REVIEW: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center, narrated by Patti Murin

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Illustrated comic book style cover with a mostly purple, orange and red background featuring a smiling white couple with their arms crossed in front of them looking to the side at each other. She has curly red hair, worn up, he has dark hair and a hoodie.Dear Katherine Center,

A couple of years ago I listened to The Bodyguard and since then I’ve been a fan not only of your books but of Patti Murin’s narration too. There are perfect author/narrator pairings that happen every now and then and yours is one.

Emma Wheeler is a screenwriter who has not had much career success despite having a lot of talent. Her old high school boyfriend, Logan,  is a big wig agent in LA and does his best to offer her opportunities. Emma is also full time carer to her (amazing) dad, who was injured in a rock fall ten years earlier, shortly after Emma graduated from high school. He had a traumatic brain injury and has ongoing hemiplegia and significant balance problems due to Meniere’s Disease. The deal was that Emma would look after her dad for 10 years and then her younger sister, Sylvie, would take over for a while. Sylvie has just graduated college and has been offered a fancy internship and so when Logan calls to tell Emma she has an opportunity to rewrite a screenplay with the one and only Charlie Yates and she needs to get to LA for the 6 weeks of the job, Emma feels she must say no. Even though Charlie Yates is THE Charlie Yates. A legend. Her screenwriting idol. Charlie Yates has all the awards and deserves them too. This is a dream opportunity for her but how can she leave her dad? And Sylvie has that internship.

But then Sylvie says “hey, guess what, I’ve told them I can’t do it – go to LA and I’ll stay and look after dad” and Emma’s excuse is gone.

When Emma first meets Charlie (Charlie Yates!!) it becomes obvious that Logan has gilded the lily a bit to get her there. It is true that the romantic comedy screenplay Charlie has written is terrible. So terrible they need to find a new word for terrible in fact. But Charlie has not agreed to Emma helping him fix it. Or staying in his house while she does. Logan has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Charlie does read some of Emma’s work that Logan has sent to him and she’s good – great in fact. He can see the talent she has leaping off the page. But he doesn’t need the rom com script to be good. It just needs to be passable. It’s part of a deal with a movie mogul’s mistress; he writes a remake of “It Happened One Night” for her to star in and the mogul will produce Charlie’s beloved mafia movie project.

Emma however has found her spine – she didn’t leave her dad and her sister didn’t give up an internship for nothing! If she’s going to stay and work on the script they have to do their best. She’s not going to half-ass it. Emma makes a deal with Charlie that they will do some research together – activities the characters do in the movie (line dancing is one) to assist their process and she passionately and articulately defends her favourite genre from his snobbery. Charlie’s original script does not end with the couple together. No happy ending! An abomination. Emma explains to Charlie that’s not how this works. He says it’s more “interesting” his way. She compares romance genre stories to sex. If sex ends without an orgasm is that more “interesting”? If sex ends with an orgasm are you disappointed? The “happy ending” of romance is a good thing Charlie! (This is a most excellent analogy. Well played ma’am.)

Charlie is a bit of a misanthrope, a little bit on the grumpy side, a little shy. His prodigious talent and bashful charm has let him get away with some unusual behaviour (taking a phone call while accepting an award for example) but something happened five years ago that changed everything. Charlie’s wife left him and Charlie was diagnosed with cancer. On the same day. He’s well now but, in Logan’s words, he’s got the “yips” and the words aren’t flowing like they used to.

But then he and Emma start writing together.

In Charlie’s original script there’s a scene where the guy falls on top of the girl and she gets a concussion. Charlie and Emma have a spirited discussion about whether this is in fact, romantic. Life imitates art and the listener gets to experience a bit of this very thing. Delicious.

I could have used more of Emma and Charlie writing together, more about the script doctoring they were doing,  more about their research excursions. Instead, we see Emma’s and Charlie’s relationship developing through smaller things like grocery shopping together, Emma cooking, Charlie failing to cook. (It’s not that I didn’t want to listen to these things. I did. I just would have liked a little more about the movie.) It’s clear to the listener that they are falling for one another but the story is only told from Emma’s perspective and she’s not sure. Then she is. And then…

I was wondering there for a while whether you’d stick to the romance contract yourself. I suppose that’s one measure of a great story. The tension, the stakes and the risk. (Note to DA Readers – this is a romance, never fear. Sorry not sorry for spoiling that.) I did like how you defined the HEA. It’s a little more complicated than those three letters. But good. Still good.

Charlie is wonderful. He’s talented and fully supportive of Emma. He makes a decision that is understandable given all the circumstances. Emma makes a decision that is entirely within her character. Their banter is all the good things. Emma is also amazing. Funny and smart and generous.

There was some conflict between Emma and Sylvie late in the book and I did think Emma owed Sylvie an apology too. Harsh words were said by both of them. Very harsh. Oof.

I have this thing about books that are marketed as romantic comedies. Humour is subjective after all. And there are some things which are just not funny. Cancer – not funny. Traumatic brain injury. Not funny. You don’t play those things for laughs but from a reader/listener perspective, going into a book wanting and expecting laughs and fun and finding cancer and TBIs can be a deal breaker. So, even though there were parts of the book where I did laugh out loud (your humour really works for me and Patti Murin is just the icing on the cake when it comes to her delivery and comedic timing), I am not calling this a “rom com”. There are heavy topics in this book. There are serious challenges and high stakes. It’s a contemporary romance which has comedy in it. It’s not, IMO, a rom com. That’s my personal definition. It’s how I square that circle.

After I listened to The Bodyguard I went and looked for other Patti Murin narrations because I wanted to listen to more of her work. I have bought audiobooks purely because she is the narrator. I could listen to her read the phone book. (Great news though – some of her other performances are for Christina Lauren books – so Yahtzee!) She has a wide range of character voices, great timing, tone and pacing. She delivers all the emotions – sadness, fear, anger, confusion, longing, love. As well as humour. Audiobooks as a medium are transformational when done well. The narrator interprets the words first and delivers them to the listener. This book would be a good book on it’s own. A very good book. Probably a B+. But with Patti Murin’s narration? It’s an A. She brings something I could not have found on my own.

These days, when I read one of your books (I have glommed some; I’m saving others of your backlist for a rainy day when I need to pull a rabbit out of a hat) I hear Patti Murin reading the story to  me and it’s almost – almost – as good as the real thing.

For the last three years, I’ve looked forward to your books and for the last three years I’ve been delighted by them.

Grade: A






Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

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