Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: Roomies

Title: Roomies
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary | Romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Source: Library
Format: Physical

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.
Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.
Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago (goodreads)?

I'm still processing how I feel about Roomies. 
Plot: So...I probably should have read the synopsis before picking this one up, but I was so swept up in the hype that I just didn't care. The overall basis for Roomies was that Holland, the female lead, suggested a green card marriage for an Irish musician who could potentially save her uncle's Broadway hit. Roomies went through all of the motions I have come to expect from contemporary romances: there was jealousy, insecurities, and finally accepting of the sexual chemistry and trying to define the relationship. It was pretty standard, but one aspect didn't sit well with me: the green card marriage. 

My problem with this is very Amber-centric and I'm sure most readers would be able to continue without much distress, but I can't. I work in international education so I work very closely with visas and visa denial rates. As someone who knows how hard it can be to get a visa for the United States, it really bothered me how easy it was for Holland and Calvin to go through with a 'sham marriage'. 

I also have a handful of friends who have gone through the K-1 visa/fiance visa process and it was hard to accept what Calvin and Holland were doing after seeing how nerve-wracking the process was for my friends. I was also bothered because of its failure to acknowledge the serious repercussions of visa overstays. Irish citizens have easy access to the United States and it irritated me by how chill everyone was that he was in the United States on an expired visa. I say this because I know citizens from other countries would get much harsher treatment than just "oh, we can fix that!" 

In this political climate, it's impossible to ignore what countries have access to the United States while others are all but shunned from entry. So yeah, that's my short rant about how the visa/green card process was handled in Roomies. I'm extremely close to immigration so this probably impacted me more than it would other readers. 

Characters: Despite my problems with the premise, I found Calvin to be a refreshing male lead. He was in tune with his emotions and seemed very forward with where he wanted his relationship with Holland to go. It was Holland who lived in her head and questioned every aspect of their interactions. I liked her because she was soul-searching and had realistic vulnerabilities. I was also impressed by the diversity in Roomies, Holland's uncle was gay and married to a Ghanaian prodigy. I enjoyed her relationship with her uncles, especially Bobert, as they were a fun mix of parents and best friends.

Worldbuilding: If you couldn't tell from the cover, Roomies was very NYC-centric. It felt very "New York" because the scenes ranged from the MTA to the Broadway stage. I really liked how Christina Lauren portrayed New York; their descriptions were filled with obvious love and it was easy to fall into the Big Apple. 

Short N Sweet: Roomies hits all the notes that are expected from a romance novel, but I didn't like the idea of the green card marriage.


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