by Marina Adair
Series: When in Rome #1
Also in this series: Hopeless Romantic
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Source: Kindle Unlimited
A witty, sexy, and charming story from the #1 National Bestselling author of the St. Helena Vineyard series that fans of Emily Henry, Jen DeLuca, and Kate Clayborn will adore.
Growing up the lone Asian in a community of WASPs, Annie has always felt out of place. Her solution? Start a family of her own. Not easy when every man she’s dated, including her ex-fiancé, finds “his person” right after breaking up with Annie. Even worse than canceling the wedding eight weeks beforehand? Learning the “other woman” plans to walk down the aisle wearing her wedding gown. New plan—find a fresh, man-free start. Too bad her exit strategy unexpectedly lands her working at a hospital in Rome, Rhode Island, rather than Rome, Italy, and sharing a cabin with a big, brooding, and annoyingly hot male roommate.
Home on medical leave after covering a literally explosive story in China, investigative photojournalist Emmitt embarks on his most important assignment—cementing his place in his daughter’s life. Three men and a baby might work in the movies, but with a stepdad and devoted uncle competing for Paisley’s attention, Emmitt has lost his place at the family table. Then there’s the adorably sexy squatter in his cabin, who poses another problem, one he’d very much like to solve up close and personal. But he can’t win—Annie has sworn off men, Paisley’s gone boy crazy, and Emmitt’s estranged father reappears with a secret that changes everything.
Annie and Emmitt are about to discover love comes in many forms, and sometimes the best families are the ones we make.
After her fiancé breaks up with her (and decides to keep their original wedding appointments for the new love of his life, eek), Annie moves to Rome (Rhode Island) where she tries to accept that maybe she’s not meant to find her own romantic partner. Every guy she’s dated has somehow moved on to find their “one” while she’s still stuck alone. But she’s got an interesting job at the local hospital as well as a nice rental house – at least, until the owner of the house comes back unannounced. Emmitt doesn’t want to be back in Rome, but he was badly injured while photographing an investigative piece and is now stuck at home until he’s cleared medically. The last thing he expects is to find his house rented out – or to find his new renter extremely cute, even when she’s throwing stiletto heels at him.
Emmitt has a complicated family situation. He’s estranged from his father and his mother passed away when he was a kid. He discovered that he had a child when his daughter was five. Her mother, Michelle, had previously thought the father was an ex-boyfriend, but medical tests instead revealed she was Emmitt’s, the result of a fling. Because of that, Michelle basically raised Paige as a single mom, with a lot of help from her brother, Levi, before she married Gray. So basically, Paige had three father figures: her stepfather, her cool uncle, and her bio dad. Michelle was the glue that held them all together and kept things running smoothly, but she passed away in a car accident, and each of the family members are still reeling from her loss. Emmitt was the last person to be added into the family dynamic, and his travel keeps him away from his daughter a good chunk of time, leaving him feeling disconnected from her. There’s no doubt that he loves her, but he struggles with how to express that. He’s afraid of disappointing her, and afraid of being hurt when he does, and that flows over into his relationship with Annie.
“She had the kind of heart that, if one was lucky enough to receive even the smallest piece of, deserved to be protected and treasured forever.”
Annie was born in Vietnam, adopted by white parents, and raised in a very white neighborhood. While her parents tried to keep her connected to her heritage, Annie doesn’t speak the language and feels torn between the two cultures, like she doesn’t fit in in either one. She’s a bit of a people pleaser, and she has an amazingly generous heart, enough that she’ll go in early to work to sit with an elderly patient who has no one else. It’s to her detriment though – she never puts herself first. Emmit calls her on that almost immediately, and encourages her to stand up for herself.
“This would never work,” she said—against the side of his neck. “You’re all about grand gestures, and I’m into the little things.”
He pulled back enough that she had to lift her head. “Only because you’ve never had a gesture grand enough to be worthy of you. And for the record, I think this will work just fine.”
As for their relationship, it’s full of a lot of banter, especially via sticky notes. At first, both are trying to get the other person to move out, but eventually they fall into a comfortable roommate relationship. It’s hard for them to be vulnerable with the other person, but they soon realize that coming “home” to the other person is the thing about their day they look forward to most.
“Since moving to Rome, Annie had learned more about what it meant to be Vietnamese from Lynn than she had in all her years in Connecticut. Rhode Island wasn’t her dream destination, but it gave her the distance and freedom to explore who she was.”
While the author has a daughter adopted from Vietnam, it’s not her personal identity. It’s also not mine, so I can’t speak to the rep, but it felt respectful to me. I liked how Annie was able to combine both her heritages – bringing her mom’s matzo ball soup to the Vietnamese Mì Hoành Thánh potluck – even if it didn’t work out initially the way she thought. As for other cons, there’s some completely unnecessary transphobia. Annie runs into a patient who’s records have gotten mixed up, and he’s extremely grumpy that the doctors can’t tell from looking at him that he doesn’t have ovaries. The overall comedy around two patients with very similar names trying to fix things is quite funny, but I wished the author had not gone with that particular line.
Overall, this was an enjoyably light rom-com, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next book.