What does a young woman do when she suddenly finds herself wandering down the narrow, cobblestone bedlam of Rome’s roads? Why fall in love of course! And that’s exactly what does happens to Sammi Shorten, a green Aussie wannabe traveller, despite promising her worried mother a week before flying out, “…one thing I do know is that I will not be falling for some gorgeous Italian man on my trip”.
Sadly, the reality of arriving in this exotic land is far from her expectations or long-held dreams of marble-clad hotels and elegant king-sized suites. A flea-bitten hotel smelling and looking like a crime-scene, a shared bathroom for both genders and no privacy but lots of gross noises and smells, and no-one who seems to have a clue as to what’s going on is what awaits her in the Eternal City. This definitely wasn’t what she signed up for on that fateful day in a travel agency in the Land Down Under.
At least that’s what she thinks until the gorgeous Marcello turns up — a man with some obscure connection to her ‘Bellissimo Tour’ adventure — and those steady hands and sexy eyes soon draw her into his spell.
Along with a strange assortment of characters who hail from a variety of countries on this trip of a lifetime, are the sights and sounds — oh, and those delicious food choices — that are all part of Rome’s uniqueness and charm.
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In some parts, there were forms of slapstick humour, which I found a little tedious after a while and felt it really only suited a late teen to 20-something audience. Overall, I much prefer her previous work, New York Nights. It was far more grown-up and had characters who touched your heart, along with a mystery that kept you turning the pages, while these characters seemed shallow and far less endearing.
The tour itself, along with her travel companions, seemed more of the 1980s Contiki kind — too much booze and hangovers so the sights take second place to getting blotto every night. Hopefully, C. J. Duggan’s next novel will delve deeper into the heart of the characters and draw you in right from the start.
In saying that, I did enjoy walking Rome’s streets again and being reminded of the feeling of seeing those fascinating historical sites from our two-week self-planned sojourn in Italy eight years ago. In fact, it made me want to hop on a plane tomorrow, even though it’s a long long way from Australia, just to be enthralled by her mystery and romanticism all over again.
When in Rome by C. J. Duggan, is available in paperback and digital editions from the publisher Hachette Australia, click here for details.