Since I started reading romance, I have mostly stuck to historical romance novels with a few exceptions, including The Hating Game and Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities novels which I quite enjoyed. Despite that, I am still hesitant about contemporary romances but decided to try this one out based on Malin’s recent reviews. I think one reason I am more drawn towards historical romance is that it is easier to suspend disbelief when talking about dukes and earls looking for love (or actors in London) than when talking about three women from a small town in Maine living in Brooklyn.
At this point, I have read the first three of the From Manhattan With Love series, which are centered around a core group of three best friends while the last three focus on minor characters briefly mentioned or introduced in the first three novels. The core three, Paige, Eva and Frankie, are originally from Puffin Island (which apparently has a whole separate series) and live in a Brooklyn brownstone owned by Paige’s brother Matt while working for an events company. Among the core three, they all fit certain types – Frankie is the cynical one, Eva is the romantic and Paige is the stable, “normal” one who falls somewhere in the middle among the friends and is also super organized (I’ve noticed that the normal one is sometimes the character whose romance I enjoy least, or maybe it’s just the first novel in a new series that is the issue, such as Susannah’s book A Night to Surrender in Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series).
As far as Sleepless in Manhattan goes, it was my least favorite of the three I’ve read, and I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read them out of order like Malin did. I’ve noticed that I usually quite enjoy the novels centered around the romantic friend (Miracle on 5th Avenue), but sometimes the character can come across a bit annoying when she is the side character, and Eva was certainly making me role my eyes a bit in the first half of the book though I enjoyed Frankie.
When Paige, Frankie and Eva are fired from their job, they are shocked and uncertain what to do next. Jake Romano, Matt’s best friend, has a complicated history with Paige, but knows the best way to keep her from falling to despair is to make her mad, and during an exchange, inspires Paige to start her own events company, Urban Genie with the tagline, “Your Wish is our Command.” I am with Jake in being a bit skeptical about the name and the motto, but with Paige as the planner/coordinator, Eva in charge of food, and Frankie on flowers, they have the bare bones of an events planning/concierge services firm.
The main plot revolves around Jake and Paige, and while I quite enjoyed the chemistry between them, I also had some minor issues with their story which is the main reason I enjoyed this one less than the others. Paige is presented as a bit of a control freak, who after a childhood of being protected due to a medical condition, is afraid to be seen as vulnerable and unable to ask for help since she isn’t always able to see the line between help and protection. Paige once confessed her love to Jake when a teenager, and has believed that he rejected her due to lack of interest when in fact it was due to him being afraid of hurting her and not wanting to make things awkward with his best friend and her brother, Matt. I could definitely relate to Paige when she said that this has made her unable to trust her own instincts since she had always thought she had so badly misjudged the signs and Jake’s interest level. Jake, on the other hand, has commitment and mother issues since he was abandoned at 6, though fortunately a neighbor stepped in and raised him as her own. Due to working together on an event, Jake and Paige are forced to spend a lot of time together until their sexual chemistry cannot be denied.
Minor Spoiler – when Jake and Paige get together, there is an understanding that it is just sex and casual. Obviously, this isn’t the case and there are deeper feelings, but I was irritated when Paige decided to risk it all after a month and tell Jake she loved him. I know it was supposed to be about her taking a risk and putting it all on the table, and yet, I was mostly irritated with her for trying to rush Jake. She knows about his issues, maybe give him more than a month to ease into the relationship which is going well except for the fact that you haven’t gotten around to “I love you.” Even worse, she spends several pages telling him she loves him, and telling him he needs to deal with his mother issues. While these are all valid points, I didn’t like the way the scene played out (it also reminded me too much of that season two Grey’s Anatomy scene where Meredith did her whole, “pick me, choose me, love me” bit which played less romantic and more cringe worthy to me), and maybe my dislike is because it hits too close to home and situations I have been in. But yeah, I didn’t like the way Paige forced Jake’s hand. Also, given how much emphasis there was on Jake’s relationship with his biological mother, I was honestly expecting there to be some type of confrontation involving her, but that never actually happened.
While I liked the side characters enough to finish this series, I will probably stick to historical romance in the foreseeable future unless something comes up in CBR that is very well reviewed. Overall, it was a sweet novel but maybe I saw too much of my own past relationships in some of Paige’s vulnerability which prevented me from enjoying it more.