I made the mistake of starting this book on a Monday morning. A Monday morning where I eventually had to pull myself up out of my comfy lounge chair at home and go to my job. My job that expected me to work the entire week. My job that kept me from inhaling this delightful story in one sitting. Seriously, where’s a Greek tycoon when a girl really needs one? I’d tolerate the punishing kisses for financial security and a few hours of uninterrupted reading time every day.
Clara Sterne is a production assistant for a small production company that plans to film a documentary for the BBC called Romance: Fact or Fiction?. The plan is to have two divergent personalities discuss the idea of romance in various romantic locales – Paris, a tropical island, and the wilds of Scotland. They’ve already landed the female personality, a footballer’s wife who is famous for being famous. Now they just need to land the guy – Simon Valentine. Unfortunately, he’s proving to be a very hard sell – which would mean bad news for Clara since 1) the project will die on the vine without him and 2) she’s hoping to parlay this assignment into a promotion.
Simon is an economist who has turned into an unlikely, and unwanted, celebrity. His passion is micro-finance and lending, and his employer is keen on publicity for the firm. However, one appearance on a news show (think CNN) has landed him a pack of swooning female fans. Now he’s got this ridiculous Clara person phoning him, showing up to lectures he’s giving, begging him to do this silly documentary. How many different ways can he possibly say no? Naturally, being a romance novel, events take place that lead Simon to saying yes. And before you know it, they’re off to Paris to begin filming.
This story has a lot of classic romantic comedy traits that give it a very cinematic feel. Clara is bubbly, out-going, a woman with a passion for dancing and show tunes. Simon is the drab, straight-laced, buttoned-up guy who sees everything in black and white. She’s romance and passion. He’s a cold shower. It’s the classic opposites attract storyline, yet with the twist that the opposites are actually perfect for each other. They complement each other in every way – they just need the 180-some pages to figure it out.
There’s so much I like about this story. The characters are likable and charming, even stick-in-the-mud Simon. I love, love, love the fact that it isn’t love-at-first-sight for either of them. Simon muses that Clara is not elegant and beautiful – more like a bohemian mess; and Clara cannot figure out why women are a swooning mess over….this guy? Really? Naturally, the more time they spend together, the more their personalities come out, the more those first impressions give way to something more.
Hart pads up the conflict by including two exes – one for each character. Simon is still smarting over the fact that the elegant colleague he was dating threw him over for a swarthy Italian playboy and Clara is still a bit stung by the fact that her former beau tossed her aside for an old flame. Simon thinks he wants his ex back, Clara is ready to move on but unwilling to play second fiddle anymore.
There are lovely moments of insight on the part of both characters and realization dawns that they are hopelessly attracted to each other, but fearful that it could never work because they’re “too different.” On that score, there’s a fantastic Big Romantic Gesture at the end of this book – on the part of both characters – that really ties the whole thing together. Clara understands Simon, and Simon understand Clara. All the while, neither one of them has to morph into pod people to make that happy ending work. It’s charming, it’s sweet, it’s everything I want in a romance.
I’ve done it! Thanks to my awesome powers of persuasion, elusive-but-dreamy TV star Simon Valentine is starring in our new romance documentary!
It wasn’t easy, though—Simon thinks his status as prime-time financial guru turned celebrity is ridiculous! He says he now steers well clear of affairs of the heart, but surely he must have one romantic bone left in his body?
Much as I’d like to find out firsthand, I’ve sworn off men after a disastrous ending with my last boyfriend. Must remain professional—though it won’t be easy…we’re filming in the most romantic city of all….