The language and dialogue in the opening of Charmingly Yours remind me of the old TV sitcom Designing Women. But while I enjoyed Designing Women, it took me multiple attempts to read the first chapters of this romance. The author seems to introduce a cast of thousands and most use endless similes – generally with a Southern reference. While things picked up eventually, the author’s writing style isn’t to my taste. Combine that with a hero I disliked for most of the book, and this was a tough read.
Rosemary Reynolds and two friends are gathered in Morning Glory, Mississippi to mourn their good friend Lacy’s death. Lacy left each of them a letter with instructions to find their dreams. Rosemary dreamed of being a big city fashion designer but put those aside after college. At 27, she now owns a fabric design shop in town, while making colorful pillows out of antique fabrics as a hobby. But what really upset Lacy is that Rosemary lives under her mother’s thumb.
Rosemary’s opportunity comes one month later when a relative asks her to cat sit in Manhattan. While her mother wants to accompany her, Rosemary insists on going by herself. On the way out of the subway she gets lost and eventually wanders past an Italian restaurant. A gorgeous man – clearly an employee — encourages her to come inside. Rosemary doesn’t go in immediately, but goes back later in the day hoping to again encounter Sal Genovese.
I continued to have issues with the author’s style, but after meeting Sal the issues changed. We get a few lines of dialogue between Sal and Rosemary interspersed with pages of Sal’s thoughts before another few lines of dialogue. Frankly, I didn’t find most of Sal’s thoughts all that interesting.
Rosemary and Sal soon make a deal to have sex for the two weeks she’s in NYC, and then have a clean break. While Rosemary likes NYC, she loves her hometown and wants to return. What she doesn’t know is how dissatisfied Sal is with his life, and with going along with his family’s plans for him.
Despite being from different worlds, Sal and Rosemary have more in common than they first suspect. Rosemary doesn’t want to marry any of the “acceptable” southern men her mother pushes on her. Sal’s family is pushing a “nice Italian girl” (who we learn isn’t so nice) on him at every turn, so much so that it made me hate his family. And Sal too is unhappy with the direction his life has taken; dissatisfied with the place his family expects him to take in their restaurants. The fact that Sal frequently considers eventually marrying his parents’ choice, despite thinking she’s a passive-aggressive nightmare didn’t make Sal feel like true hero material. I felt as if both of their parents treat them as if they’re about 14 years old rather than 27 and 30, and each put up with the treatment far too long for my taste.
At every possible point I felt too many people were thrown into the book. I like it well enough when Rosemary and Sal are interacting, getting to know each other, and needed more of them and less of everyone else, particularly of Sal’s family. That being said, I did like some of Rosemary’s conversations with other New Yorkers such as her downstairs neighbor.
The author’s next Morning Glory romance features one of Rosemary’s best friends, introduced briefly in the opening chapters. I didn’t care for this enough to want to read another. While things picked up for me toward the end, if not reading for review I never would’ve finished.