Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans WelchLove & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 390
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-half-stars

“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.

Apparently I’m not entirely over some hipster tendencies. I downloaded this egalley ages ago because, well, obviously. Any shippy sounding fluffy contemporary and I am so there. Then this book became a runaway bestseller out of nowhere basically, and I got suspicious. Which I don’t really know why, honestly, because I love plenty of bestsellers and have actually ranted on Twitter many times that whether something is a bestseller doesn’t indicate its quality, either in a good or bad way; quality and sales numbers are entirely unrelated. I think maybe it’s because fluffy books don’t usually seem to become such major bestsellers? Either way, suspicion was totally unwarranted. This book is every shippy, fluffy, adorable thing, and I’m so excited about having a new banterfluff author to read.

Lina gets sent to Italy in the wake of her mother’s death. She’s not really happy about it. I mean, being sent to live with the dad she never even knew existed is super awkward. She has to leave her best friend and everything she’s ever known to live in a cemetery in Italy, because her dad, her Howard (since she’s not comfortable calling him dad because who is this weird tall person) is the live-in caretaker of an American war memorial/cemetery.

For all that Lina very much did not want to go to Italy and doesn’t want to live with Howard, she’s actually not an unrelenting grump. There’s a shocking number of travel books about teens who are like ew I have to go to foreign countries blech, which isn’t really fun to read. Lina does want to check out Italy, but she’s majorly uncomfortable with the circumstances and she’s grieving her mom, who was wonderful and loving and fun. It’s a lot for her to handle.

Immediately, while on a run, she meets the cute boy who loves next door in an actual gingerbread house (only slightly kidding). Lorenzo, who goes by Ren, immediately becomes her best friend in Italy, and they have such amazing banter together. I love them as friends, and I love the quick slow burn of their romantic connection. Like, this book is instalove, but in the best possible way. You feel every bit of it. My chest was in like actual pain reading about them and wanting them to be together so much.

Both of them have other potential love interests, and I really like how that plays out for the most part. A bit of the drama’s overly manufactured, but I like how they reject the typical YA love interests in favor of a real connection. Thomas and Mimi are both massively gorgeous, and they’re the sort of people you expect the lead to end up with, and, though they’re attracted, it’s the mental connection and the level of comfort that Lina and Ren have together that wins the day and brings the physical attraction big time.

While Lina’s falling in love, she’s reading through this old journal that her mother sent, possibly to guide her during her time in Italy. Though Lina can’t read more than a few pages at a time without devolving into a tearmonster, she has to find out what happened with her mom and Howard. As she reads through the journal, Lina visits the places her mom talks about with Ren and interacts with the country around her. As her mom falls in love, so does she. Their experiences don’t parallel at all, but they do dovetail.

This plot construct isn’t something new by any means, but I do like how Welch did it. I was equally invested in Lina’s present and her mom’s past. It can be hard to make both timelines really interesting, but her mom’s voice in the journal is just as powerful as Lina’s first person POV. Obviously her mother’s is bittersweet, but it helps Lina get through the worst of her grief.

And, of course, I’m a complete sucker for found families, and, in a lot of ways, that’s what Howard and Lina are. Howard’s stepping in for this girl he didn’t know about until very recently, and she’s very hesitant to like or trust him (because her mom left him and didn’t talk to him and she doesn’t know why), but he’s unrelentingly sweet and caring. He supports her in whatever she wants to do, makes up a sweet room for her, and doesn’t get mad at her for acting like a grieving teenager. Basically Howard is the best and I have a lot of Howard feelings. And Lina and Howard feelings.

With this book, you get massive shippy feelings and family feelings, but you’re not going to get much from the rest of the characters. Lina, Ren, and Howard are aces, but no one else is well-developed. There’s a friend back home Lina calls sometimes to dump her stuff on, but she has no arc or real personality. The other friends in Italy are nigh indistinguishable. Thomas and Mimi are basically exactly what you expect them to be. Still, I love those central three so much and I was so damn into this book that I’m rating it highly because tbh this is all about me. Oh also, there’s one random moment where a squabble between siblings is described as a “Mexican knife fight” for no damn reason whatsoever, and I hope they cut that from the finished copy.

Love & Gelato was a surprise hit with me. If you’re into Jen Malone or Kasie West, you should definitely check out Love & Gelato.

Favorite Quote:

“And why did he have to call me “quiet”? I hated being called quiet. People always said it like it was some kind of deficiency—like just because I didn’t put everything out there right away that I was unfriendly or arrogant. My mom had understood. You may be slow to warm up, but once you do you light up the whole room.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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5 responses to “Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch”

  1. Brandy says:

    Thank you!

    I was wary of this one too because I’ve been tricked into reading some very non-shippy books thinking they were going to be shippy fun fluff. Bumping this way up my TBR. I’m going to need some shippy contempt YA as I read for the Cybils.

  2. I enjoyed this! It didn’t become a new favorite but it was very cute and I loved the Italian setting, along with the main three like you mentioned. Ren and Howard were so funny together! Definitely good banterfluff to recommend.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I know this one won’t stick with me like true favorites, but I did buy it and will reread down the line. I mean, my heart was beating so fast and I was SO ANXIOUS FOR THEM TO GET TOGETHER. Such feelings. But yeah, the secondary cast wasn’t well developed enough by any means. Not a top favorite, but I loved reading it.

  3. Ms. Yingling says:

    This was one that will be good for middle school, and anything set in Italy is something I enjoy. Didn’t know that it was selling so well. Also, have no idea what “shippy” means, but it seems important, so am off to learn a new word.

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