Monday, February 28, 2011

The House at Royal Oak: A Review

The House at Royal Oak

Starting Over & Rebuilding a Life One Room at a Time

A Memoir

by Carol Eron Rizzoli. Black Dog & Levinthal Publishers. 2010.

When innkeepers get together to share stories, often someone says "You should write a book!" This spring starts the 9th year in business for innkeepers Carol and Hugo Rizzoli who purchased a deteriorating Victorian house on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 2001. This story is about the transformation of a house and the lives of a married couple. Both have to undergo this transformation if a bed and breakfast is to be successful.

Early on in the book I had to cringe at their choice of a house with a sagging foundation, boarded up windows, dying trees and rubbish in the yard. They admit that their project took four times as long and cost six times as much as they had originally estimated.

Ms Rizzoli does a good job of portraying the scepticism of family and friends towards their new endeavor. She uses short vignettes about breakfast anxieties, good guests and bad, and laundry to dispel the myth that innkeepers are creatures of leisure. Just as the B&B is ready to host the first guests, there is a death in the family, followed within a matter of weeks by Hugo's life threatening illness. Yet, "The show must go on."

This book should be required reading for anyone who is thinking about running a bed and breakfast. The last chapter is written with aspiring innkeepers in mind. It is also valuable to give a "behind the kitchen door" glimpse for travelers who stay at B&B's.

Many innkeepers take on the challenges of running a bed and breakfast as a second career. Carol Rizzoli's first career was writing and editing, which has equipped her to tell this story. Although much of the story is familiar to innkeepers, every bed and breakfast has its own unique story. As the dust jacket flap says, "Part inspirational account of reinventing yourself at midlife, part love story about what matters most in a relationship..."

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