Fun and enjoyable, Flirting In Italian is packed with sexy Italian boys, gorgeously depicted European settings, mysteries, mean girls, and long hot summer nights. It's the ultimate summer read - light-hearted, and as sweet and fluffy as cotton candy. Don't be fooled by the beautiful pastel-coloured cover, though, this book is more than just a silly story about girls kissing boys in Italy. Featuring long buried family secrets, mysterious Italian paintings, and an old castle on the hill, Flirting In Italian entertains the reader with tension that is slowly (but steadily) building up throughout its pages, and danger that is lurking just around the corner.
The premise of this novel is too delicious to miss out on. The romantic countryside of Tuscany, a lovely fourteenth-century villa (with a swimming pool!), and two months of learning Italian, participating in art tours, watercolour painting and ballroom dancing - how could you possibly say no to all that? I enjoyed the setting of this novel and thought that Lauren Henderson managed to capture both the unique atmosphere of Italy, and the temperamental nature of Italians really well.
Violet Routledge, a teenage girl from London, arrives in Italy on a mission. Back at home, while visiting a local museum, she stumbled upon a portrait featuring some unknown Italian aristocrat who looks exactly like herself and could easily be her twin. Fascinated by the painting, Violet decided to learn more about the model, and find out if she's in any way related to her. She convinced her mother to send her to Italy for a two month long private course, under the excuse of learning Italian. After arriving in Tuscany, Violet meets the other students - an English red head, and two confident American chicks, and she decides to make the most out of her time in this hot and humid European country.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Especially Henderson's excellent writing style that seemed almost effortless and made the book quick and easy to devour. Lauren Henderson is a well-established author, she has written an impressive number of books (many of which quickly became bestsellers), and if you pick up Flirting In Italian, you'll see just why. This book was extremely readable. I couldn't put it down, even though some of the plot developments made me frown (or annoyed me) a bit. There was something about this book that held my attention and made me push through. I wanted to learn more about the history behind the painting. I wanted to see how the relationship between Violet and Luca will progress. I craved more of Italy. Ultimately, though, I really wanted Violet to focus more on discovering her connection to the girl from the portrait (after all, that was the reason for her flying to Italy in the first place). And I admit, as the story progressed and it became clear to me that she got totally side tracked (distracted by Luca's sweet lips or exchanging verbal-slaps with mean Italian girls) and had no plans of digging deeper into the past or doing any sort of research (not even when someone locked her up in a dungeon and then tried to poison her), I started getting impatient. I was also a little bit disappointed that not much of the plot got resolved in the end, and the parts that did get concluded, didn't impress me either (yes, I'm talking about you, you creepy Italian maid). It just seemed that a lot of the book focused on cat-fights, learning how to swear in Italian and other weird but non essential aspects of the story. The flirting was there, but since I wasn't all that impressed with the rude and cocky Luca either, I didn't really feel the swoon. The ending came very abruptly, and unfortunately, I can't say that I liked it. It wasn't a horrible ending, but it wasn't a very pleasing one either - it felt a little bit forced (as if the author didn't really plan for the sequel, but decided on it last minute). Thankfully, though, there will be two more books in the series (with Falling In Love In Italian being the next one), and hopefully it will provide more answers, concluding all the plot threats in a satisfactory way.
As for the characters in this novel, I thought they were a bit stereotypical, but in no way did it take away from the fun of watching them interact with each other. The dialogues were crisp and bursting with energy, making it easy to really get into the story. All the snarky exchanges and cat-fights proved to be very entertaining, and I even learned some Italian swear words (not sure if I should be happy about that, though). I adored all the characters (except for the arrogant Luca), especially the American girls, Kendra and Paige (they were just so lively, confident and likeable!). I liked the lead protagonist, Violetta, from the very beginning. She was down to earth, honest, and straight to the point, with just the perfect dose of sass and humour. I liked that she would stand up for herself (and for others, too), and didn't shy away from confrontation, and, although I didn't understand her attraction to Luca (at all), I still got quite attached to her. She was definitely the kind of girl I could be good friends with.
Overall, Flirting In Italian was a good book. Light and flavourful, it's a perfect beach read, especially if you like books set in Southern European countries, and ones that successfully depict both the atmosphere and the unique cultural aspects of the region. I'm looking forward to the sequel and can't wait to find out more about the mysterious portrait and the story behind it!