My first impression of this book was that it was going to be a cute rom-com with the "there's only one bed" trope that would end with a happily ever after. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those kinds of books, and I'll read them any day of the week. But there was just so much more substance to this novel than I had expected. Yes, the chemistry between Anh and Emmitt is undeniable from their first unexpected encounter, and yes, there are a few steamy scenes, but I'd have to agree with other reviewers that the romance doesn't seem like the main focus of this novel. Anh and Emmitt are both struggling with different aspects of their lives, and find themselves leaning on each other to come to much needed realizations. Anh has grappled with her identity every since she was little - feeling too "white" in some circles, too "Asian" in others. She also finds it difficult to understand how every ex-partner has seemingly found "their person" immediately after breaking up with her. Emmitt, on the other hand, feeds off his image that he is a womanizer, but actually only has room in his heart for Paisley, his daughter. He so desperately wants to be a part of her life, but it's hard with a job that requires constant lengthy travel, and the fact that she already has a stepdad and uncle who would do anything to make her happy. They both yearn for a sense of belonging, in the town, in their family, in their society, and maybe, just maybe, through self-depricating humor, roommate agreements, and sticky note arguments, they're able to work through their feelings and achieve just that.
If you're looking for a book with "small-town sweetness, endearing characters, and a unique quirky flair," (in the words of NYT best-selling author Carly Phillips whose blurb is on the back), then I'd definitely recommend picking up RomeAntically Challenged. Marina Adair has crafted a novel with adult characters who are still trying to figure out where to belong in the world, and that's something we love to see. I can't wait for the next installment, Hopeless RomeAntic, when I can dive back into this world surrounding Rome, Rhode Island. A quick thanks to BookishFirst and the publisher, Kensington Books, for the copy - all thoughts and feelings are my own.