Still searching for this year’s perfect summer read? You can stop. Lauren Henderson’s Flirting in Italian is IT.

Like her Scarlett Wakefield series, her new book is a combination of rich-girl drama, mystery, romance and travelogue. It’s got a very different feel than Anna and the French Kiss—in addition to the mystery element, it’s set over a shorter period of time and the romance isn’t front and center—but it’s likely to please a similar fan base.

Read more Bookshelves of Doom on the Bloodlines' series latest, 'Golden Lily.'

Londoner Violet Routledge, 17, has a curvy body and an olive complexion, completely unlike her Norwegian mother and her Scottish father. She’s always secretly wondered if she was adopted but has never had the courage to ask. When she comes across the picture of a girl who may as well be her twin she decides to investigate.

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The twist? The picture is an unnamed 18th-century Italian portrait of a unknown girl by an anonymous artist. The thing that Violet does know is that the painting originated from Tuscany’s Castello di Vesperi. Well, probably.

She convinces her mother to send her to an eight-week-long finishing school/immersive Italian program that just so happens to be located right around the corner from the portrait’s supposed origin, and just like that, Violet is on her way to Italy. In her near future are hijinks and romance; studying and clubbing; girl fights, unexpected alliances and new friendships; Vespa rides, a wine-drinking donkey and a possibly deliberate poisoning. Flirting in Italian is a breeze of a read that made me swoon and snicker,* and I’m so, so looking forward to the second book in the series.

Not just because of all of the fun—and there’s a lot of it—but because it’s flat-out Good Stuff. It’s an entertaining, light read, and it’s smart. For one thing, Henderson has a fabulous ear. I’m not talking about the British, American and Italian characters using appropriate slang, which they do, I’m saying that she even nails the varying rhythms of their speech. That, and she highlights cultural differences without ever breaking character or getting didactic.

Violet is a capable, bright, determined heroine, but she’s also an excellent observer: the secondary characters are all three-dimensional and believable. I developed an especially soft spot for Paige, the wealthy American that Violet privately thinks of as a yellow Lab (beautiful, blonde and bouncy, but not much between the ears):

Paige giggles again. “I’m just saying,” she points out, tossing her blonde curls. “I’d looove to be a princess.”

“There are many princes in Italy,” Luca says. “And almost all of them are very poor.”

“Awesome,” Paige says with relish.

While Violet is maddeningly attracted to the male lead—and, yes, shares a few swoon-inducing moments with him—she doesn’t completely trust him. She’s got a strong sense of self worth, and that lack of trust makes her keep him at arms’ length, rather than throwing caution to the winds. In other words, I have no doubts that she’d have the wherewithal to tell both Edward Cullen and Jacob Black to take a hike. Which makes her aces in my book.


*Out loud. My husband heard me giggling two rooms away.

Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.