Murder in the Hamptons

 
Room Service
by Amy Garvey
(Brava, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-1591-6
***
Amy Garvey’s second full length novel for Brava is practically an endangered species – a straight-up contemporary romance. No vampires. No werewolves. No kinky sex. No serial killer. Just good, old fashioned romance, and despite a couple of bumps in the road, it’s a charming read.

Olivia Callender inherited the run-down Callender Hotel when her father passed away. While it is in the heart of New York City, and rates are beyond reasonable, business hasn’t been so good. Olivia has a serious problem with nostalgia. She grew up in the hotel and romanticizes everything about it. So where she sees “charm,” others see ugly worn-out carpeting, no wireless Internet access, and a hotel restaurant that hasn’t updated its menu since 1955.

One day, head in the clouds, Olivia almost becomes road kill. Pushing her out of the way of the taxi is sexy Brit, Rhys Spencer. Rhys is a chef currently competing in a reality cooking show competition called Fork In The Road. With a month off before they shoot the finale, Rhys wants nothing more than to get the heck out of Los Angeles. New York seems like a good stop, and once he lays eyes on Olivia he has a plan. He’s down-right smitten with the girl, and she’s so unlike the botoxed, bimbo, plastic surgery junkies he’s met in L.A. He checks into her hotel and sets about wooing her.

In between the romance, there are other shenanigans going on. The hotel is home to some eccentric residents, Olivia is largely oblivious, and her dastardly Uncle Stuart wants the hotel for himself- well not the hotel, just the ridiculously valuable property it sits on.

Room Service takes some time to heat up, mainly because of Olivia. It’s rather hard to like a heroine who is so perpetually clueless. It’s amazing the hotel hasn’t fallen down around her ears prior to Rhys showing up and rescuing her. She’s a horrible businesswoman, and it’s impossible to take her seriously. Luckily she gets a wake-up call once she has some mind-blowing sex with Rhys (around page 100). Seems the incredible orgasms open up her eyes and she starts to actually see the peeling paint, worn upholstery, and ugly carpeting – setting in motion her plans to renovate the hotel and drum up business with a Halloween Monster’s Ball.

Rhys is the perfect romance hero – charming, sexy and a nice guy. Honestly though, this is really Olivia’s show and how she’s going to save her hotel. Rhys gets rather superficial treatment, and it shows when it comes to emotional baggage. There’s an ex-girlfriend mentioned, but never really talked about at any length, and a mother who has been lying to him his whole life. She makes a brief appearance in the story, but given that not much is done with her, and Rhys’ issues with her are not resolved, one wonders why she’s mentioned at all?

This is a slim novel (the advanced copy clocks in at 260 pages), that’s a fast read perfect for a summertime escape. It’s not terribly deep, and while there are bumps in character development, it’s a pleasant way to wile away an afternoon. For readers desperate for a contemporary that doesn’t involve the paranormal or a serial killer these issues will probably be easier to overlook.

--Wendy Crutcher


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