Book Review: Love In Budapest – A Novel By Robert Babirad

A love story set in Budapest, the novel by Robert Babirad is not only interesting from the story’s perspective, but takes the reader on a trip to the beautiful capital city of Hungary, Budapest.

Labeled as a contemporary romance novel, Love in Budapest is more than a simple love story. A large part of the novel would qualify as a travel story as well, especially the parts where the protagonist, Lillianna, spends time in Budapest, a city she knows nothing about before landing there on a work assignment. 

Through her experiences, we get to see and experience Budapest as a foreigner, as someone new to the city. Along with walking through the city’s major attractions, we also learn about its history. To accomplish this, Robert uses Lillianna’s love interest, Árpád, assigning him the role of a city guide as a Hungarian professor of European history. 

The central love story between Lillianna, a New York city attorney and Árpád takes us from New York City to Budapest, and offers insights into the lives of attorneys, as well as university professors. It also contrasts the world where money and wealth mean everything to one where art, history, and feelings are at the center-point. 

Lillianna is torn between these two worlds. Her discontent with her job at the firm in New York City and her relationship with someone who feels money is the road to happiness foreshadows the changes we see in her as she starts a new life in a place the firm sends her without asking, Budapest. 

Why Budapest?

The author draws heavily on his Hungarian background and his first trip to Budapest. He has Hungarian roots on his father’s side, who immigrated to the US from Mosonmagyaróvár, a town in northeastern Hungary, close to the border with Austria and Slovenia. Although Robert grew up in the US, the culture and history of Hungary has always fascinated him, and as an adult, he made it a point to become a Hungarian citizen. 

As he tells me, his first trip to Budapest had a profound impact on him. He calls it “a cultural homecoming and a return to our family’s origins.” Talking about the same trip, he says it was “a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself both in the city life of Budapest for the first time, and in traditional Hungarian culture’’. 

It was also his first time seeing Budapest and some of its main cultural attractions, including The Parliament Building, the Royal Palace, Margaret’s Island, St Stephen’s Basilica, places that had an impact on him and appear in the novel. During the trip, he stayed in an old apartment building near the Danube that he based Lilianna’s apartment in Budapest on. 

The Protagonists

To create Lillianna’s background, the author relies on his own personal experiences in the legal field, since he was a lawyer working in the New York State court system. Robert’s personal understanding of the legal system and his own reasons for leaving it translate seamlessly into his character. 

The conflicts Lillianna grapples with have parallels with the author’s own experiences, both regarding law and New York itself. While the city offers aspects Lillianna enjoys, like the museums and dining experiences, the fast pace and the work within the legal system is leaving her wanting for more, draining her. However, she talkes herself into feeling content, until forced to change something about her life. 

She enjoys art and architecture and loves to visit museums throughout the world, traits that also stem from the author’s own feelings and knowledge about art and architecture. 

As a contemporary love story, the author puts his characters in real-life situations. So, he gets Lillianna to work on a project involving European Union Law and State Aid that would require her to have familiarity with Budapest and the city’s cultural background. 

This work situation, combined with her passion for culture and cultural establishments, brings her in contact with Árpád, the handsome Hungarian professor of European history. His professional background offered the perfect opportunity to have him assist Lillianna in her job. 

Budapest and the City’s Historical Background

In this novel, Budapest is more than a background. In fact, the author centered the entire story around the city, its history, culture, and events. 

Along with the well-known buildings and their background stories, Árpád takes Lillianna to less visited historical buildings, like St Margaret’s chapel on the island named for the saint. In fact, this forgotten stone building plays a pivotal role in the story of Lillianna, in her decision-making. 

The background story of Margaret’s Island impacted the author during his visit. “I found the whole background story of Margaret’s Island of great interest,” he says. “It’s easily obscured by the nightlife and events that take place on the island, especially during the summer. I also don’t think that it’s a story that many outside of Hungary are widely familiar with. I certainly wasn’t prior to traveling there. I wanted Lillianna and her background to be able to bring that story to life both for readers within and perhaps even more crucially, outside of Hungary, who may not be familiar with it.”

Tower on Margaret Island

Another historical event and its celebration also stands in the center of the last scenes of the novel. And, as we just celebrated St Stephen’s Day – Szent István Nap – in our Hungarian community, it seems fitting to talk about these scenes in the book. The event, also known as Államalapítás Napja (State Founding Day) is the largest historical celebration in Budapest, and from its description, we can tell the author experienced it in the capital city of Hungary. 

As for the story… will Lillianna’s love story in Budapest become a fond memory when she returns to New York City? To find out, you’ll have to read the novel. 

You’ll enjoy it, especially if you visited or ever want to visit Budapest. Scenes in the novel will transport you to the city built on both sides of the Danube. 

In fact, by setting this love story in Budapest, the author’s intention was to bring the city into focus. In his words, “I hope Love In Budapest is a book that brings greater attention to the incredible beauty and richness of Hungary and Hungarian culture. I think for me those are things that I will always be continually learning more about.”

About the Author: Robert Babirad

Robert holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Secondary English Education, awarded magna cum laude, a Juris Doctorate and a Masters in European Union Law awarded with Merit from King’s College London in the United Kingdom. He is admitted to the New York Bar and is also a licensed secondary English teacher. He has written for numerous international, peer-reviewed publications, including being a regular contributor to the King’s College London EU Law and Commercial and Financial Law Blogs, European Competition Law Review, Global Competition Litigation Review, The Institute of Competition Law based in New York and Paris, the National Council of English Teacher’s “English Journal,” New York Newsday, Addicted 2 Success, Tiny Buddha, The Mindful Word and The Oxford Mail (UK). He is passionate about travel, history, culture, reading, languages and the arts.

You can connect with him on Facebook:

 And you can find the book on Amazon: Love in Budapest, and other outlets.

Published by

E. Réka Fromm

A Hungarian native from Transylvania, Réka Fromm is the language instructor for adults at the HCA Phoenix. She is teaching Hungarian as a foreign language for English-speaking adults, leading small groups of beginner through intermediate classes through Zoom. A Phoenix resident for almost three decades, she is also a travel writer and occasional translator.

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