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Book Review: The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

Book Review: The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

If The Spanish Love Deception hadn’t already tipped you off about the kind of writer that Elena Armas is then it’s follow-up will confirm it: Elena Armas is a romance writer for romance lovers, and her second novel makes it clear that she’s just as much a fan of the genre as her readers are. The American Roommate Experiment feels like an homage to all things romance, bringing together so many of the genre’s favourite tropes, nods and scenes in a book that is just as heartwarming and emotional as it is fun and sexy. And best of all, it’s also packed with the most delicious kind of slow-burn tension that will keep readers turning the pages and eager for more.

Picking up a little while after the Spanish Love Deception epilogue, Aaron and Lina are newly married and away enjoying their honeymoon, giving Lina’s best friend Rosie the perfect place to stay when she’s forced out of her apartment after the ceiling literally caves in on her. Unbeknown to Rosie, however, Lina has promised her older cousin Lucas – the man that Rosie has been harbouring a bit of a crush on – that he can stay in her apartment while he visits New York for a few weeks before heading back home to Spain.

After a misunderstanding leads to a misplaced call to 911 and a meet-cute worthy of the movies, Rosie and Lucas agree to becoming temporary roommates, at least until Rosie can find somewhere else affordable to stay. But a broken apartment isn’t Rosie’s only problem – she also happens to be a romance writer on a deadline who’s suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. Ever the knight in shining armour, Lucas has a solution for that too and offers to take Rosie out on a series of experimental dates to kickstart her romantic inspiration. With nothing to lose, Rosie doesn’t hesitate to take him up on his proposal – but Lucas’ time in New York has an expiration date and, as their dating experiment begins to stir up some very real feelings, it quickly becomes clear that six weeks together just may not be enough.

Once more, I buried my face in his chest. But this time, I let myself lean into him. Completely. I gave myself the green light to give up. I inhaled his scent and relished how warm and big and solid he was around me. I took as much strength from him as he was willing to give me. And I imagined this, his hug, his body, him, being my safe haven. My normal. My bad days, my good days. My every day.”

Following up a hugely successful and beloved debut like The Spanish Love Deception was always going to be a difficult task, but The American Roommate Experiment proves it’s up to the job very early on when it plays its hand against its older sibling and introduces one of the biggest differences between both novels: the dual POV. The opportunity to get inside the heads of both main characters is something that truly elevates a romance novel for me, and the fact that TARE gives both Rosie and Lucas their own narratives and the space to explore their feelings for the other gives this fake dating/forced proximity storyline both emotional grounding and helps to build the ever-growing unresolved sexual tension between the pair beautifully.

Individually, both Rosie and Lucas are fantastic characters. Effortlessly charming and naturally flirtatious Lucas is a friendly, supportive ray of sunshine throughout, but he’s also hiding a huge secret from his family and continuously putting off having to deal with the consequences. Rosie, meanwhile, is strong, capable and reliable but also shy, vulnerable and filled with self-doubt after making the decision to give up her stable job to pursue her passion instead. When they come into each other’s lives, both are in need of a distraction, some inspiration or both, but their chemistry, unwavering support of one another and genuine care for each other is immediately evident, even if their insecurities and doubts mean that the slow-burn move from roommates to friends to lovers comes with a heavy side dose of mutual pining too.

However, one of the best things about reading an Elena Armas book is that it’s clear that she’s a romance fan first and foremost, and The American Roommate Experiment is truly a book for the romance readers. There are lots of readers’ favourite romance tropes at play in this novel with fake dating and forced proximity (in an apartment with only one bed) just for starters, and as the story continues it reads almost like a checklist of fun and flirty moments that are sure to get readers talking. It turns the book into a treasure trove of discovery for romance readers, from grey sweatpants and food fights to grand gestures and timely downpours, but it definitely helps that the novel is self-aware enough to poke fun at this too, with romance writer Rosie coming up with a series of dating ‘phases’ for Lucas to study and implement in their plot to jumpstart her romantic inspiration.

With swoony, steamy scenes, cute domestic moments and joyful romantic dates, The American Roommate Experiment is a book that is a lot of fun throughout, but also one that’s grounded by the more serious, emotional elements too. It isn’t always done perfectly and the balance isn’t always right – the subplot with Rosie’s brother Olly and her family dynamic, for example, had a lot of potential, but ultimately felt underdeveloped – but it does go a long way towards adding depth and realism to the story, and helps solidify Rosie and Lucas as characters a reader can feel a true connection to as well.

Like The Spanish Love Deception before it, The American Roommate Experiment does feel a little slow to start, a bit long overall and is built on a foundation of a series of very particular circumstances coming together in a perfect storm, but that doesn’t stop it from quickly becoming an engaging, romantic joy of a novel with authentic characters and a whole lot of chemistry. Spanish Love Deception fans will be happy to see Lina and Aaron return in these pages, but this book rightly belongs to Rosie, Lucas and all the romance readers looking for their next, unputdownable read.


The American Roommate Experiment is published by Simon & Schuster on 6 September 2022

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