Managing the Value Lodge in her hometown was not what Anna Gordon had in mind when she set out in the hospitality industry. But it's a safe choice for a woman whose childhood was anything but stable. Out of the blue, she gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reinvent herself by moving to New York City, where she hopes for a management position at a stylish new boutique hotel. The big city is full of surprises--not the least of which is Sean O'Neil. Her childhood crush has applied for the very same position!
Anna Gordon graduated with a degree in hospitality management, stars swimming in her eyes with the dreams of managing a posh boutique hotel in some big city. But while her college classmates transitioned into enviable hotel / resort positions around the world, Anna was forced to return to her little podunk hometown to take care of her grandmother after the passing of her grandfather. Anna takes a position managing the local rundown motel, spends the next few years trying to pull the place out of its fleabag status and into something she could actually be proud of. Unfortunately, her staff at the motel is more about paychecks than pride, trying to coast by on the bare minimum of work that guarantees them their cut of payroll. One such member on the crew, Mickey, is actually the nephew of the owners of the property. When Anna confronts Mickey one day on his sloppy work in cleaning the pool area -- completely within her job duties as a manager -- Mickey complains to his aunt & uncle and manages to get Anna fired instead of the other way around!
As luck would have it though, just when Anna feels as if she's suddenly floundering with no job prospects, in walks an old friend back into her life with a job opportunity. A brand spankin' new boutique hotel in SoHo -- expected to become quite the trendy hotspot -- is set to open its doors soon but the owners are still looking to fill the management positions. Just the type of job Anna dreamt of having! Naturally she hightails it out to NYC and applies, only to mentally psyche herself out once there, blowing the interview. That is, until she bumps into a woman in the ladies room of the hotel who just happens to be co-owner of the whole place! After a short chat, the woman decides that although her husband dismissed Anna as not the right general manager, Anna is hired on as manager of the housekeeping staff. Feels a bit like a demotion at first, but Anna soon reasons it's a far sight better than any work she'd have back home, so she immediately accepts. Her excitement is quickly dampened though when she finds out the person hired on as general manager (aka her boss of sorts) is none other than Sean O'Neil, a childhood friend of hers recently back from managing a hotel in Ireland for some years. Another small knock to Anna's ego, she admits, but she quickly sees Sean is the perfect person for the job and they soon embracing working as a team to turn the hotel operations into a well-oiled machine. At first everything is all friendly business banter, but working so intimately with an old friend day to day, it's not hard to see those nostalgia-tinged feelings turning a little heart-shaped! But is going after what the heart seems to want worth risking the positions they both worked so hard to obtain?
This story definitely had potential. It had the reliably interesting backdrop of NYC, the fun behind-the-scenes kind of story of the hotel business, it had some interesting secondary characters to keep the flow of the plot nice. Where this one fell down for me is with our main character Anna. Lordy, that girl was BLAND! Poor girl got virtually no humor or personality from Carlson! Anna was just all straightforward business and social awkwardness, but not even in a cute way! It drove me crazy how Anna seemed to interpret every situation in an uber-literal way. Carlson tries to write in an explanation, saying that Anna was compensating / over compensating for the poor life choices of her parents, but I'm sorry, I still found no flavor to the girl. But of course, mysteriously our main guy character is drawn to her like she's some sort of sea siren. Nevermind the fact that she comes off as someone that wouldn't be much fun to hang out with lol.
But like I said earlier, what pulled me through this story is the cast of secondary characters, and also some of the NYC history that Carlson weaves into sightseeing scenes with Anna. I did enjoy the passages describing Anna's walks through Ellis Island and St. Patrick's Cathedral and her ponderings on the immigrant experience. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the historical tidbit on Annie Moore, a 17 year old Irishwoman documented as the very first person to every pass through Ellis Island in 1892.