Sometimes you come across an absolutely wonderful book that reminds you of that absolutely wonderful Doris Day-Rock Hudson film, Pillow Talk. You know, the one where Rock Hudson is a cynical playboy with the shag room and Doris Day is the sweet and also gorgeous career woman looking for the one. Suddenly, you’re wishing that you had a party line and a beautiful, sultry voice capable of drawing in a crowd with your rendition of “Roly Poly.”
Kate Meader’s Down with Love is, for me, an even better treat. It's Pillow Talk taken to the modern age. A strong, beautiful heroine who’s passionate, doesn’t pull any punches, and wants to be in charge. A smooth-talking playboy hero who can’t fully disguise that he’s also a decent person, no matter how hard he tries. Sex that will bring the house—or in this case, very expensive Chicago condo—down. And a cast of secondary characters that you know and love, even if you’ve never actually encountered them before.
This book made me all kinds of happy.
Here’s the plot on a simple level: Max Henderson is a divorce attorney and a player who is still recovering from a broken engagement—even though he would say otherwise. His brother, James, breaks the news that he and his girlfriend, Gina, are getting married and that they’ve hired a wedding player. This is too much for cynical Max to take; there’s no way their marriage will last and also, who would want to spend that much money on one day?
Gorgeous wedding planner Charlie Love has heard it all before. But besides loving her job, she believes that what she does—creating beautiful experiences that kick-start couples’ lives together—actually matters. On a personal level, after almost losing her father to a heart attack she’s looking for the one, but she’s dealing with her own issues here: namely a past that some might find unpalatable.
Meader has pointed out that this book is a departure for her, and she’s right. Sure, Down with Love has all the good things we’ve come to associate with Meader and her style: an explosive romance, a fantastic dynamic between family members, and a book filled with strong women. But here, those trademark qualities are amplified and we get even more. The book is wildly funny; both main characters have the gift of snark. Told from both Max and Charlie’s points of view, the book has a strong sense of voice, and Max, in particular, plays to the crowd. And the romance between them is big, sexy, and beautiful: you see the weaknesses of both characters and the fact that they’re not a turn-off for each other makes them not a turn-off for the reader. I loved Charlie’s vulnerability and Max’s tenderness. After all, what’s swoonier (is that a word?) than a partner who accepts all of you?
Okay, maybe a partner who accepts all of you and who is also nicely muscled and has a keen intellect. And a good sense of humor.
Down with Love is one of those books that’s going to stay with me for a good, long while, and I’m pretty happy about it.
Pssst! If You Liked This: Why mess with a good thing? For more cynical playboy v. optimistic woman looking for her one and only, try the movie Pillow Talk (Rock Hudson!) or Lauren Layne’s Walk of Shame.
I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley, but all opinions included are my own.
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