The Italian Job by Kathryn Freeman is one of my favourite enemies to lovers stories this year.
Anna finds herself without a home or a job thanks to her cheating now-ex-boyfriend. Back home with her dad is definitely not where this chef wanted to find herself at this point in her life. And of course, her high school enemy is spending time with his mother next door, just so he can rub some salt into Anna’s wounds about everything she doesn't have going for her. The two cannot stand each other, old wounds and new jabs digging into them in ways that seem insurmountable. And this meet cute was just the perfect set up for the enemies to lovers trope so prevalent in this story.
I loved everything about this book from the setting to the premise to the characters to the twists, so I’ll just focus on a few things I loved the most.
Anna is a planner with her life together, except that she doesn’t. She’s choosing to believe this situation is more of a blip, but she’s worried she won’t be able to get out from under the thumb of her ex.
Jake is the picture perfect bad boy on the surface, complete with a motorcycle, leather, and criminal record. He goes with the flow and does what needs doing as he recognizes it needs to be done. He is exactly the kind of uncontrollable man who would drive Anna mad.
These two are fiercely in opposition, but both have compelling reasons for wanting to accept the job offer in Italy as a fresh start and an income stream with a place to live. I absolutely loved watching their chemistry develop both from an emotional and physical standpoint. Their forward progress frequently hindered by their personalities clashing as they got to know each other.
This book also had some of the best supporting characters. Every major character had such a unique personality and I really felt like I was right there with them in the small Italian town.
The premise and conflict of this novel were, in my opinion, perfection. Everything followed so naturally as a consequence from the last event, and I really felt myself pulled through the story in a way that was pleasant and enticing. Waiting to see what flaw might pop up next or what little similarity they might uncover to bring them closer together was honestly a delight.
By the end, I really felt like they’d been through the wringer and was so happy to see them get their happy ending. It’s a romance. That’s not a spoiler.
This is maybe a subset of the last one, but I really need to make an extra note to point out that the emotional and physical tension these two had was so fun to watch. Their confusion as they began to found the other not only interesting but attractive. Their refusal at times to admit that they might actually care about the other person or want to make them happy. And, ultimately, their decision to take their relationship past a fake dating to something more. The physical and emotional closeness is something that I really appreciated about this story.
I really loved this story. I loved the premise, the tropes, the characters, the tension, the conflict, and the writing style. The use of both points of view to let us gain insight into both characters was perfection. I could not put this book down. Once they decided to go along with the fake dating ploy, every second of this book kept me hooked. I had such a great time following them as they learned more about each other, were forced into some couples situations, and eventually learned how to love each other.
If you’re a fan of enemies to lovers, fake dating, Italian settings, banter, or pining, this book might be for you. Please note that this book is a UK title and therefore uses spelling and punctuation conventions that are non-standard in the US. If that’s going to bother you, this book might not be for you. But otherwise, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s one of my top reads this year so far.
I'm off to dream of Italy.
Your Romance Reviewer,