Thursday, November 8, 2018

Book Review: "Roomies" by Christina Lauren

After reading two particularly heavy books, I needed something a little lighter, something that wouldn't leave me emotionally debilitated. Once again this year, I turned to Christina Lauren, two writers whose work I've become a tremendous fan of. (This is the fourth book of theirs I've read this year; the fifth, Autoboyography, was among the best books I read last year.)

I know when I pick up a book of Lauren's I'm bound to find a charming, poignant, utterly engaging, sexy story, full of appealing characters. The plots may be predictable but I usually have a smile on my face when I'm done reading their books, and Roomies was no exception to that rule.

Holland Bakker knows she wants more out of her life, but she doesn't know how to get it. She has always dreamed of being a writer but for some reason can't seem to coax a single word out of her brain. She has depended upon the kindness of her uncles—one of whom is the musical director for one of Broadway's hottest shows—for her NYC apartment and her job, which doesn't fulfill her, but at least she feels part of something.

The only thing that has given her joy over the last six months is her weekly jaunts into the subway station near her house to listen to a street musician whose guitar playing absolutely dazzles her. (The guitarist himself is pretty dazzling, too.) She's never made any contact with him beyond putting money in his guitar case every time she sees him, but she's getting obsessed enough with him that she's even given him a name—Jack.

One night, armed with the courage only alcohol can provide, Holland decides to speak to him—and then fate intervenes, when a homeless man comes after her, wanting her cell phone. The next thing she knows she winds up on the train tracks. Although her musician crush rescued her from a dangerous fate, he disappears before the cops can question them. When she runs into her savior at a concert a few days later, she learns that the Irishman's real name is Calvin—and he's even more talented (not to mention even sexier) than she thought.

In an effort to repay Calvin for his heroics, and help her uncle out of a bind, she gets Calvin an audition for her uncle's Broadway show. He wows everyone, and gets offered a plum position in the orchestra which is sure to make him a star. The only problem? Calvin is in the country illegally, since he let his student visa expire a number of years ago and never did anything about it.

In an effort to help both her uncle and Calvin, Holland makes an impulsive decision and suggests that she and Calvin get married so he can get his green card. She's not willing to admit that she actually has feelings for him, but she figures, how bad could it be to have him around for at least a year? Of course, the fact that she finds him increasingly more sexy every day complicates things, but the chemistry between the two is palpable. But are Calvin's feelings real, or is he just trying to act more authentic to pass their immigration interviews?

"It's not until he's said those words that I understand what really draws me to this. It's unlike anything I would ever do. I am shit at taking risks; I'm bored to hell with my life already, and I'm only twenty-five. Maybe the reason I can't write about fictional life is because I haven't actually lived."

From reading this plot summary, you may have suspicions about how the book will unfold, and you'll probably be right. But that doesn't lessen Roomies' appeal. Holland and Calvin seem utterly believable and completely likable, and I found myself quickly getting invested in their story. You want to root for these characters, you want to shake them when they do stupid things or when they don't say the things they should. And that's the appeal of Lauren's storytelling.

Roomies took a little longer to get rolling than some of their other books, but it's still a fun read, and it once again shows me why Christina Lauren is becoming one of my favorite go-to authors.

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