Dating Tips for the Romantically Challenged by Marina Adair


[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to welcome author Marina Adair to the site today. She has some dating tips for those of us who are “romantically challenged.” Take it away, Marina!]

Dating has become so complicated that even algorithms can’t seem to get it right. Meeting someone interesting is half the battle and turning that next first-date into the last first-date is not as simple as scrolling, swiping, or sliding into some cute guy’s DM. Especially when one is romantically challenged.

As a first-date fumbler myself, I know how easy it can be to let the pressure of making that initial meet-cute Insta-perfect. But romance doesn’t have to be flashy or billboard-statements. In fact, the smaller, real—and yes, awkward—moments can end up being the most meaningful. 

My latest book, RomeAntically Challenged, explores the ups and down-right awkward moments when two dating drop-outs, oppositely challenged in the love department, find themselves unexpectedly dating. The result is a tender, emotional and often hilarious road to romance as they depart on a journey to self-discovery where the labels and expectations fall away, replaced by unconditional love and acceptance. 

Along the way, Emmitt and Annie find there are a lot of fun, not-a-date activities that take the pressure out of dating. Here are a few of their favorites: 

Group Date

If it’s the first-time meeting IRL, try a group gathering. Nothing eases tensions like having your friends. Just be sure you bring your real friend, who encourage you to be yourself.  Because what’s the point of meeting In Real Life if you can’t be Your Real Self? And if you hit it off, you can always find a cozy corner.

“Emmitt leaned in. “Come on, admit it, we’re good together.”

“You stole my pizza.” 

He waved a hand in surrender. “Won’t happen again. I promise. Now, I think we should see this deal with a kiss.” 

“If you want to kiss someone, any one of those ladies would say yes. Go ask one of them.” Annie pointed to the bar full of women, all looking Emmitt’s way.

His gaze trailed down to her lips. “Seems I’m more of a one-woman kind of man lately. Plus, I love it when you get all opinionated.”

“I’m not in an arguing mood.”

He leaned in “What kind of mood are you in?”

“Are you flirting with me…?””

Grocery Date

“One can tell a lot about a person by what they put in the cart. A conversation about chocolate sauce and whipped cream might just be the ice breaker needed to open up the conversation to deeper things. 

Emmitt tossed marshmallows in her cart. “Now for some graham crackers and chocolate. Then we can discuss the finer points of undergarments around the firepit while making s’mores.”  

“I hate marshmallows.”

“Chocolate sauce is fine too.”

“We are not making s’mores.” In with the chocolate sauce. Milk chocolate—the jerk was playing dirty. “This is not a PJ party.”

“So it’s PJ optional.” He shrugged and slid his sunglasses back on, like he was big stuff and this was Hollywood. “I can hang. Pillow fight later?””

Dine-in Date

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then the way to a woman’s heart is a man who knows how to cook. Nothing heats up the conversation quite like a hands-on, shared experience in the kitchen.

“Did you know in some cultures, putting groceries away with someone is a form of foreplay,” Emmitt said, unlocking the front door and flicking on the lights. 

“In my house, it was called being helpful,” Annie said. 

Not-A-Date Nightcap

If you’re really feeling the connection, and the nerves creep up, just turn on some tunes and turn up the fun—who knows, it might even lead to a little dancing.

““When I saw people taking selfies under the arbors, I wanted to take one too. With you.” 

“Emmitt Bradly, award winning photojournalist taking a self?” she teased. 

“What can I say, with you I want to try new things.” He moved closer and lowered his voice. “All the things.”

Annie had it all wrong. Emmitt wasn’t romantically challenged. He was romantically choosy. And he’d chosen her.

“Let’s start with the selfie.” Because that was as far forward as her head would allow her to fantasize. Too bad her heart was one selfie away from forever—and that terrified her. “What would we be doing in this selfie?”

“Dancing.” He took one of her hands in one of his and slowly moved them to the center of the kitchen. “You would have been wearing that red dress that’s hidden in the back of the closet, the one that still has the tags on it, and I would have taken you in my arms, and then as we started to move, I’d snap the camera to capture every single emotion I experienced when dancing with you for the first time.”

She looked down. “I don’t think the red dress is going to happen anytime soon.”

“That’s just it. When I came through the front door and caught you swaying in the kitchen, covered in flour and my shirt, I realized that even in the red dress you couldn’t look any sexier.””

My husband and I are a lot like the characters in my novel, two romantically challenged people who were lost in the pressure and noise, but managed to find each other through the small, quiet moments. If asked, my husband would say, “Romance is the everyday nurturing of love.”

About the Author:

Marina Adair is a #1 nationally bestselling author whose fun, flirty contemporary romances have sold over a million copies. In addition to the When in Rome series, she is the author of the Destiny Bay series, the Heroes of St. Helena series, and the St. Helena Vineyard series, which was the inspiration behind the original Hallmark Channel Vineyard movies: Autumn in the Vineyard, Summer in the Vineyard, and Valentines in the Vineyard. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she holds a MFA from San Jose University and currently lives in Northern California with her husband, daughter, and two neurotic cats. Please visit her online at and sign up for her newsletter at

RomeAntically Challenged by Marina Adair, out now!

Growing up the lone Asian in a community of WASPs, Annie has always felt out of place.  Her solution?  Start a family of her own. Not easy when every man she’s dated, including her ex-fiancé, finds “his person” right after breaking up with Annie. Even worse than canceling the wedding eight weeks beforehand?  Learning the “other woman” plans to walk down the aisle wearing her wedding gown. New plan—find a fresh, man-free start. Too bad her exit strategy unexpectedly lands her working at a hospital in Rome, Rhode Island, rather than Rome, Italy, and sharing a cabin with a big, brooding, and annoyingly hot male roommate.

Home on medical leave after covering a literally explosive story in China, investigative photojournalist Emmitt embarks on his most important assignment—cementing his place in his daughter’s life. Three men and a baby might work in the movies, but with a stepdad and devoted uncle competing for Paisley’s attention, Emmitt has lost his place at the family table. Then there’s the adorably sexy squatter in his cabin, who poses another problem, one he’d very much like to solve up close and personal. But he can’t win—Annie has sworn off men, Paisley’s gone boy crazy, and Emmitt’s estranged father reappears with a secret that changes everything.

Annie and Emmitt are about to discover love comes in many forms, and sometimes the best families are the ones we make.

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