fiction · romance

The Idea of You- Robinne Lee

Would you believe I’m actually feeling better??? It’s amazing!!!! Of course, that means I entirely overdid it on Sunday, trying to get caught up, and spent a good part of yesterday struggling to walk, but let’s not talk about that.

Let’s talk about this book.

I have a tough time falling asleep at night, and I wake up a lot, so I keep a podcast going in my earbud all night. The sound helps me drift off to sleep, and when I wake up, it gives me something to focus on besides my anxiety-based thoughts (like, “OMG, I’ll never get enough sleep and then I’ll be a mess in the morning and I’ll drive off the road and kill everyone!” Zero to a hundred in no time flat, my brain). My current listen is Smart Bitches, Trashy Podcast, and I love it. Last month, I woke up one morning for no good reason at 4 am and Episode #296 with author Julia Whelan was chugging along in my earbud. Sarah Wendell, the host, was asking Ms. Whelan if there were any books she’d been reading lately that she’d like to recommend, and Ms. Whelan immediately said, “Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017). As she launched into the description, I’m pretty sure I gasped in the early morning darkness, and I immediately rolled over, grabbed my phone, and added it to my Goodreads TBR. As someone who usually just tries to stay still and fall back to sleep as quickly as possible, moving around when I wake up is serious business. THAT is how much I wanted to read this book. I was beyond thrilled when I checked during more awake, more daylight hours to find that a local library had a copy of this.

Solène Marchand is almost forty, a successful art gallery owner and single mother of a young teenage daughter. She’s fought hard to be where and who she is, leaving her unhappy marriage after her husband had different ideas of who she should have been, and while she may be lonely, she’s still content. Everything changes when her ex bails on taking her daughter and friends to an August Moon concert, August Moon being THE hot British boy band. Solène steps in, and a backstage meet and greet with the band puts her on the radar of Hayes Campbell, adorable, sexy band member who is twenty years her junior. What Solène thinks is just flirting turns into something else when Hayes begins to pursue her despite his crazy and hectic schedule.

Hiding everything from almost everyone she knows, including her daughter, Solène and Hayes begin a deeply emotional, incredibly sexy tryst, meeting up in cities along his tour route, tucked away in the back of darkened restaurants, spending their time backstage at concert arenas and Hayes’s hotel rooms. Solène hadn’t expect to actually fall for a twenty year old boy bander, but he’s in just as deep as she is. And when the real world- Hayes’s fame, Solène’s daughter, their age difference- creeps into the fortress they’ve carefully constructed around themselves, Solène needs to make a lot of difficult decisions.

My synopsis of this does NOT do this book justice. This book is complex, studying society’s attitude towards age and aging (and the difference between male and female aging), feminism, parenting (and the different roles men and women are expected to play and expect each other to play), relationships, friendship, and fame- what it’s like, how we react to it, the positives and negatives and dangers of it. It’s romance, but- potential spoiler alert here- its ending kind of kicks it out of traditional romance territory. (It’s not a true spoiler, as almost immediately Solène begins to question the longevity of her relationship with Hayes. With a twenty-year age difference, how could one NOT?)

In the past, when I’ve read books with characters who are involved in the art world, they often seem humorless, dry, and detached, but Solène felt more immediate, more present and real. Her complicated feelings about her relationship with Hayes, especially in relation to her young daughter, made her extremely sympathetic and relatable- obviously, I’ve never been in her shoes before, but as a parent, you’re constantly forced to pit your child’s needs with your own needs and desires, and it’s a never-ending battle of how much or how little you have to sacrifice, and what you can still keep in your life while still giving your kids everything they need. So while the inclusion of Isabelle, Solène’s daughter, as a character gave the story more of an edge of anxiety that I’m usually comfortable with, it also kept the story emotionally real. Solène has to make a lot of hard decisions throughout the course of this book, and I think most of them show her as selfless, or eventually selfless (which…isn’t always a great quality, you know? While putting others first is usually a great thing, at some point, if you’re always selfless, you start to lose…yourself. And if you don’t have yourself, what DO you have?).

And Hayes. *SWOON* I’ve got a special place in my heart for boy bands, British or not, and Hayes and his fellow bandmates are so well-written. They’re young, but not immature; lively without being annoying; sharp, witty, sarcastic, intelligent, and sexy as all hell. Hayes is mature without seeming over-written or artificial; his feelings for Solène are deep and authentic. The chemistry he and Solène have is off-the-charts hot, and if you’re more into chaste romances, this isn’t your kind of book. By necessity, Solène and Hayes spend the vast majority of their relationship tucked away somewhere private, and so there’s a lot of hot monkey sex, some of it somewhat graphic, in these pages. It’s all so well and beautifully, reverentially written, though; this isn’t smut for the sake of smut.

The end, which, as I said boots this book out of traditional romance territory, is a bit gutting, but not surprising, at least not to me. I thought it fit the story and the characters perfectly, and it was the only honest ending that Ms. Lee could have written. Anything else would have been even more heartbreaking and soul-crushing, and while it’s not the ending I wished for the characters, it’s the only realistic one, the only one that I would have believed.

The famous person/normal person relationship trope is my absolute favorite, so this book ticked a lot of boxes for me and I’m so happy I just happened to wake up at the right moment to hear about it! Talk about serendipity. I’m looking forward to seeing what Robinne Lee writes next, because I enjoyed this so very much. She’s hooked me as a fan with her writing style, her way of seeing the world, and her understanding of the complexity of human emotions.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of the famous person/normal person relationship trope? What about the older woman/younger man trope? (That one usually weirds me out a little more. My son is just about three years younger than Hayes, so…nope. Not quite for me, but it worked well in this book.)

Visit Robinne Lee’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1)- Dahlia Adler

Everywhere I go, I seem to find new-to-me authors that end up on my ever-expanding TBR list, and it was an episode of Smart Bitches, Trashy Podcast that clued me in to the awesomeness that is Dahlia Adler. I don’t think Ms. Adler had uttered more than three sentences before I was grabbing my phone, opening my Goodreads app, and punching the ‘Want to Read’ button (literally punching, hard. I meant business). There’s something seriously infectious about her humor, her charm, the way she talks about writing and her job and life, and I knew that anything she wrote, I was going to enjoy.

And I was right! My library has a few of her books in its collection, but the first one that came up in my library’s catalog was Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1) (Spencer Hill Contemporary, 2014), and I checked out an ebook and settled down to read.

It’s senior year and Ally has a LOT going on. She’s already been accepted into Columbia, college of her dreams, but there’s a massive snag: her dad’s looking-like-it’s-terminal cancer is costing the family so much that continuing her education in New York might have to stay the stuff of dreams. A part-time job flipping burgers isn’t going to come close to paying for tuition, but Ally’s got friends in high places: her lifelong best friend, teen actress Vanessa Park, has just been cast as the female lead in what could be TV’s hottest teen dramedy, and she’s more than happy to pay Ally to work as her assistant. Ally agrees to this; she’s never been interested in Hollywood, but she needs the money and it’ll give her a chance to hang with her bestie.

What Ally’s not expecting is Van’s MEGAHOT costar, Liam Holloway. She knew he’d be there, but she didn’t think he’d be THAT hot in person…or that normal…or that…into her??? How could he be, when he’s so Hollywood, and Ally’s so not? Just as their relationship is starting to blossom, the show’s producer (I *think* it was?) comes up with the idea to have Liam and Van pretend to date in order to drum up publicity, and while Ally hates everything about the idea, she knows it’s the best thing for her friends’ careers. She can handle being Liam’s secret girlfriend while he and Van pretend in public…but for how long?

Superhot celebrity falling in love with a regular person: it’s my favorite trope of all time, and OMG, Liam is a thousand kinds of adorable. Ms. Adler has written a totally swoonworthy character and I’m trying to figure out who I can write to to demand that time be turned back and we are all issued our own Liam Holloway as teenagers, he was just that wonderful (he may go on my list of Best Swoonworthy Male Characters EVAR, next to Levi from Fangirl).

Ally, poor Ally. For someone so obviously intelligent (already accepted to Columbia, at home studying on Friday nights, AP classes out the wazoo), she lacked confidence in herself and struggled so much with trusting Liam and Vanessa. In any other character, I think her trust issues *might* have been annoying, considering how much she was hot/cold, back and forth with Liam, but she was someone who had been close to but not a part of Hollywood her whole life via Van. She’d seen how fake people could be, how many times Van had gotten hurt in the past, and she already knew to be wary around anyone in the industry. Add to that the stress of watching her father dying day by day, trying to support her mother and sister through it all, worrying about how she’d manage to pay for school and how she’d be able to be away from what would be left of her family…yeah, pretty much anyone would be flailing and freaking out at that point. It was easy to see where her constant whirlwind of panic was coming from, and I thought Ms. Adler handled that exceptionally well.

I’m not much of a series reader, but I’m definitely going to read #2 in this series, Under the Lights, which focuses on Van and Josh Chester, Liam’s bad-boy buddy. It’s a dual POV, which I LOVE (Behind the Scenes is narrated solely by Ally), and Ms. Adler has created a world in which I will happily and enthusiastically spend more time in, and characters that I’m looking forward to hanging out with again.

Two thumbs up from me, and I’m extremely happy that I discovered Dahlia Adler!

Visit Dahlia Adler’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.