REVIEW: “Roomies” by Christina Lauren

“Roomies” is not only a super-sexy and sweet Romance but it’s a beautiful Love Letter to Musical Theater and Broadway.  The dynamic writing duo that is known as Christina Lauren concocts a world filled with charming and likable characters.  These characters fairly walk and breathe right off the page; and those are just the secondary characters.  The Heroine, Holland’s an extremely intriguing.  She’s a “people pleaser” described as being a supporting player in her own life story.  Her actions are ultimately selfish, to get close to Calvin and perhaps have a relationship with him.  But primarily she does it to save her uncle’s show and give Calvin a shot at a Broadway career.  Calvin’s more straight-forward.  He’s an illegal, alien by-way-of Ireland, insanely talented, charismatic, with a sexy accent.  The sexual tension and chemistry is through-the-roof with the main characters and their story is riveting.

There are certain days of the week that Holland Bakker goes out of her way to unnecessarily take the subway.  For months she’s been going to the Fiftieth Street Station to hear a busker she’s named “Jack” play his guitar.  “Jack” never looks up or speaks so she doesn’t know what color his eyes are nor what he sounds like.  Never-the-less she’s … entranced.  Holland decides to go on a Friday night after having some drinks with friends.  That night “Jack” looks at her with green eyes and greets her with an Irish brogue.  Embarrassingly Holland gushes at how she loves his music.  She tells him her name and she learns his real name is Calvin.

Unfortunately when Holland walks away from Calvin she starts to get harassed by a drunken bum.  The vagrant is rather aggressive and accusing her of taking his phone.  Calvin’s back to playing his guitar and isn’t paying attention.  Since it’s late there’s no one in the station when the drunk pushes Holland onto the tracks.  The next thing Holland knows she’s coming-to in an ambulance with the EMTs believing she jumped since there’re no witnesses.  However someone called 911 to tell them that someone had fallen on the tracks.  Holland sees that Calvin’s there and asks him to tell them she didn’t jump but he silently leaves.

Holland’s uncles pick her up at the hospital.  They don’t believe she was suicidal.  She tells them the story of finally talking to Jack/Calvin and the aggressive drunk and they believe her.  The only thing that bothers Holland is why Calvin didn’t stay and tell the police about her attacker.  After Holland recuperates she plans on going to the subway station to talk to Calvin.

One of Holland’s uncles is her mother’s brother, Jeff, a financial guy.  Robert became the concertmaster for the Des Moines Symphony after he met Robert while in town for his interview.  It was Love At First Sight.  Now Holland works as the archivist for her uncle’s Broadway show.  She takes behind-the-scenes photos for promotional material and during performances she sells merchandise.  The only reason Holland got the job’s because Robert’s the composer of the hottest show on Broadway, “It Possessed Him“.  Although the job is relatively easy she has an MFA in Writing and dreams of writing novels.  Holland is lost; she hasn’t written in ages and has no inspiration.  The only interesting thing in her life is her obsession with the mysterious guitar-playing street performer.

In the show, the original lead actor will be leaving the production soon.  The way the show is written, his performing partner is actually the lead violinist in the orchestra.  As it happens the violinist is an extremely temperamental diva.  He reaches his breaking point and abruptly quits the show.  The new replacement lead performer is a rich and powerful baritone.  Unfortunately the violinist they currently have will not be a compelling performance partner for him.  This has Robert extremely concerned about the future of the show.  Which has Holland concerned for him.  However Holland has a brainwave.  Holland starts thinking that a classical guitar might be a better solution.  Robert is hesitant about putting all of his hopes on Holland’s unrequited crush.  But he accompanies her to listen to Calvin play.

Holland and her uncle go to the Fiftieth Street station.  As they descend the stairs she can tell her uncle’s affected by Calvin’s talent.  When they get to the front of the crowd Calvin looks up and immediately, and surprisingly recognizes Holland’s uncle.  Robert is impressed and wants Calvin to play for some people at the theatre.  Everything plays out perfectly and the powers-that-be want to offer the position to Calvin.  Unfortunately when they make Calvin the offer he confesses that his student visa ran out four years ago.  He’s in the country illegally and can’t take the position.

Holland’s hateful immediate boss makes a comment that Holland should just marry Calvin so he can get a green card.  She’s been crushing on him long enough.  This angers Holland’s uncle Robert and embarrasses Holland.  However the longer Holland thinks about it the more it seems like a not-too-farfetched idea.  The risk to the show is great.  So many shows close when their established lead performer leaves.  Holland knows if Calvin performs with the new star the show will be revitalized.  It’ll be just as good if not better than ever.  Holland feels as though she owes it to her uncle because he’s done so much for her.  Plus this is the opportunity of a lifetime for Calvin; to become a Broadway star.  He had attended Julliard and Broadway was his dream.  Holland decides to talk to Calvin and propose they marry so he can be in the show.

Holland asks Calvin to lunch so they can talk and there’s an energy between them.  She tells Calvin about marrying him so he can perform in her uncle’s show.  She wants to do this for both of them.  Holland says it will be temporary only the amount of time the new star will be performing; about a year.  Calvin’s hesitant but Holland convinces him she wants to do it and for him it’s the chance of a lifetime.  Calvin agrees.  Their arrangement is for them to be platonic.  They go to city hall and marry.  Calvin has a touching tradition that make it seem more than just a marriage of convenience.  For Holland, she’s been emotionally invested for months; she’s got to be careful of her feelings.

The uncles don’t take the news of the marriage very well, at first, however Robert becomes agreeable more quickly.  After all he show is getting saved.  Holland and Calvin try to spend as much time getting to know each other as possible.  They have to deal with interviews with the immigration department.  If they aren’t believable people could go to prison.  However after an evening of drinking and celebration Calvin and Holland awake naked in her bed.  Things happened.  Holland’s awkward for a few days but they both like each other and want the physical aspect to their relationship.  It seems as though the couple is on track to becoming an honest-to-goodness-love-match.  Holland and Calvin go to the theater together everyday and then back home.  They are together almost twenty-four hours a day, everyday.  And they touch every chance they get.

Calvin had told Holland he told his family he was marrying her from the start and his family was happy.  Holland never confessed to going out of her way to see him perform in the subway.  It came out during their interview but Calvin thought Holland made it up.  However Calvin learns that Holland came to watch him play a few days a week for months.  She knew his schedule and made up a name for him before she learned his real name.  This totally wigs Calvin out and they have a big fight and Holland flees to her uncles.  This blows over quickly.  But when Calvin’s mother and sister come to visit from Ireland a secret Calvin’s been hiding emerges.  That combined with doubts and insecurities cause Holland to believe Calvin’s been playing her.  Not-to-mention the continuing investigation by the government into the validity of their marriage.

“Roomies” is a book I can see myself re-reading – and soon.  I’m a theater-geek from way back and there’s just something so magical about this book.  Calvin and Holland are likable and engaging.  Holland’s obsession with the way Calvin says, “think” – “tink” is adorable.  All the way around.  The characters are richly vulnerable, sublimely sexy, there’s a smidge of angst and a delightful dollop of romp.  Christina Lauren have written a well-rounded wonderfully enchanting romance that will leave you with a smile on your face.

I’m giving “Roomies” 5 Lightning Bolts and a Storm Warning.

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed.

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