Rome in Love by Anita Hughes
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on August 4, 2015
Genres: [Adult] Contemporary
Format: Paperback, ARC
3 Stars, Completed August 1, 2015
– SPOILER free –
I think it was an advantage that prior to Rome in Love I had no background knowledge on Audrey Hepburn* except that she’s an iconic actress that has influenced and inspired many people. It was also nice to read this not having watched Roman Holiday. I was able to dive in with a fresh mind with no particular expectations.
Rome in Love is a story of a young actress, resembling Audrey Hepburn named Amelia, that takes on the role of Princess Ann in the remake of Roman Holiday. In Rome while shooting the film, Amelia meets a real princess, Sophie. Sophie is in Rome taking time off from her royal duties, and she seems to truly be reliving a “Roman Holiday.” Amelia is having a blast exploring her new self as an actress and visiting the diverse Italian venues with Sophie, but then her boyfriend of three years decides to break up with her over her acting career. Along the way, she also happens to meet Philip, an American journalist that is keeping a few secrets of his own, and is under the impression Amelia is a hotel maid. Misunderstandings arise and Amelia’s left with tough decisions about love, friendship, and the acting profession. Just in time, she finds Audrey Hepburn’s secret letters in the very same hotel room Audrey stayed in over half a century ago; and Audrey’s evident intellect and wisdom shows through the yellowed letters guiding Amelia through the struggles she’ll have to face.
I’ll begin with how I was very impressed by the Italian cultural references incorporated in the story. The flaw about these books with travel is that they often do not have enough detail or the main character lacks cultural immersion, but I didn’t feel that way at all with Rome in Love. There were plenty of great, authentic Italian dishes I recognized and others that were foreign but seemingly delicious enough for me to research and watch recipe videos of (who else loves the Chiappa sisters?). The use of art in this was absolutely perfect. In high school and college I took several art classes, the last one being art appreciation last semester. It was wonderful that famous Italian art like Michelangelo’s fresco paintings in the Sistine Chapel and the architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica were mentioned and properly detailed. Also several Renaissance artists like Botticelli were discussed. Hughes did a convincing job of making the readers believe Amelia was a lover of the arts.
Speaking of Amelia, that was where I began to have problems. I was slowly getting into Amelia’s character in the first couple of chapters but then she stopped becoming any further developed. In my opinion, nothing was very complex or dynamic about Amelia’s character so I sort of gave up on her. The entire Inside Rome newspaper deal with Philip made him an instant non-boyfriend, or I guess in this case husband, material. So I wasn’t too keen of his character and invested in the Amelia/Philip romance. However, the subplot with the real Roman Holiday-esque romance between Sophie and Theo was fun though at times predictable. And the best plot and what kept me reading-though I’m kind of hesitant to say it-was Audrey Hepburn’s letters.
I have some qualms mentioning this because I’m not sure if I’m qualified to discuss these letters in a critic’s perspective since my knowledge of Audrey is still very limited. I couldn’t confirm if the letters were accurate but they were believable and fun. And if you’re wondering if this is a good Roman Holiday inspired remake? To play it safe I’d say this could go either way for most readers. Audrey Hepburn and Roman Holiday fans may have a hard time feeling entertained by the simplistic, predictable plot (I will explain in the next paragraph). Since I have no background on either subjects, I was able to enjoy the idea of the letters and Audrey Hepburn inspired-throwbacks with an easy mind.
However, it did slightly bother me that the somewhat slow burning romance became too dominant instead of Amelia’s remake of Roman Holiday. By the second half of the book Amelia was pretty troubled with Philip and figuring out how much longer she should keep secrets about her being an actress from him; and I recall having read only one film scene in Amelia’s rendition of Roman Holiday. I was hoping there’d be more scenes of Amelia on set and her experiences as an up-and-coming, rookie actress. Like I said this wasn’t a huge deal breaker in terms of me liking the book because readers do get a sense of the acting though Audrey’s letters and perspective.
The last thing that actually irked me and forced me to rate this book lower was how the luxurious lives Audrey and Amelia’s were relayed. To be frank, the writing was incredibly factual and somewhat made the readers feel disconnected with the characters. I think it’s totally okay to write in third person-I actually think that gives the author an advantage to share and illustrate the perspectives of many characters that way. I also think it’s fine that the readers should be given a sense on how wealthy these actresses and princess can be while vacationing in Rome. But I could have lived without the brand name descriptions or Amelia “spritzing her wrist with Estée Lauder’s Lovely perfume” every time she left out the door. And I’m sorry that poor Max literally wore and was depicted in the same outfit too many times to count.
However, I go back that there were still some nice moments that had me laughing-especially the scenes with Max. That guy is smooth, I tell you.
Overall, I enjoyed this fun homage to the film Roman Holiday. I also give major points to Hughes for making her readers want to learn more about Audrey Hepburn, the decadent food mentioned, and Italian art depicted. I actually ended up watching several documentaries and interviews with Audrey Hepburn after reading Rome in Love. She really does seem like an intelligent, lovely woman. I can see why a lot of individuals look up to her. And I’m definitely picking up Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to watch next weekend!
*Fun fact: For some reason I was so compelled to call her Aubrey instead of Audrey throughout this entire review. Like I, for real, went back and proofread for that name alone. 😄
I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book. Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin for sending me this review copy! (And special thanks to Staci, a St. Martin’s Griffin’s publicist.)