Title: Lucy Checks In
Author: Dee Ernst
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: August 16, 2022
Print length: 288 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Dee Ernst’s Lucy Checks In is a delightful work of romantic comedy about a disgraced hotel manager who travels to Rennes to rebuild a hotel and her own life in the process…
Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.
Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?
Witty and heartfelt, Lucy Checks In is an inspiring and feel-good novel about reclaiming your life, finding love, and creating a home in places you never thought possible.
In Lucy Checks In, the title character is an almost 50-year-old woman who hit rock-bottom two year previously, when the man she loved embezzled money, left his hotel chain in ruins, destroyed her professional reputation, and left her the subject of an FBI investigation. Even after being cleared of any involvement in his schemes, Lucy’s life was still shattered, and she found herself with no prospects, and not even a roof over her head other than her parents’ — definitely not where she envisioned she’d be at this age.
So when an offer come through to spruce up and manage a charming family-owned, historic hotel in the French town of Rennes, there’s no way Lucy can pass up the opportunity for a fresh start. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the “hotel” hasn’t actually operated as one since before World War II, the building itself is in terrible shape, and it’s currently inhabited by a motley crew of assorted oddballs who, improbably, are all investors (one way or another) in the project to rehab and reopen the hotel.
Lucy wants to turn and run, but where could she go? She has a contract for six months of employment, and decides to make the best of it — although even this decision is quickly called into question when she discovers that rather than hiring people to do things like painting and building a website, she’ll have to do it herself.
Eventually, though, Lucy warms to the task, and as she digs in to the work and at the same time gets to know the hotel’s owner and the other residents, she begins to feel hopeful and even cautiously optimistic that (a) they can really pull this off and (b) she may have found a place for herself, where she might even have a future.
Lucy Checks In is charming in many ways, from the description of Rennes and the hotel itself, with its vivid history, to its quirky cast of characters and the different talents and obstacles they each bring with them.
I really appreciated having a more mature woman as the lead, particularly once Lucy gets a chance to explore romance as well as professional redemption. Her love interest, a sexy American painter and children’s book author, is supportive, kind, and encouraging, and seeing them together really reinforces that love stories, romance, and a healthy sex life are not just for people in their 20s and 30s.
I did feel as though the book could have used a bit more meat on its bones (not sure why I’m going with a meat metaphor, but that’s what keeps coming up in my mind). I’m not usually one to complain when a book is on the shorter side, but here, I wished the characters and plots had been given more room to expand.
A great deal of the plot has to do with hotel renovations, and while I’m happy for Lucy and the rest of the hotel folks that their grand project worked so well, I’m not sure we readers need quite that much space devoted to plastering, painting, decorating the lobby, and selecting colors and fabrics.
On the other hand, I would have welcomed fuller development of the supporting cast. The various residents of the hotel are introduced, often with thumbnail backstories, but we don’t get to know most of them very well beyond the basics. That’s a shame, because many are funny or eccentric, and I would have liked to know more about how they ended up at the Hotel Paradis and how they live their lives.
Overall, Lucy Checks In is a sweet, non-demanding read, with a bit of an armchair travel element to it (yes, I do want to go hang out at the hotel, explore Rennes, and eat all that amazing food). I was moved by Lucy’s story arc, including some unexpected twists concerning her family back home in the US, and was very happy to see her finding her way toward happiness and new beginnings.
Last year, I read and really enjoyed Maggie Finds Her Muse by the same author. Lucy Checks In, while engaging and sweet, feels a bit slighter than the previous novel, but I’m still glad to have read it. And as I mentioned, I truly appreciate seeing an older woman in the lead romantic role! Here’s hoping the author brings us many more delicious European adventures with women of a certain age front and center!