Just because we love novels in which knights cleave their foes in twain, murderers are consumed with remorse/feel no remorse whatsoever, and child prodigies have nervous breakdowns, doesn’t mean we don’t love romantic novels. We love love stories, it’s just that most of the time we don’t want to be seen with them.
There are too many romantic stories ruined in the telling—drowned in schmaltz, pocked with embarrassing sex scenes (though we enjoy a good howler), overwrought, or so fluffy you forget what you’re reading even before you get to the end of the sentence. They would cause Jane Austen to forget her manners and smack the authors around till they swear never to write again.
Fortunately, there are exceptions.
Beginner’s Greek by former Time editor James Collins opens with a case of love at first sight, then proceeds to separate the would-be lovers and throw various obstacles in their path. Sounds like the plot of every other romcom, but the writing is so smart and insightful, it would be ungracious not to suspend your disbelief. Money is inextricable from the marriage plot, Collins goes on at some length about the hero’s job in an investment firm, but the passages on finance anchor the novel and make it seem real.
Our only complaint is the generic-looking cover with the tagline, “Could they have a second chance at love at first sight?” Yucch! Ignore.
This is how to write a novel about love: declare that you are tired of it.
We almost did not buy this book because of its cover: generally when a book has a heart shape and champagne glasses on the cover, it is not a book we can admit to reading. Luckily we read the first paragraph and decided that we could not live without it. Happy All The Time introduced us to Laurie Colwin, one of our favorite authors. The plot is simple—boys meet girls, boys get girls, couplehood is somewhat perplexing, but there’s that title. Effortlessly charming and droll, HATT features an eccentric supporting cast, including a woman with harlequin glasses who quotes St. Teresa of Avila.
Good luck it, though. Our copy is older than many of you. If you find any Laurie Colwin titles in bookstores, let us know.