I told myself that in 2018 I would write more about what I am reading, watching, consuming. I didn’t expect to start the first day of 2018 finishing a book that would rock my world. If I had finished this novel just a day earlier it would have been my favorite read of 2017.
Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.
What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most.
This book wasn’t supposed to affect me this way. It was supposed to be a guilty pleasure. When I saw author Mara White post about The Idea Of You here, I was immediately interested in reading it. I do not hide the fact that I am drawn to older women/younger men tales. I have written two novels and both feature a romance between a woman and a man with a 7 year age difference. These stories are gold to me. I am also not shy about the fact that I love boy bands. I have since I was a little girl. (I’ve even developed an unnatural crush on Harry Styles, much to my friend’s dismay…) It’s something I doubt I will grow out of and I think we should embrace what makes us happy. The fact that The Idea Of You also featured a male lead who was in a boy band made one clicking this novel a no-brainer. The author even made me feel better about just enjoying whatever I want while reading.
“It’s art. And it makes people happy. And that’s a very good thing. We have this problem in our culture. We take art that appeals to women—film, books, music—and we undervalue it. We assume it can’t be high art. Especially if it’s not dark and tortured and wailing. And it follows that much of that art is created by other women, and so we undervalue them as well. We wrap it up in a pretty pink package and resist calling it art.”
I write and read romance. I know the stigma. It carries the same weight as the judgment tossed at those who love boy bands. This quote from the novel reminded me of a quote from Harry Styles I read last year. (I like him, shut up and leave me alone…)
“How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans — they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”
I’ve found myself drawn more and more to novels featuring women my age. Once upon a time I would have read a novel like this and had a hard time relating. Solène is 39. I am no longer drawn to novels about young 20 somethings. I am not in that phase of my life anymore. And a woman’s life does not stop when she approaches her 40’s. My birthday is in three weeks, I am quickly climbing to 35. I related to Solène and her fears about her age, her worth, and the way it is defined by society based on her looks. I find myself lost sometimes, worrying about the way the world looks at me. Lamenting my new wrinkles, my grey hairs, the way my skin sags in places it once did not. Men age and no one bats an eye. Women have expiration dates. These notions are beaten into us and I can’t help but rebel against them. I can’t help but find myself hurt over these forced truths.
“But it’s definitely harder for women. And I think even more so for beautiful women. Because if so much of your identity and your value is tied up in your looks and how the world responds to your physical appearance, what do you do when that changes? How do you see yourself then? Who do you become?”
Another fact about myself I do not try to hide is my disdain for alpha males in novels. I can’t stomach them. I don’t want them in my real life or my fantasies. Hayes was a breath of fresh air. Mature beyond his years, kind and open. I want to look at the world the way he does. Any woman would kill to be looked at the way he looks at Solènes. Their fall is hypnotizing, real. The chemistry between these two leads leaps off the pages. I ached for them and was moved in a way I haven’t been in a while. Their love was believable. And I wanted nothing more than for it to last.
I want to say so much more about this book, but I do not want to spoil it. I want you to read it for yourself. If you don’t share my particular tastes: boy bands, younger men, etc… Please still give this novel a chance. Those are details that make these characters who they are but it is the whole of them that draws you in. We are all so much more than our jobs, our age… I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes.
“I’m really happy when I’m with you. I get the feeling you feel the same way. And if that’s true, I don’t think you should give a fuck about what people may or may not think of our age difference. Furthermore, if our ages were reversed, no one would bat an eyelash. Am I right? So now it’s just some sexist, patriarchal crap, and you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who’s going to let that dictate her happiness. All right? Next issue…”
“I’m saying it because I love you.”
He was quiet, weighing the moment. And then he smiled, wide.
“What took you so long?”
I laughed. “I was just making sure it was you, and not the idea of you.”
“I want to do things that feed me. I want to surround myself with art and fascinating people and stimulating experiences … and beauty. I want to surprise myself.”
Hayes smiled then, slow, knowing. “It’s like unfolding a flower.”
“You, revealing yourself. You, who vowed to share as little as possible.”