I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love & Olives (Love & Gelato, #3) by Jenna Evans Welch
Also by this author: Love & Gelato, Love & Luck
Published by Simon Pulse on November 10, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley
Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.
But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.
First and foremost, I ADORE this companion series. I love how all of the titles are stand-alones but have corresponding titles and covers that are so simple but so effectively capture the magic of these European stories of self discovery and exploration. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I wish Ms. Welch could be my own personal European tour guide because every single one of these books makes me feel as though I just went on vacation!
While I’ve enjoyed each book in this series for different reasons, I think Love & Olives by far had the most breathtaking settings and descriptions. Set in Santorini, Greece, Liv’s exploration of the island is absolutely incredible, from the criminally beautiful sunsets to the insanely blue water to the most perfect open-air bookstore one could imagine. I found myself obsessively googling the locations Liv visited while there and found the images online to be on par with what the writing described, and sometimes the book descriptions were even more magical than the actual images! Coupled with the fact that Liv is an artist and is viewing everything through an artist’s lens, it was just an incredibly beautiful book about an adventure set abroad (I am not an artist by any means but I was swooning over the pastels she received as a gift that had custom made shades inspired by the island itself!)
At the heart of the novel, like most of Welch’s stories, is a family relationship. Liv is sent to Greece under protest to visit her father who she hasn’t seen since she was eight years old. He also happens to be an avid Atlantis hunter, and she’s to assist him with an Atlantis based project while she’s there. It was fascinating to learn about the history of Atlantis in this book (I had no idea so many cultures have their own lore and theories surrounding the mythical island) and to see Liv’s own conflicted emotions and feelings about it- how it’s so tangled up with her relationship with her dad. Heck, this book made ME want to believe it Atlantis.
While Love & Olives gave me the literary vacation I definitely needed during this quarantine-ridden summer, I have to say that I did struggle with the pacing of the book for the first 70% or so. There was a lot of lack of communication or miscommunication happening and while the last 20%-30% of the book was really rewarding and tackled many tough family topics (abandonment, mental illness, etc) with grace, the narrative leading up to it felt somewhat repetitive and stagnant (a lot of time was spent on Live ruminating over the same conflicted emotions about her dad or wanting to avoid getting the truth from him, and I was starting to wonder if we ever would…) I think the novel was a tad on the long side which impacted the overall pacing for me.
There were some really excellent secondary characters who fleshed out this story as well, from Liv’s loving family back in Seattle who she can always rely on (her ninja brother, her friendly step-dad- love to see positive stepparent representation!) to Ana who co-owns the book store with her father and has a killer sense of fashion to Henrik, the boy she meets on the plane who pops up later on in the story, it was nice to see Liv have a fleshed out support system in this story. View Spoiler »I also almost got teary eyed at the end when her mom, who is in her third trimester of pregnancy, flew ALL THE WAY from Seattle to Santorini on a moment’s notice when she thought her daughter needed her *sniff* « Hide Spoiler I have to say though I wasn’t super impressed by Theo’s character and found his charm and persistence to be more annoying rather than endearing (his lack of boundaries often frustrated me).
Overall: Love & Olives is another solid installment of Welch’s breathtaking European adventure series and I sincerely hope she continues writing in this world- there are so many more countries I need her to guide me through on vacation! 🙂
*Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*