Part of the Passports to Pleasure Series of standalone romances
Heat Factor: The last bit is a big ole sexathon. On a boat.
Character Chemistry: Instalust becomes instalove
Plot: Hattie goes on vacation and meets an Italian hottie
Overall: There were some gaps and I was left with…questions
So I’ll be honest, this book really didn’t work for me. I’m not saying it’s without merit, because that’s not true; for example, there’s some inventive sex toward the end which is pretty fun, and some lovely food porn. Reading made me want to visit Sorrento, which is a great bonus in a vacation romance. And I always love reading about older protagonists—Hattie is celebrating her 40th birthday.
However, I had problems both from a personal standpoint and from a critical standpoint. I will therefore divide this review into “Me Problems” and “Critic Problems.” If you’re not interested in my personal nit-picking, skip the first chunk.
The opening scene shows Hattie having an absolute hissy fit in Matteo’s bike shop because she booked the wrong bike tour and the biking and tasting tour she thought she was going to go on is not available. It’s very ugly American abroad, and I did not dig it. What does she expect this guy to do? Give her a private tour? Of course, that is what ends up happening because of romance reasons, but the opening did not get me started on this story feeling empathy toward our female protagonist.
Hattie also has some verbal tics that I found distracting. She says “Ayuh” a lot. I think it’s the author’s way of her saying yeah with a thick New England accent? (Hattie is from Bar Harbor, Maine.) Hattie also refers to her “inner goddess” as if she were in Fifty Shades of Grey. Both of these things pulled me out of the story whenever they happened.
Not sure whether to file this under a “Me Problem” or a “Critic Problem,” because it represents a legit gap in logic, but it also bothered me way more than it should.
Ok, so Matteo brings Hattie to a fancy schmancy restaurant run by his sister, and is greeted by his niece—in English. This child, who seems like she’s 5-ish, also has a whole conversation with Hattie. Yes, I understand that many books feature dialogue in English that would normally be in another language, but it made no sense here. Throughout the book, Matteo speaks Italian to Hattie (things like “Farò l’amore con te sulla spaggia” which Google translate tells me means “I’ll make love to you on the beach”) and Hattie clearly *does not understand what he’s saying.* She responds by saying things like “What’s that?” or “Huh?” or “You know I don’t understand.” So there’s no way that Hattie would be able to hold a full-ass conversation with an Italian child, who would definitely, if nothing else, speak to her relatives in Italian.
The point I’m making is that Italian is used in a weird way in the text, such that it’s only made sexy. I’m not sure that this is a problem, per se, but I did feel some kind of way about it.
The biggest problem with this book is that it’s underdeveloped. I thought it could use some fleshing out on both the macro plot level and on the micro scene level.
On the smaller level, the transitions between scenes are often abrupt. When Hattie and Matteo are biking around Sorrento, I was frequently unsure what they were doing with their bodies. Had they climbed off their bikes, or were they doing awkward duck walks with the bikes between their legs? When they’re having their bone-athon, there’s no refractory period between orgasms, which made the pace of the boning feel more frantic and less sexy—and also was a missed opportunity for pillow talk.
There are also larger gaps. The most glaring is that Matteo is a recluse because he’s a former playboy Tour de France winner whose last girlfriend (a beloved young Spanish Princess) died in a tragic boating accident in which Matteo was implicated. Hattie is a journalist whose boss finds out that Matteo is in the same town Hattie is in (HOW????) and wants her to write a scoop. This has potential to be a Big Conflict. There’s a secret! There’s a scandal! Matteo never visits his family! Hattie is under pressure at work to betray him! But none of this is fleshed out. Rather it’s handwaved away—Hattie believes Matteo that it was a tragic accident and doesn’t need to hear details. The end.
In a later scene, they go swimming and Matteo is all freaked out because the cave they swim into is “cursed.” But this fear is never explained and then Hattie gives him an underwater blow job and that’s the end of that. Another potential moment of drama, conflict, and intimacy through sharing something besides an erect penis not taken advantage of.
In the end, the fact that none of these potential conflicts were fleshed out led to lack of intimacy that wasn’t directly about sex also meant that I didn’t quite buy their HEA. Since the whole book takes place over a single day, I really needed to be sold on the intimacy, and I was left with nothing but a vacation fantasy leading nowhere.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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