Monday, September 15, 2008

Romeo, Romeo, by Robin Kaye – Review

I don’t normally do this, but just this once, I’m going to post the back cover blurb for this book:

Rosalie Ronaldi doesn't have a domestic bone in her body ...
All she cares about is her career, so she survives on take-out and dirty martinis, keeps her shoes under the dining room table, her bras on the shower curtain rod, and her clothes on the couch ...

Nick Romeo is every woman's fantasy - tall, dark, handsome, rich, really good in bed, AND he loves to cook and clean ...
He says he wants an independent woman, but when he meets Rosalie, all he wants to do is take care of her. Before too long, he's cleaned up her apartment, stocked her refrigerator, and adopted her dog ...

So what's the problem? Just a little matter of mistaken identity, corporate theft, a hidden past in juvenile detention and one big nosy Italian family too close for comfort ...

Ms. Kaye has put together a debut novel that combines rapid-fire dialog, an interesting plot, and a sort of bewildering array of secondary characters. There are some parts that work, and some that kind of don’t, but I will say that the critical ingredient for a good romance is here: chemistry. The sparks between the hero and heroine light up the pages and create a believable motivation for them to work through the conflicts that get thrown their way. Nick’s devotion to Rosalie is a pleasure to read about, and it’s nice to see a heroine with a career that she cares about.

I also felt like the plot worked pretty well. It hinges around the acquisition of a car dealership, which is a bit unique in the world of romance. It has a bit more of a human scope; it might be something that readers can more easily imagine themselves doing, but on the other hand it also felt a little less… well, romantic than other possibilities. Still, it provides a reasonable plot, a source of conflict, and no one is Too Stupid To Live.

My biggest problem with the book is that one particular character sort of took over and got in the way in a lot of places. That character? the Bronx. First, every person in the book spoke with the same rhythm and pacing and vocabulary, from Our Intrepid Couple to the bitchy sister to da goombas (“Dante DeEsposito? Does your mother know what you do?”) in da back office, you should excuse the expression. I think this is why I was a little slow to warm up to Nick, but it did happen eventually.

Second, there seemed to be an awful lot of characters running into each other coincidentally. I mean, I know there are some tight-knit neighborhoods in the Bronx, so I hear, but really? You run into your grandmother when you’re jogging in the park? You run into family members and their extra-curricular significant other at a restaurant you’ve never been to? I grew up in a town of 6,000 and it wasn’t that bad.

And finally, hmmm, how do I put this? It’s my impression that New Yorkers believe that NYC is not so much the center of the universe, just the only bit that matters. There are ways to treat this humorously, but if that was the intent, it didn’t work for me: “Honey, as far as I’m concerned, there are only three cities: New York, Chicago, and LA. If you’re not from one of the above, you’re a bumpkin.” Uh, OK. Am I being overly sensitive by feeling juuuuuust a tad insulted? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the same sort of spirit, I think, the family members bugged me a little bit too. I’m all for crazy but loveable families that drive you nuts. As background in a book, I’m also down with dark family situations that supply the characters with a lot of baggage. This one was neither. Rosalie’s family, with the possible exception of her brother, are petty, bickering, nasty little people who don’t seem remotely loveable to me. Fortunately, they stayed well in the background for most of the book. And – this is REALLY petty—Ronaldi? Not a great choice for an Italian family name. Rinaldi would’ve worked better. Seriously, how many Italians do you know named Ronald?

So, not my favorite book ever. But because the two main characters really worked for me, and more importantly, for each other, I will likely give Ms. Kaye a second chance. Plus, the world needs a few more vampire-less romances these days.

ps, I did not find a website for Robin Kaye but here is her GoodReads page.


Maryannwrites said...

Enjoyed your review. You obviously put a lot of thought into what to say about this book. Regarding the NYC comment. I think coming from the mouth of a character like that, we "outsiders" can take less offense. :-)

Also got a sense that you, like me, are not overly fond of the vampire romances. I thought ghost romances were a stretch a number of years ago, but this whole vampire craze is beyond me.

Nicola O. said...

I actually LURRRVE the vampires when they're done well, but I'm starting to feel a little burned out. So I'm actively looking for non-paranormal historicals and contemporaries to keep in rotation. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I read an early copy of Robin's book (and loved it!) so I wanted to tell you that the book is set in Brooklyn, not the Bronx. Can't wait to see the final version on the shelves!

Nicola O. said...

Ooops, Anonymous, you're probably right. I always get those two mixed up... </hopeless bumpkin>


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