by Marina Adair
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Publisher: Kensington Books
Book #1 in the When in Rome series
Number of Pages: 320
Contemporary Romance M/F
Read 7/21/20 to 7/22/20
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.
I am on a roll. Well, the books I’ve been reading are a on a roll anyway. I love when this happens. As much as I hate when I’m in a reading slump, it’s just so amazing when I have a reading high. So many good books lately! And this is another 5 star read. And another reminder of how much I love this author.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Marina Adair is an ace at the meet cute. Seriously, pretty much every book of hers has me giggling when the hero and heroine meet. In this case, I was mortified for Anh Nhi (known by most in her life as Annie) while being intrigued by Emmitt. If you’re a regular romance reader, it’s quite obvious she’s the woman to tame Emmitt’s playboy ways. But I think that even if this wasn’t a romance, where I already had my preconceived ideas of what would happen, I would have felt that instant recognition of souls who are meant to be together. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but it’s like the inner-selves of Annie and Emmitt were calmed when they met, even if they were quarreling.
Now, I’m not saying there is insta-love here. In fact, Annie tries to fight their obvious chemistry with all that she has. She’s had a pretty crappy go of things lately and has realized she makes it way to easy for guys to use her as a stepping stone to the next (better?) thing. Annie’s a fixer. She seems to help men suss out their weaknesses so they can learn to be and do better, only for them to realize she’s not their one and only, which means some other woman gets to enjoy the fruits of her labor. To be clear, Annie doesn’t do this in any overbearing or obvious way. She’s got such a kind and open heart, she’s a good listener, and she’s wonderful at nudging people in the right direction without them even noticing it’s happening.
Emmitt does not deny his playboy ways, but it’s upsetting to him that nobody seems to think that he’s grown up at all over the last 10 or so years. Not only when it comes to women, but in all aspects of his life. Emmitt is in a unique situation of co-parenting his daughter with two other men. Which is actually one of the things I adore about this story. The tale of how these three men came to be Paisley’s dads is sad and lovely and beautiful. While Emmitt is her biological dad, he hasn’t always been around. Some of that he can control (not taking some of the overseas jobs he’s offered for his photojournalism career would be a start), some he cannot (he didn’t know about Paisley until she was 5). But he’s learned a lot about love and family and what kind of father and friend he wants to be. The problem is, nobody seems to be noticing his attempts to fix things. And some of the things that happen with Emmitt and his friends/co-dads just tear my heart out for him. Levi and Gray are going through their own issues, to be sure. It’s been a tough year on them all. Yet, they are so dismissive of Emmitt that I cannot help but be angry with them both.
Of course, with her flair for helping others, Annie can’t help but be there for Emmitt and Paisley and try to guide their father/daughter journey. There are so many layers to Annie, and to this story. While Annie knows her parents love her more than anything, she has always felt like she doesn’t belong anywhere. She was born in Vietnam and grew up in a white affluent neighborhood. Not only is she trying to find her way and discover herself when it comes to love and men, she’s also trying to find her place in the world as a whole. Her situation is drastically different from Paisley’s, but there is still something there that helps her to understand the teenager. Along the way, Annie starts to learn what it means to speak up for herself and to realize it’s okay to lean on others once in a while.
Annie and Emmitt, as I said earlier, are souls who were meant to find each other. Watching their relationship unfold took my breath away. On top of the honesty of their raw feelings that unfold over time, there are things about their relationship, things they say and think, that reference many of may favorite movies and television shows. Not in an obvious way that would make you not enjoy things if you didn’t know they references. Almost like an inside nudge/wink from the author to other fans of these shows that makes the story a lot of fun.
I cannot stress enough the beauty of this story. I wanted to be Annie’s best friend, Emmitt’s confidant, and Paisley’s cool aunt. I wanted to punch Gray and Levi while also giving them hugs. I’m so happy the author is making this a series. I need to see Gray and Levi, as well as Paisley, find deeper happiness in their lives.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**