In this lighthearted romance novel, Amelia Tate is an up-and-coming actress cast to play the part of Princess Ann in a remake of “Roman Holiday.” When the reader first meets her, she’s standing on the balcony of her suite at the Hassler Hotel in Rome, the same suite Audrey Hepburn stayed in while filming the original “Roman Holiday” in 1952. Amelia can see the Spanish Steps, the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the dim outline of the Vatican. Her head is still reeling from her first press conference, from jetlag, and from too much champagne and lack of food. It’s all a fairy tale.
Like Princess Ann, she’s overwhelmed with responsibility and runs away, hiding her borrowed Balenciaga gown along with her borrowed expensive accessories in the hotel’s laundry. She helps herself to a maid’s uniform and steals into the night where she ends up sharing a cab with journalist Philip Hamilton. The jetlag and champagne on an empty stomach finally win out. She falls asleep in the cab, only to wake in Hamilton’s apartment the next morning.
When she returns to her hotel to retrieve her gown, she meets a woman in the laundry running from two men—a real princess on the lam.
Yes, it is all silly, but no law requires books be serious to be enjoyable. What disqualifies this book is its poor writing and editing. A few rookie mistakes (e.g., “pouring” over pages) can be forgiven, especially if the book is fun, but what drives the needle on the annoyance meter over the red line are the repeated blunders like comma splices on nearly every page. No character enters a scene without a rundown on his or her wardrobe, recited usually without the benefit of a comma all those run-on sentences must be absorbing:
“Max approached his table. He wore a striped collared shirt and blue jeans and sneakers.” (p. 126)
“[Max] wore blue jeans and white sneakers and was eating a chocolate croissant.” (p. 195)
“Max opened the door and entered the living room. He wore a yellow collared shirt and jeans and sneakers. His camera was slung over his shoulder and he carried a packet of digestive biscuits.” (p. 201)
Food and restaurants receive similar treatments. When Amelia falls for Philip, she longs for him to “take her over the edge.” (p. 187) During their first sexual encounter, Amelia is “carried over the edge.” (p.220) This is the stuff of parody.
An additional wrinkle is Amelia’s finding letters written by Audrey Hepburn in a drawer in her hotel suite. The find is already of low probability, but there appears to be little effort put forth to differentiate the voice of the letter writer from the voice of the narrator. The putative Ms. Hepburn is also given to obsessing about clothes and food. This made the suspension of disbelief difficult.
The premise for the book—Amelia living “Roman Holiday” while filming it—is cute and could have been fun, but the book’s poor writing and poor editing got in the way.