Room Service by Amy Garvey is an endangered species. A straight-up contemporary romance with no vampires, no werewolves, no serial killers and no women's fiction "issues." Remember those? Contemporary romances?
Olivia Callender inherited the Callender Hotel when her father passed away. Unfortunately she has as much business sense as a fruit cake because even with incredibly low rates, and being in the heart of New York City, business is not booming. Why? Because Olivia is suffering from a fatal case of nostalgia. She sees charm where everyone else sees no room service, a restaurant menu that hasn't been updated since 1955, ugly carpeting, worn upholstery, peeling paint and no wireless Internet access.
One day, while daydreaming (naturally), she almost gets run over by a taxi. Rhys Spencer - a hunky Brit who can cook (making him the perfect man) rescues her. Rhys is one of the finalists in Fork In The Road, a competitive reality cooking show. Filming is on hiatus for a month, and anxious to get away from Los Angeles, he decides a month in New York is just the ticket. Then he rescues Olivia and is immediately smitten. He checks in to her hotel.
To round out the story we have a bunch of eccentric hotel residents and employees, and Olivia's dastardly Uncle Stuart who wants the hotel for himself so he can make a killing with it on the real estate market (and with the real estate prices in NYC, can we blame him?).
This story is not without it's charms, but it has problems - most notably Olivia who drove me half crazy for the first 100 pages. She's so incredibly clueless that it's hard to take her seriously. I kept saying to myself, "This is a businesswoman?!" She won't change anything because it's "original" and that's how it was when she lived at the hotel as a child. Blah, blah, blah, moron. Luckily around page 100 Rhys shags the heck out of her and the incredible orgasms open her eyes. She begins to see that the hotel is falling down around her and sets into motion plans to renovate and drum up business.
Rhys is very yummy. He's hot, he can cook and he's British. That should be enough, right? However, with so much focus on Olivia and her saving the hotel, not much time is devoted to Rhys on a deeper level. There's brief mention of an ex-girlfriend and his mother, who has lied to him his whole life - but none of this is ever dealt with. Mommy Dearest does show up briefly towards the end, but why? Her and Rhys don't resolve anything. Heck, they don't even "talk." It's like she's there just to ratchet up a bit of conflict, but ultimately it fizzles like a camp fire during a thunderstorm.
A final word - none of which has to do with the author, or the writing of this book, I'm just musing out loud - publishers need to realize one thing; readers don't know or care much about word count. We look at the number of pages, and Room Service is a whopping 260 pages (ARC count) with 19 pages of previews for upcoming Brava releases tacked on at the end. And it's a trade paperback selling for $14.00. I know a lot of readers practically dying for straight-up contemporary romances these days, but are they dying enough to pay $14.00? Brava is betting on it.
Personally, while I found Room Service fun, it is a bit on the slight side. I think it would have made a smashing category romance (it's damn near perfect for the now defunct Harlequin Temptation line), but it feels a bit lacking for a full-length single title. Maybe if Garvey had explored Rhys' baggage more, or beefed up the secondary romance (which is very promising), I wouldn't be left with this "nice meal, but not enough on the plate" feeling.
So what are we left with? I liked it, with some quibbles. I also think Garvey has a perfect voice for category romance, but not sure if Harlequin has a line left that's a good fit for her. Blaze, maybe? Man, I really miss the Temptation line.
Final Grade = B-