In Love & Olives, the latest offering from the lovely, YA globetrotting romance author Jenna Evans Welch (Love & Gelato and Love & Luck), readers plunge into the sapphire blue waters of Santorini, Greece, searching not only for the lost city of Atlantis but for the restoration of a relationship between a father and a daughter.
When I first cracked open Love & Olives, I was fully prepared for a swoony, saccharine love story that would make travel Instagrammers weep with jealousy. Honestly, I wasn’t totally wrong, the setting is absolutely jaw-dropping. I wish I could hop on a plane right now to Santorini. What I wasn’t prepared for was its mature theme. The fluffy, sweet romance in this story takes a backseat, for what this story is really about is a young woman learning to reconnect with an absent father, and deciding how to move forward, forgive, and be free from the pain of the past.
The story follows Liv Varanakis after receiving a postcard from her absent, treasure-hunting father. He asks her to come to Santorini to help with a documentary on the sunken city of Atlantis. Liv’s memories of him are not exactly pleasant. Her father has been out of the picture since she was 8 years old, abruptly fleeing to Greece in pursuit of his lifelong passion of finding the lost city of Atlantis. The only memories of him she has is a box of things he left behind, ranging from his favorite cinnamon gum to her mom’s engagement ring that came from a vending machine. Yet despite herself, she packs her bags and takes the 20-hour flight to the coastal city.
As Liv explores every enchanting nook and cranny of Santorini, from deep blue waters, hidden caves, delicious cuisine, and her feelings for her father’s protégé Theo, she realizes that the reason her father called her to Santorini is even bigger than she thought.
Undoubtedly, the true strength of this novel is its heart. Jenna Evans Welch is able to somehow perfectly portray the delicate, complex emotions of a daughter who is both furious at her father for leaving her and loves him deeply at the same time. Perhaps my favorite part of the novel is Liv’s list of things her father left behind. At the beginning of each chapter, readers are introduced to an item left behind by her father that Liv has kept safe for all these years and carefully recorded its significance. I was excited to start each chapter and learn a little bit more about this complex relationship. It creates intimacy between the reader and Liv, as well as builds that needed backstory and context in order for the emotional beats of the story to pay off.
I will say that the one area that fell flat for me was the relationship between Liv and Theo. Theo is charming and upbeat, but I didn’t feel the spark between him and Liv. I feel like they would be better friends than lovers.
With that said, don’t overlook this novel. This story is like an ocean. If you’re here for romance and the dazzling, drool-worthy setting, you’ll find it sitting on the white sandy beach, looking at the waves, and that is great! But, if you push yourself out into the water, and take the plunge into its pages, you’ll also find something so much more deep and magical than you ever imagined, like the lost city of Atlantis itself.
Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch was published on Nov. 10, 2020.