The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Monday, September 14, 2020

THE ROOMMATE

by Rosie Danan
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: September 15th 2020
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★★
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷✷

The Roommate was probably at the top of my most anticipated romance novels of the year. I've had a soft spot for it ever since the deal was announced and I just inexplicably knew that it would be a book that worked in every way for me. Well, my instincts were right because I read The Roommate twice this year already and it's easily a favorite.

What I loved the most about The Roommate was how it managed to be very very sexy, but simultaneously one of the softest books I've read. The whole experience was wonderfully sublime and I couldn't get enough of it. Part of why the book worked for me was the characters who were absolute darlings. It was hard not to warm up to them because they were crafted and developed in an endearing way. Though Clara and I come from totally different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, there were many parts of myself that I saw in her character. I felt all her anxiety as she made her big move from the East Coast to follow her long-time crush to California, only to have him leave her high and dry. Despite being someone who didn't necessarily like unplanned life upheavals, Clara handled the situation well - she reacted far better than I would have if I were in her shoes. It certainly helped that she had an adorable and very good looking roommate to show her the ropes and a good time, but I thought Clara dealt with the obstacles she faced with grace. We truly see Clara come out of her awkward shell, grow more independent, and find a creative outlet for her passion throughout the book. She faltered but always managed to show a lot of courage.

Her roommate, the biggest high-energy and most charismatic goofball you'll ever meet, Josh, was equally endearing. In terms of energy and emotional rigidity, Josh was the complete opposite of Clara, but once the author begins to dig into the layers of his character, we see that they weren't necessarily very different. Josh, like every human being, had his own fears and vulnerabilities though he was good at hiding them. I was thrilled that he was portrayed, completely the opposite of what I would expect an adult movie performer to be like. I also liked how astutely Rosie Danan depicted the porn industry. She humanized the performers but didn't shy away from highlighting the predatory people and practices rampant in the sex industry. There were several insightful conversations about sex and the power of female sexuality through the new instructional and female-gaze oriented website Clara and Josh work towards building that I especially appreciated.

The romance between Clara and Josh will leave you all with big smiles on your faces. These two were adorable together and I found their banter to be so charming. I highlighted a ton of passages while reading The Roommate, and 90% of them were related to Josh and Clara engaging in back and forth dialogues. Them being roommate definitely helped in the intimacy department - umm hello forced proximity goodness - and Josh also had the reputation of being a very generous lover, which Clara soon found out was nothing but the truth. I loved the balance between the sweet, simple scenes with the burn-your-Kindle-hot bedroom scenes. UGH. I loved Clara and Josh so much. Speaking of characters I love, I can't possibly wrap up this review without shouting out my love for Naomi, Josh's co-star, and ex. Usually, exes in romance novels aren't portrayed very kindly, so imagine my utter delight when Naomi was the complete opposite of an evil ex. I don't want to talk too much about her because she's getting her own story in The Intimacy Experiment, but let me tell you, she is phenomenal and I may or may not love her more than Clara and Josh combined.

The Roommate is a terrific debut and I'm excited to watch Rosie Danan take the romance community by storm. As you can tell, this book owns my heart, and I hope you'll love it as much as I did.

***


Hi, everyone! I'm so pleased to welcome Rosie Danan to the blog for a chat about The Roommate. I loved reading Rosie's responses to my questions and I hope you guys feel the same way.

What's your favorite quote from the book that captures the essence of THE ROOMMATE?

The quote that comes to mind is actually from a supporting character, Naomi. Clara, the heroine, asks her if she thinks that people can really change in meaningful ways. 
This is Naomi’s response: 
“Change always comes with a closing cost,” Naomi said. “But it’s still worth trying. Not because the odds are particularly good, mind you, but considering the alternative. There’s value in the struggle. Value in touching the raw and bloody parts of our souls, opening them up to the sunlight, and hoping they heal.”
That might sound a little heavy for a rom-com, but I think it sums up the growth the characters experience in the book. Before they can get together, Josh and Clara have to face their individual insecurities and their emotional evolution isn’t something that happens overnight. They work to address their fears over the course of the book—and I imagine—even beyond the narrative. 

Clara had to do a big move cross-country and unfortunately, things don't go as planned. How do you think you would react in her situation? 

Clara is a bit younger than I am so I think she’s a little more open to the anarchy that her move invites. I’m not sure I would be able to stick it out after finding I’d been saddled with a Craigslist roommate, though I do think Josh’s dimples would make the decision a tough one. 

You recently moved from the US to London yourself. Did Clara's development in THE ROOMMATE help you in any way with your own move? Do you feel like you sympathized more with her with having to get used to the unfamiliar new surroundings?

I’m not sure I learned much from Clara’s move at the tactical level. She’s a lot more organized than I am. I didn’t have a laminated move-in checklist, for example. I kinda wish I did. I do sympathize with her because moving is terrible. It’s so stressful and messy. On the bright side, it does provide a clean slate and I think both Clara and I see the appeal of that. She discovers that life invites us to meet chaos with grace and so I attempted to channel that when moving abroad—a sort of optimistic surrendering. 

In romance, we don't often get to see sex workers as protagonists. I'm sure you get asked this question a lot, but what inspired you to write an adult performer as a romantic hero, and what were some challenges you faced while writing Josh's character?

I actually decided to write an adult performer hero after getting inspired to update one of my favorite historical romance tropes, “Lessons in Seduction” between a rake and a bluestocking, for a contemporary setting. There are so many wonderful Regency romances about women learning to pursue pleasure with an experienced man and I think the reason the stories resonate with readers today is there’s still a lot of shame associated with women talking about what they want and need from sex, especially since actual sex education can be hard to come by in our country. I thought making my modern “rake” a porn star would allow me to invite readers to challenge their ideas about people who work in the adult entertainment industry. When I translated the trope to modern day Los Angeles, I wanted to make sure that Clara was not just learning about pleasure from the hero. She has sexual agency and decides to take charge of educating herself and ultimately helping empower other people to own their pleasure.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is that some readers have rejected THE ROOMMATE out of hand because they don’t believe they could fall for a hero who works in porn. There’s not much I can do in that situation. I do hope people will put aside their preconceptions and give Josh and the story a chance. 

I’ve received a few questions about why the back cover copy doesn’t explicitly state his occupation and I will say that’s a deliberate choice. The story is crafted so that readers can get to know Josh as a person before they define him by his profession. Clara goes on that journey, unpacking her own stigma, and I hope some readers will be able to go on that journey with her. 

I love how you subverted the evil ex trope in THE ROOMMATE. Naomi is one of my favorite characters and I loved how she played a major role in this book. Was this a deliberate choice on your part and why was it important?

Absolutely. I was never interested in maintaining the evil ex trope. Naomi can’t be tamed by a single trope anyway, lol. In THE ROOMMATE we primarily see her through her professional lens. She’s very strategic in her career and she’s also protective of those she loves. Any objection she puts up against Josh and Clara getting together comes from that place and while she’s very direct and unflinching, she also has a gooey center and she can’t really help supporting their connection in the end. 

I’m really excited to share so much more of Naomi’s character with readers in her own book, THE INTIMACY EXPERIMENT, which comes out from Berkley on April 6, 2021. 

What is one piece furniture/appliance/decoration of the apartment that Josh and Clara could not live without?

I’m gonna go with the couch. It serves as a kind of neutral territory for Josh and Clara to get to know one another: watching movies, playing games, eating dinner together etc. And then it’s also home to some of their more *intimate* interactions so there’s lots of fond memories associated with that piece of furniture ;)

I see that you're possibly a Chopped fan. If Clara, Josh, and Naomi were to take part in Chopped, what would be their signature dishes and who do you think would win? I already know it's not going to be Josh judging by the state of his fridge at the beginning of the book and his grocery cart items.

Oh, Nick. I do love both cooking and Chopped specifically, but this is definitely a case of art departing from the artist because I don’t think you could pick three less culinarily-inclined characters. As you alluded to, Josh has the palate of a twelve-year old whose parents are on vacation. Naomi rejects most domestic pursuits on principle. Clara is probably the most likely to succeed, not because she has a lot of cooking talent, but she does appreciate good food and she knows the most about ingredients and flavor profiles. That said, she’s probably not very inventive in the kitchen. I think Josh would deliver something outrageous as his signature dish. He’d shoot for the moon but probably end up with something borderline inedible. Naomi would refuse to compete and probably just snack on the basket ingredients while getting the production assistant’s phone number. Clara would win by default and be very annoying about it afterwards. 

Could you recreate a typical Josh and Clara outfit using Pinterest?

I did one for Clara in the beginning and then one for her towards the end. A sort of day to night transition if you will. Hayley Atwell was my “celebrity muse” for Clara. 



I didn’t have a specific celeb for Josh, but here’s a casual and then a more formal look for him too (the personality in the photos is key!)



Many thanks to Rosie Danan for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. 😁

Let's chat!
Have you read The Roommate? Have you read romance novels with characters who work in the sex industry?
Let me know in the comments below!