Review: Romeo, Romeo, Robin Kaye

Cover comment: Well… it’s better than this one. Nothing says sexy like green latex gloves!

My take in brief: Despite the fact that this book forced me to ingest way more than my daily allowance of pernicious stereotypes, I did enjoy this light sweet contemporary overall.

Setting: Present day New York city, especially Brooklyn’s gentrified Park Slope.

Series: No.

Heroine and Hero: Rosalie “Lee” Ronaldi, corporate turnaround expert, curvy Italian with curly hair, with average amount of dating experience, and an above average amount of resistance to the idea of commitment and marriage. Dominick “Nick” Romeo, owner of several car dealerships, tall dark and 6 packed. Sex experience: lost count, relationship experience: zero. Both natives of NYC, both Italians with close meddling families.

Plot: The tension in the relationship is mainly internal for both of these play-the-fielders who cannot possibly be in love. But there’s also a subplot involving Nick’s shady past and Rosalie’s assignment to rescue a failed car dealership which Nick hopes will fail so he can take it over.

Distinctive feature: The man is the domestic in this relationship, and we know this because he moves in with the heroine almost immediately and buys her a vacuum cleaner.

Word on the Web:

Rambling on Romance, Kristie(j), 3.5 out of 5

Nicola, Alpha Heroes, mixed but positive overall

Jane, AAR, B+

JenB, B+

Book Binge, 4.5

Jill D., Romance Rookie, B+, 5 stars after 2 customer reviews

Fun Factoid: The author talks about writing here. She says, “Here’s the soundtrack for Romeo Romeo: “Romeo, Romeo has a soundtrack that’s eclectic, to say the least. Death Cab For Cutie’s “Coney Island” rolls into Lou Monte’s “Please Mr. Columbus (turn the ship around).” The Pussycat Dolls’ “Sway,” Kristy MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York,” Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” Avi Vinocur’s “L-Train,” The Cranberries, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Landon Pigg, Ben Taylor…the list goes on.”

The Racy Romance Review:

This is an enjoyable, light contemporary overall. I liked Nick and Lee, and was interested to see how they would overcome their reluctance to commit. Romeo, Romeo kept me interested from beginning to end. I also liked it that Lee was serious about her career and never wavered in this, without being portrayed as some kind of ice woman who needed manly melting. Romeo, Romeo was well-written and there was a lot of fun dialogue, something I tend to like.

I also liked it that they moved in together and started having sex very quickly. This meant (a) I didn’t have to put up with much mental lusting (the intimate scenes were some of the best in the book), and (b) the bulk of the book was devoted to the mundane ways people fall in love (not just sex, but cook for each other, talk to each other, watch hockey together, etc.), something I never tire of reading about, given that I think it’s one of great things about human existence. It was nice to see Nick do all the wonderful things he did for Lee. The way the author portrayed two lives becoming one without either of them saying anything — just one day the boxers are in the drawer next to the panties — was very sweet and, I think, true to many people’s experiences.

On the other hand, there was one thing that really bothered me about this book: the stereotyping and the caricatures.

For example, the stereotyping of gay men. It’s 2008. Aren’t we beyond the days when the hero has to worry that the gay male neighbor will jump him if he spies his erection? Aren’t we beyond the days when the gay friends are “fashionistas”, and the only evidence of this is their sexual orientation? And aren’t we beyond the days when it’s believable that a heroine would ever say to a gay male friend: “How do you know so much about macho mojo?”? Or tolerate references to a “freakin’ fairy car”? Lines like “The only people who work in flower shops are women and gay men.” turned me right off.

The book is about two Italians in New York. Certainly the author knows her Brooklyn, having grown up there, and the descriptions of things like the brownstones were evocative without being too heavy. If only the same could be said for the cultural descriptors.  I expect there to be stuff about food, some accent stuff, etc. But multiple references to the Godfather, a secondary character called “my cousin Vinny”, a mother calling her daughter “puttana”, reaming her out on a daily basis for not being married and pregnant ( “Do you want I should die of a heart attack before I ever hold a grandchild?”), constant “stunards” and “madonnes”, signs of the cross and references to the Virgin Mary? Big pasta family dinners? I can’t tell you what the line is between appropriate ethnic description and stereotyping, but I felt it was crossed several times here. (The bitch mother is a special pet peeve of mine, as posted here.)

I was also disturbed by the stereotypes of women that populated the book.  Lee is insecure about her figure, and “always relegates herself to eating salads when she starts dating someone new”. Nick is prone to making references to Lee’s “world class ass” — classy huh? Ok, I’m reading a romance novel, and a lot of women are truly insecure. I can deal. And Nick does come to value Lee for a lot more than her, ahem, assets.

But that’s the least of it.

Nick’s attitude that he cannot tell Lee that he is rich because then he won’t be able to trust her tells us a lot more about Nick than women, but everyone, including Lee, seems to share the idea that women are mainly money grubbing whores and finding a non-golddigger is like finding a needle in a hay stack.  I have already mentioned the pronatalist mother (“Put some makeup on, for God’s sake.”), but there’s the 90 pound grandmother who is a saint with a heart of steel, there’s the jealous bitchy sister with the big wedding to plan, the bosomy doctor who is described as “Dr. Barbie” and hits on Nick, knowing he is with Lee, etc. Lee herself describes an attractive woman she has never met as a “blonde bimbo” (she turns out to be the wife of a friend, but Lee is never chagrined at her snap judgment).

Lee’s assistant, Gina, is described as a “cross between Jessica Rabbit and Tinkerbelle with a Latin twist” whom Lee knows not to bring to meetings because “nothing is accomplished”. Ok, either said assistant is dressing unprofessionally, or there’s sexual harassment going on in the meetings, maybe both. Either way, any executive worth her salt would fix this situation, and fast. Worse, Lee tells us that her and Gina’s periods are synched and her boss has the dates on his Blackberry. But they’re such good friends that when Gina squints in concentration, Lee thinks to herself that Gina will need Botox before she’s thirty. Never let a silly thing like using your brain interfere with wrinkle prevention!

If I were just to rate this book on the interactions and romance between the main characters, I would say it was very good — I certainly kept reading it all weekend —  but when I add in the bewildering array of secondary characters, who were about as three dimensional as Jessica Rabbit, my opinion changes for the worse. Readers of this blog know that I am pretty sensitive to this sort of thing, given my profession and worldview. Your mileage may vary. I believe this is the first outing for Ms. Kaye, and I will be interested to see what the next book looks like.

Published in: on October 27, 2008 at 6:52 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have never read a review of a romance book which is so detailed and so interestig to read.

  2. Sounds like you had some of the same reservations as I did. This was the first book I read after reading Broken Wing and I wasn’t sure if I was being fair or not. But your review confirms that even though I was still in the after glow of a previous book that rocked my reading world, I did manage to be as fair as I could be.
    I also found Gina to be irritating and way too intrusive into Lee’s life.
    One thing you didn’t mention in your review, but I found very irritating was the mother. As she didn’t seem to really care about Lee at all and just steam rolled over what Lee had to say about the previous boyfriend, I didn’t care for her character at all.

  3. And I should stop skim reading!!! You did mention the annoying mother *smacking head*

  4. Thanks Violet, although I am hardly alone among romance reviewers in biting a book and shaking that thing until it’s good and lifeless.

    Kristie: LOL! Your comment inspired my first poll!

  5. I just finished this book and I thought most of the supporting female characters sucked, with the exception of Lois and that really cool aunt.

    I *loved* Nick. He redeemed the book for me.

    I read a lot of gay romance, so I’m not even gonna say what those latex gloves brought to my mind. O_O

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