I'm dubbing today "princess day" on the blog, because we're reviewing and giving away two princess-related books.
First up is Rome in Love, the story of Amelia Tate, a young actress who is given the chance to star in Audrey Hepburn's iconic role in a remake of Roman Holiday.
However, as she delves deeper into Audrey's role, Amelia begins learning more about love, and what she wants in her own life.
Published August 4th 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin
Format read: Finished copy, via publisher
As Amelia Tate walks in the footsteps set by Audrey Hepburn before her, this story shows how some questions about life, love and the pursuit of happiness, are eternal questions.
When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful Rome for the next two months.
Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble.
While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?
With her sensory descriptions of the beautiful sites, decadent food, and high fashion of Rome, Hughes draws readers into this fast-paced and superbly written novel. Rome in Love will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.
Things that worked:
It's hard writing a character that serves as both a throwback to an classic icon and works as an up-and-coming ingenue in her own right, but that's exactly how Hughes has written Amelia Tate.
Amelia shines with the promise of someone who's about to take the world by storm in today's modern age, but we also see how both her personality and work ethic are also very reflective of the young actresses that dominated Hollywood during their Golden Age.
Both her yearning for wanting to enjoy her life, and her ability to appreciate both the small things (e.g. watching Philip make breakfast for her) along with typical Hollywood glamour, make her immensely relatable, and likable to any reader.
As for the secondary characters, Hughes has created a funny, winning combination of both friend and foe alike. Sophie is intriguing and likable, even if her story with Theo is one that we've heard often before. And Philip and his crew present very human, honest examples of people who are just struggling to make it in the world, and Hughes does a nice job of pointing out how they so quickly get caught up in Amelia's world.
While I had some challenges with the writing - more on this later - Hughes has done an extraordinary job with the world-building.
I felt like I was living alongside Amelia as she had the opportunity to fall in love with Rome and their people, and this book has absolutely reawakened my love of the city - I need to go back to Europe!
As for plotting: the book takes over an abbreviated amount of time - three weeks. Hughes has written a lovely, whirlwind romance, and makes everything seem feasible and enjoyable.
While the relationship with Philip is the very definition of whirlwind, Hughes makes a strong case for just how and why some relationships are able to work so instantaneously. She shows through both Audrey's letters, and Amelia's own interactions with the two men in her life, that sometimes, you meet the right person, and you need to fight for what you want.
On that note...
While the book is very much Amelia's (and by proxy, Audrey's) journey, Hughes also makes it a point to include some nice subplots on how the pursuit of love, is ultimately connected to family and familial love.
Both Philip and Sophie struggle with the idea of living up to their family obligations, and Hughes deftly explores how that struggles influences the type of romantic relationships that they seek out. We see how relationships help them stand up for what they want, but als remind them of the imporance of what they're fighting for.
Without giving spoilers away: the ending is both a nice nod to Hepburn's legacy, and also a wonderful reminder that Amelia's adventure is just beginning. Hughes very much emphasizes the fact that she has the world ahead of her, and we don't know where she'll go next.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
My one issue with the Rome in Love, actually had nothing to do with the overall story. Instead, I found Hughes's writing slightly awkward at times, with some transitional issues between flashbacks and present day.
E.g. There was an instance in the opening chapters, where a character ends up having a flashback of a time that she had a flashback - which was a tad confusing, to say the least.
However, I can appreciate the fact that Hughes was obviously utilizing those flashbacks to increase her world-building, and I strongly believe that she'll only get better as time progresses.
With the Eternal City as her backdrop, Anita Hughes has crafted a dual narrative, which asks readers to question the value of life, love and pursuing a person's individual happiness. Hughes wonderfully imagines Audrey Hepburn's struggles with this very question as she took on the persona of Princess Ann, and also shows the universality of those questions, as Anita grapples with them as well.
I strongly recommend Rome in Love for readers who are looking to be transported to both one of the most beautiful cities on earth, while also enjoying a sub-story about the elegant, golden age of Hollywood.
About the author:
ANITA HUGHES is the author of Lake Como, Monarch Beach, Market Street, and French Coast. She attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel. For more information about Anita and her books, visit anitahughesbooks.com.