Milly loves her sisters more than anything - they are her best friends. But this holiday is different. The loss of their dad has left a gaping hole in their lives that none of them know how to fill. Heartbreak is a hard thing to fix ...
Still, there is plenty to keep the girls busy in Rome. A family wedding. Food, wine, parties and sun. And of course Luke .... Luke is hot, there is no way around that. And Milly will always have a crush on him. But this summer is about family, being together, and learning to live without Dad. It isn't about Luke at all ... is it?
'Gentle and romantic. A holiday in itself.' Rainbow Rowell
'I flew through ONE ITALIAN SUMMER. It's a perfect summer read with a gorgeous setting, warm characters and a bittersweet evocation of life after tragedy.' Sophia Bennett, author of LOVE SONG
|Publisher:||Bonnier Publishing Fiction|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||432 KB|
|Age Range:||16 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Keris has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, but she didn't write a novel until 2004 when she took part in National Novel Writing Month. She hasn't quite finished that one yet, but she has finished a few others, including ONE ITALIAN SUMMER, COUNTING STARS, JESSIE HEARTS NYC, DELLA SAYS: OMG!, and EMMA HEARTS LA.. Find out more about Keris at www.keris-stainton.com or follow her on Twitter: @Keris
Read an Excerpt
One Italian Summer
By Keris Stainton
Bonnier Zaffre Ltd.Copyright © 2017 Keris Stainton
All rights reserved.
'Do you want to dip your finger in Dad?' my older sister, Elyse, asks, holding out the small clay pot containing her share of our father's ashes.
'God, Elyse!' I shriek, jumping backwards.
'Elyse, no one wants to do that apart from you,' my younger sister, Leonie, says. She's got the same expression on her face as I imagine is on mine. 'It's sick and wrong,' she adds.
Elyse shrugs, screws the lid back on and puts the pot back on her bookshelf. 'I thought it might help.'
'Help how?' I ask.
'I don't know. It just makes me feel better and since you're all worked up about the flight ...'
'I'm not "worked up" about it,' I say, as I look along Elyse's shelves for a book to take with me, but I can't see anything that's not about fashion or design. Partly for her degree – she's in her second year – but mostly because she's obsessed with it. 'I'm just not looking forward to it.'
'You didn't used to be bothered about flying,' Leonie says. She's sitting on the floor next to Elyse's bed and painting her toenails black.
Now it's my turn to shrug. 'It's not the flying. It's everything. It's just ... different this time.'
'First time without Dad,' Elyse says.
I nod. 'It's going to be weird.'
'We could take a photo of him and put it on the seat,' Leonie suggests.
'And that wouldn't be weird at all,' Elyse says.
'From the girl who sticks her finger in his ashes for luck?' I say.
'Do you think I'll be able to draw on these with chalk?' Leonie asks, wiggling her toes in the air.
'Maybe,' Elyse says.
'But why would you want to?' I ask.
Leonie shrugs and then lies flat on the floor with her feet still up on Elyse's bed. 'I can't believe it's tomorrow. It's come round so fast.'
'I can't believe Robbie's not coming,' Elyse says, throwing herself back against her huge pile of pillows. She sleeps practically sitting up.
I stand with my back to the bookshelves, my hands behind my back with one hand holding onto one of the shelves. I look at my sisters: Elyse on the bed, Leonie on the floor, both of them staring up at the ceiling, which I know without looking features a constellation of glow-in-the-dark stars.
'I think it's better that Robbie's not coming,' I say, knowing full well Elyse will strenuously disagree. 'I think it's nice that it's just going to be family.'
Also Robbie gets on my nerves, but I know better than to say that to Elyse.
'And Luke,' Leonie says and tips her head right back so she's looking at me upside down. She waggles her eyebrows; it looks extremely weird. Luke. Our cousin Toby's best friend, who's out there working with Toby for the summer.
'Oh, yeah,' I say. As if I'd forgotten.
'As if you'd forgotten,' Elyse says and laughs. 'Fine for you if my boyfriend stays at home. Meanwhile you'll be all heart-eyes at Luke.'
I roll my (non-heart) eyes. 'Yeah, okay, I made a total arse of myself over Luke. Can we all get over it?'
'You didn't make a total arse of yourself,' Elyse says.
'Just a bit of an arse,' Leonie finishes, swinging her legs down and clambering up on the bed next to Elyse.
'Well, I won't be doing it again so we don't need to think about it any more,' I say.
And they don't know the half of it. I head for the door, but out of the corner of my eye I catch my sisters exchanging a glance.
'What?' I say, stopping with my hand on the door handle. 'Why are you looking like that?'
'We're just a bit worried ...' Elyse starts. She stops and looks at Leonie.
'About Mum?' I ask, twisting the door handle in my hand.
'Well, yeah, obviously,' Elyse says.
'But about you too,' Leonie adds.
'You're not yourself,' Leonie says. She's all tucked up with her chin on her knees and she looks closer to six than sixteen.
I sigh. 'I know. I know I've changed. But we've all changed. Since Dad ...' I don't finish the sentence.
'We have,' Elyse says, nodding. 'Of course we have. It's just that you don't seem to be doing so well.'
'I'm fine,' I say.
They're both looking at me with the exact same expression of concern. They've each got the little line between their eyebrows just like Dad used to get. Most of the time they don't look that much alike – Elyse's face is round and her blonde hair is long and wavy, while Leonie's face is more angular and her dyed red hair is short and blunt – but they do when they frown.
'But you've stopped singing,' Leonie says.
I feel a clench in my belly. This again? 'I haven't stopped,' I say. 'I still sing. You've heard me sing.'
'Yes, but you quit the band and now apparently you're not going up to Liverpool ...'
'I haven't decided that yet,' I say. 'Just because I haven't sent the acceptance back doesn't mean I'm not going.'
'Mum said you got a prospectus for UWL,' Leonie says.
'I did. But I haven't decided anything yet. I'm just being practical. Things are different now.'
'They don't have to be,' Elyse says. 'Not that different, anyway.'
'Do we have to talk about this now?' I say. 'It's my turn to make dinner.'
They look at each other again and then Elyse says, 'Fine. But we will talk about this again.' She takes her phone out and holds it right up to her face because she's not wearing her glasses.
'Are you setting a reminder?' I ask, appalled.
Elyse laughs. 'No, you stupid cow. I got a text from Robbie.'
'You're done then?' I ask. 'I can go and do dinner?'
'Yeah, go on,' Leonie says. 'I'm starved.'
'Good,' I say. 'And I am fine. Really.'CHAPTER 2
Mum's on lates this week at work – she's a doctor – and so we have a rota for making dinner: one night each for the three of us and then we can go out or get a takeaway. It works pretty well, even though we don't have that big a range. Elyse got a Jamie Oliver book out of the library so we can try to expand our repertoire a bit, but I'm sticking with turkey chilli for tonight. I can't face trying something new.
I've got the recipe stuck to the fridge with the letter magnets we've had for as long as I can remember. Dad used to leave messages for us with them. Sometimes just 'LOVE U', sometimes something daft that only we'd find funny. Mum doesn't do it. She occasionally leaves us notes on the fridge, but not with the magnets and not usually jokey. She's all practical these days.
I'm chopping onions and wiping at my teary eyes when I hear one of my sisters thundering down the stairs. I realise as the kitchen door bursts open and bounces back against the wall that it's Leonie. She's been doing that her whole life.
'That was Mum on the phone,' she says as she opens the fridge.
'Don't eat anything!'
'I'm not going to, I'm just looking!'
I scrape the onions from the chopping board into the pan before turning to Leonie. 'And?'
She's eating a chunk of cheese. I knew it. 'And what did Mum want?' 'Oh, right. She's going to be late. She said not to wait for her for dinner.'
I sigh. Mum's been working so much more since Dad died, which I do understand – we lost his wage and even though Mum always earned more, this house isn't cheap to run – but we're going to Italy tomorrow; I thought she'd get home in time for us to have dinner together and get an early night before the flight.
Leonie nods towards the stove. 'How long's this going to be?'
I look round at it, as if that's going to tell me. 'Twenty minutes?' "Kay,' she says and then opens the fridge for more cheese before going back upstairs.
While the rice cooks, I tidy round the kitchen a bit and then look through the 'important papers' drawer for our passports. I find Mum's and Leonie's, but the next one I find is Dad's. The corner's cut off from where Mum had to send it away after he died. She must have put it back in the drawer when they returned it. It's a terrible picture of him, but I love it because it reminds me so much of going on holiday and him making jokes about how awful the photo was. I remember one time he said he looked like a Beatle and when Mum asked 'Ringo?' he said, 'No, an actual beetle' and then did antennas with his fingers.
I laugh out loud picturing it and it's only when I do a massive snotty sniff I realise I'm also crying.
I put the chilli and rice in bowls in the middle of the table and set three places before shouting up the stairs to tell my sisters dinner is ready. I sit down where I've always sat – far side of the table on the left, the seat that used to be next to Dad – and dish out my own chilli and rice. Leonie and Elyse still haven't come down. I get up, go to the bottom of the stairs and shout them again.
'Just a minute!' Leonie yells back.
'I'm on the phone!' Elyse calls.
I sit back at the table and start on my own food, glancing up at the clock to see how long before Mum might realistically be home. She used to get back from lates by ten, but not any more.
I'm halfway through my dinner and scrolling through Tumblr on my phone when Leonie comes in, flops some food on her plate and heads for the door.
'Where are you going?'
She doesn't even turn round. 'Hmm?'
'Sit down and eat with me!'
'I'm watching Netflix,' she says, half-turning. 'Come up with me.'
'I don't want to come up with you,' I tell her. 'I want us to eat together.'
She rolls her eyes. 'Elyse isn't even here.'
'She will be.'
'Well, call me when she is,' my sister says. And leaves.
I keep eating, but my throat feels tight. It's not that big a deal, I know. And we'll be eating together in Italy. And it's not the same when Mum's not here anyway. But still.
Elyse doesn't come down at all. I put her share in a Tupperware box in the fridge.
Mum doesn't get back until almost eleven. Elyse, Leonie and I are flopped around the living room. We've pulled the cushions off the sofa, watching Friends repeats, eating toast and ignoring each other.
'Oh, you're still up,' she says, leaning against the wall in the doorway. She looks tired. She always looks tired these days.
'We were just about to go to bed,' Leonie says. 'We've got to be up at half-five.'
'I know we have!' Mum snaps.
Leonie looks at me and I see the hurt in her eyes before she looks back at Mum and says, 'All right, no need to bite my head off.'
'Sorry,' Mum says. She pushes her glasses up on top of her head and rubs one eye, before saying, 'Shit.' And then, 'Sorry, girls. Forgot I had make-up on.'
'Come and sit down,' Elyse says, standing up and putting a couple of the cushions back onto the sofa.
'No, I'm going to go up to bed,' Mum says.
'There's still some toast,' Leonie says. 'It's not totally cold.'
'I don't want toast,' Mum says. 'I just want my bed.'
The three of us look at each other and then Elyse says, 'It's just ... we've hardly seen you.'
Mum frowns and then her face seems to crumple a little, but she says, 'We're going to be together all the time in Italy.'
'With everyone else, though,' I say. 'It won't just be us.'
She nods then. She's not looking at me and I don't think she's looking at Leonie or Elyse either. She seems to be looking just past us and I know where without even turning my head. She's looking at the corner of the room where Dad used to sit.
'Okay,' she says, almost to herself. She crosses the room and sits on the cushions Elyse has just picked up. 'So. What have you girls been doing?' 'Milly made turkey chilli,' Leonie says. 'It wasn't entirely gross.'
'I found the passports,' I say.
'Oh good,' Mum says. 'I hadn't even thought about that.'
'I've put everything in The Folder,' I tell her and I see her flinch.
The Folder was Dad's thing. All the paperwork for holidays went in there, in order of how we'd use it. So there'd be the confirmation of the airport parking, then the flight tickets, car hire, hotel details, etc. And then the insurance information and European Health Insurance cards would be at the back. He was constantly checking it in the run-up to any trip away and then while we were away, receipts and confirmations went straight into The Folder. And then once we were home, he'd go through The Folder again, chucking stuff out or pinning tickets up on our bulletin board. It was only when The Folder was empty that we really felt like the holiday was over. And all holiday planning began with The Folder.
'Thank you,' she says. 'For doing that.'
'Of course,' I say. I mean, I don't even know how she thought we'd travel without The Folder. None of us ever has.
'I can't wait to get to Italy,' Leonie says. She picks up the plate of toast and puts it on the table next to where Mum's sitting. Mum immediately picks up a piece and starts nibbling.
'I actually need to talk to you about that,' Mum says.
I immediately feel like I'm about to cry. It's not even so much what she says, but the defeated way she says it. It makes me want to curl up in a ball and put my hands over my ears, the way I used to when I was little and didn't want to go somewhere or do something.
'How would you feel about flying out without me,' Mum says.
It's actually not as bad as I was expecting. I was half thinking she was going to say the trip was off. But still. We've never flown without her. And we've all been looking forward to getting away as a family. Even if we're not the family we used to be.
'Why?' Elyse asks.
'I've just ...' Mum starts to say, but then she puts down the piece of toast she's been eating and picks up a different one. 'I've just got so much to do at work. It's not a great time for me to go away.'
'But you have to come,' Leonie says. 'It's your sister's wedding!'
'Oh, I'm still going to come!' Mum says and she actually looks directly at Leonie, before looking back down again. 'I just don't think I can come tomorrow.'
'No,' Leonie says. I can see red patches on her cheeks and I know she's about to either shout or cry. 'No. Work can wait. Someone else can cover for you. You have people to cover for you, I know you do. We're going tomorrow. All of us.'
'Leonie,' Mum says in a warning tone. 'My job is important. I don't think you understand –'
'I do understand,' Leonie says, standing up. 'We all understand. We're not babies. We're not idiots. We all understand. But you ... Since Dad died ...'
Mum looks up at her then and the pain on her face is so clear that I have to look away. Leonie carries on, but her voice is breaking and I can feel the pain in my throat that I know means I'm about to cry too. 'Since Dad died,' Leonie says again. 'It's like you think work is more important than us. And it's not. It's just fucking not.'
'I know it's not,' Mum says. 'Of course I do.'
'It's like,' Leonie starts as she heads out of the room. 'It's like we don't know how to be a family without Dad.'
As she leaves, Leonie kicks one of the cushions out of the way and I pick it up and put it back on the sofa before sitting down next to Mum. I want to curl into her side the way I did when I was little. I want her to stroke my hair and kiss my head and pretend to bite my fingers. But then I remember it wasn't her who did the pretend finger-biting, it was Dad.
'It hasn't been that bad, has it?' Mum asks.
'It hasn't been that good,' Elyse says.CHAPTER 3
'You've got everything,' Leonie says as I open The Folder and flick through the documents. 'I've seen you check it at least five times already.'
'I know,' I say, pulling out my phone and tapping on the airline's app to double-check the online boarding passes. 'It just feels weird not having much stuff printed out. I mean, what if my phone broke?'
'It's more likely to break with you checking it every two minutes,' Elyse says. 'It's all fine. If anything happened to your phone, I could access the app on mine. Stop worrying.'
I stare out of the taxi window, but it's early and still dark and there's no one on the street. I look at the back of Mum's head – she's in the front with the driver – and think she must be asleep because she hasn't said a word since we got in the car. Actually, she didn't even say much before we got in the car. Just drank some coffee and grabbed her bag and followed the three of us outside when the taxi arrived.
I open The Folder again and Leonie nudges me. 'Give it a rest, Mil. You're stressing me out.'
I close The Folder, but run over its contents in my head again instead.
We check in with no problems. I was worried about the weight of our bags, particularly Leonie's, but it's fine, and then head to security. We have to stand for a couple of minutes while Leonie drinks the rest of the bottle of water she's brought with her, so she can throw it in the recycling, and then we head for the gates.
'Boarding passes?' Mum says, turning to me.
'They're on my phone,' I tell her, taking it out of my pocket for what feels like the fiftieth time this morning.
I tap on my boarding card, hold it over the scanner and pass through the gates. But then I'm on the far side with my phone and everyone else's boarding cards.
'Um,' I say.
'Pass the phone back over and one of you scan everyone else through,' a guard tells me. I pass my phone to Mum, feeling a flicker of anxiety in case she drops it.
Mum tries to scan the boarding card but nothing happens.
Excerpted from One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton. Copyright © 2017 Keris Stainton. Excerpted by permission of Bonnier Zaffre Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“One Italian Summer” is a light ya romance that reads quickly but lacks much substance. While there was an attempt at making the characters developed, I still felt somewhat removed from them, especially the love interest, Luke. There was little to no explanation of exactly why Milly was so interested in him, aside from a rather alarming amount of wanting to lick his muscles. Not going to lie, the amount of times a phrase like that was thought by her was a bit unsettling. I know this complaint may be nitpicky, but the author seems to lose track of what her characters were doing quite a bit. Characters would stand up twice in one page without sitting down, be in a car one second and in a parking lot walking to the car the next, etc. It kept pulling me out of the story. That being said, “One Italian Summer” is still a cute romance if you’re looking for a beach read that doesn’t require much from you. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.