luca – a local boy with whom she feels an instant connection. And he’s got a vespa – what more could an English girl want? Oh that’s right. He also happens to be the son of the castle where her carbon copy’s painting is from. Convenient, right? Oh – we’re just getting started!
I wanted to love this book. I was so excited when I finally got my hands on a copy. And it’s possible that I would have enjoyed this story had my expectations not been so high but I don’t think this is the case with Flirting in Italian. Violet got on my nerves from the beginning. By page 12, she had already contradicted herself and she continued to do so right though the novel. She’s very intolerant of others and I thought she had quite a few double standards. I have to admit I was rather annoyed at her for how she treated her mother throughout the novel. I think that Henderson was trying to capture the teenage state of mind whenever she started in on embarrassing parents or fashion but in the end – it felt out-of-place.
And then there’s Luca. The oh-so-hot Italian local that Violet finds an instant attraction with. So much so that she finds herself in a passionate embrace with him within minutes of meeting him. Now – don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. My problem lies with Violet and her considering her behaviour to be perfectly okay because they’re like… soul mates – but for the other girls attending the Cultural Course with her – flirting with boys they just met – what hussies! See – Violet has many double standards. And the chemistry between Luca and Violet? I didn’t see it. I kept wanting to like them as a couple and hoping that something would happen to them relationshipwise for me to get behind them as a couple. But it never happened. It probably would have been easier to like them together if Violet didn’t keep switching between hating him and wanting to slap him and then daydreaming about him and how amazing he is in the space of a heart beat. MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY! I don’t need a romance to like a book and I think I’d prefer no relationship at all to one that is this high maintenance and confusing.
As for the enigma of the girl in the painting? It was a confusing storyline. To be honest – this entire novel felt a little undercooked. I get that it’s only the first novel and that things need time to brew and develop but there’s a bit too much mystery and not enough solving.
This book is the first one in a trilogy and I think that potentially, the things that irked me in it could be straightened out by reading further. But to be honest I feel like the marketing people were a little dishonest. The blurb, the cover – none of this really show what this book is going to be about. In fact I think they were deliberately misleading readers as to the contents of this novel. Considering the second book is called “Kissing in Italian” I’m not sure I’m going to be pleased with where this leads. I will not be reading any more of this series.
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