Along with Meg Maguire and Ruthie Knox (and doubtlessly many other authors I have yet to discover), Sandra Antonelli is another excellent example of Contemporary Romance that is contemporary not only in its setting but also in its sensibilities. What all three of them share (and what more traditional Romances are often lacking in) are protagonists that are flawed but likeable, heroines that have agency, and plots that avoid clichés but still push enough of the right buttons to trigger that fuzzy happy Romance feeling in their readers.
A Basic Renovation is Sandra Antonelli’s first novel (first published one, anyway), and it does show in parts – sometimes the plot machinery has to do some really heavy-duty lifting to keep events moving forward, and then it’s creaking rather loudly. Not loud enough, however, to seriously impede the enjoyment of what is a highly entertaining novel and one of the funnier ones I have read in recent memories.
The witty banter and the quirky characters with which Sandra Antonelli has filled her novel have garnered her many comparisons with Jennifer Crusie; but while there are some similarities, A Basic Renovation covers territory that is all its own. Most strikingly, this is noticeable in the age of its protagonists – the main couple are both in their mid-forties and the secondary couple even several decades older than that. And this is not just window dressing to make the novel seem different, but affects it at its heart and is what drives the plot forward: The characters behave (for the most part) like responsible adults and thus avoid all of the often rather silly behavioural patterns infecting younger Romance protagonists but are suffering from their own, age-appropriate set of insecurities instead that Sandra Antonelli describes with wit, verve and sympathy. Overall, another author who proves that it is possible to write Romance that is both intelligent and fun to read; also, bonus points for the non-embarrassing cover.