ARC Review: Three Coins by Kimberly Sullivan

  • Title: Three Coins
  • Author: Kimberly Sullivan
  • Publisher: Kimberly Sullivan
  • Release Date: 10/22/21
  • Genre: Romance
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Content Warnings: drug addiction, mentions of anorexia, divorce, use of date rape drugs
  • Rating: ★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: One Eternal City. Three women. Three wishes. Three coins. Emma, an American expat living in Rome for twenty years, can’t count on her ex-husband to help out with the kids when things get tough. Dario Rinaldi, famed plastic surgeon to the stars, is too busy gallivanting around Europe with young women to take an interest in his family. Beautiful Tiffany, born and bred in Iowa, is desperate to get a spot as a dancer on an Italian television show. But is she willing to do whatever it takes to make her dreams of TV stardom come true? Annarita, from an Italian-American family in Yonkers, teaches English to over-privileged Italians and regularly has her heart trampled by boyfriends all wrong for her. As her mother is always quick to point out, nothing has gone right for her since she moved to Italy. And she isn’t getting any younger, either. Emma, Tiffany and Annarita all meet up by chance at a 1950s movie night while on a restorative holiday at a beach resort off-season. The triumphs and hardships of these three very different women become intertwined as they form an unlikely friendship and work to better their messy lives.

I have wanted to go to Rome for years. In fact, my husband and I had a trip to Rome planned for April 2020 that ended up not happening. Three Wishes felt like it could be a way for me to escape into that beautiful Italian city without leaving New York.

Three Coins certainly does not provide a portrait of Rome through rosy colored classes. The three women complain about crowds, traffic, bad apartments, and cost of living. Tiffany describes about the difficulty she has learning a new language. I appreciated that Sullivan didn’t shy away from the realities of being an American living in Rome, but I’ll have to leave the fun adventures to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

I wanted to like Emma, Tiffany, and Annartita, but I had a hard time liking them. Annarita was particularly difficult for me to like. It really bothered me that she accused Tiffany of being anorexic at their first breakfast together. It is so important not to ever comment on anyone’s body or food choices. You never know how triggering that might be to someone. Annarita frequently comes across as whiny: complaining about her job, her apartment, etc. She is also frequently described as jealous of Tiffany and Emma.

“Annarita felt a twinge of envy. She never had that effect on the waitstaff.”

It often feels like Annarita is too busy being concerned about what Emma and Tiffany have to be focused on all of the good things going on for her.

Tiffany goes through a very clear character arc through the story. She starts off the story focused on doing whatever she can to get on TV, which leads to her being drugged by a producer at a party. I was glad to see Tiffany finding that she didn’t need to put herself in those positions in order to find happiness and fulfilment both personally and professionally. Similarly, I rooted for Emma as she found her way personally and professionally after her messy divorce.

Like the women in the film they watch together, Three Coins in a Fountain, all three women in Three Coins find romance. It was obvious immediately that Tiffany was going to end up with Simone, her charming neighbor, and that Emma was going to end up with her college friend, Mark. It is clear that these men see good in Emma and Tiffany that they can’t see in themselves, and they encourage Emma and Tiffany to learn and grow. In both relationships, the man’s ex catches him with his new woman, leading to a misunderstanding. It is immeditately obvious in both cases that the man didn’t want to be with the ex, and the misunderstandings read as a little clumsy and too similar in these two cases.

There is too much focus on appearance of all three women throughout this story. Annarita even says she found her eventual partner because he is the only person who told her that she was “too skinny.” Mark mentions how Emma still looks as young as she did in college. There are also frequent references to how beautiful Emma’s teenage daughter, Chiara is. So much so that a television producer drugs her at a party. It made me uncomfortable how focused on outer beauty these characters are as they have so much more to offer the world than just their looks.

I hope to be able to visit Italy soon, and I appreciated the chance to see it through the eyes of characters and an author who have lived there. If you have any other books set in Italy to recommend, please put them in the comments.

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