REVIEW: When in Rome by C.J. Duggan

In brief: Sammi is going to surprise everyone, leaping out of her comfort zone to go on a tour in Rome. But when she gets there, nobody is more surprised than her – the tour is awful! Except Marcello, the mysterious local guide…

The good: A fun story that combines the horrors of budget travelling with a gorgeous romance.

The not-so-good: Can’t. Wait. For. The. Next. Book. (Hollywood!!)

Why I chose it: Love the Heart of the City series – thanks Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2017

Pages: 322

Publisher: Hachette

Setting: Australia and Rome, Italy

Rating: 9 out of 10

C.J. Duggan has been a real find for me as she writes smart, sassy books with a healthy dose of romance. I can rely on her Heart of the City books to transport me to an exotic locale, complete with strong characters and fun times. I must admit to voting for Tokyo as the next setting, being a fan of Japan. But Rome exceeded all my expectations (and yes, I must concede that it is a more romantic destination than Tokyo). When in Rome has a heroine, Sammi, who we can all relate to and in particular, her experiences of budget travel.

Sammi is the sister of Claire, main character of Paris Lights. She’s quite a bit different to Claire though – less adventurous and more of a homebody. Chips and TV are her go to. But one day she decides to get off her butt and books a Bellissimo Tour to Rome, to the surprise of her family. Sammi is determined to nail this travel thing and break out of her rut. On arriving at the hotel though, her dreams are crushed. It’s more of a hostel with bunk beds, shared bathrooms and the entire tour in the one room. (Oh, and bed bugs). Activities revolve around drinking, sex and more drinking. Sammi wants to fit in, but she’s not really good at drinking, nor fitting in with a bunch of strangers (especially when they are as bitchy as high school girls). She finds herself falling in with the mysterious Marcello, who shows her round Rome and picks her up when she’s under the weather. A summer fling? Sammi’s not sure – after all, it’s nearly time to move on. Until she doesn’t. Sammi’s plans are in tatters and there’s only Marcello to ask for help. Can they get it together?

I really enjoyed When in Rome. Yes, Sammi is pretty young and she does make some dumb decisions (most involving alcohol) but she’s honest in her mixed up feelings. She’s also stronger than she thinks, which really shines through later in the book as she grows. I liked even more that the tour and hotel was a dive as it just made for even more realism. The beauty of Rome contrasted with the horrible hostel (definitely not a hotel in my mind!) was great. The food descriptions were pretty darn good too! Some of the tour companions were a more clichéd in their characters, but it made for more drama. I was in this book for Sammi and Marcello. Marcello was a gentle soul, not a stereotype of the hot Italian hunk. I liked how he was revealed as being just that bit different with his career and lifestyle. The banter between the pair was wonderful too – bit sexy, bit shy but with soul and wit. I felt that When in Rome had a great depth of feeling in addition to the holiday romance. It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Sammi, but she got what she wanted in the end.

Now I can’t wait for the next book in March 2018, Hollywood Heartbreak…bet that will be glamourous…

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