It's rare for me to give books a four-hearts review, but Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel (August 13, 5 Spot/Hachette Book Group) deserves it.
Thirty-four-year-old Manhattan accountant Cat Connelly has always lived life on the safe side. But after her little sister gets married, Cat wonders if she has condemned herself to a life of boredom by playing by the rules. She decides to take a chance for once, accepting an invitation to spend a month with an old flame in Italy. But her reunion with the slick and gorgeous Francesco is short-lived, and she finds herself suddenly alone in Rome. Now, she must see if she has the courage to live outside the lines for the first time - and to face a past she never understood. It will take an unexpected friendship with a fiery Italian waitress, a whirlwind Vespa tour of the Eternal City with a handsome stranger, and a surprise encounter with an old acquaintance to show Cat that life doesn't always work out the way you expect, but sometimes you have to have fall in order to fly.
Cat has spent most of her life taking care of her family, being responsible, and doing the right thing. After being humiliated at her younger sister Becky's wedding and feeling like there might be more to life than simply existing, she decides to take a month-long trip to Italy.
After one day in Rome, Cat feels humiliated, lost, and ready to return to her boring, predictable life in the United States. Instead, she find herself renting a room from and outspoken, opinionated, and feisty waitress named Karina, who encourages Cat to step outside the box, take chances, and have fun.
Cat spends her days exploring Rome, embracing her passion for photography, finding love, making friends, and discovering secrets about her family and ultimately herself.
It was a lovely, well-written story.
The characters were very likable. I felt like they were my friends and wanted good things to happen for them.
Another important character in the story was the city itself. I've always wanted to visit Rome. It seems like an amazing place. Kristin Harmel's descriptions of the tourist spots, historical locations, and the food were so vivid that I felt like I was there (and got a craving or two).
Italian For Beginners left me wanting more from Kristin Harmel.