Category Archives: Romantic Comedy

The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz

book cover

I now understand why desperate people find religion, or end up believing in aliens or conspiracy theories. Because sometimes the rational answer doesn’t cut it. Sometimes you have to look outside the box. And my hope-desperation twofer had led me way outside the box, all the way to a Willow Green allotment in fact, where, God help me, I was waiting to meet a bunch of people who even the most charitable among us would label “raging nut-job weirdos.”

You think your relationship is complicated? You have no idea what complicated is. Nick and Bee, now that is a truly complicated pairing. Guy sends a flaming message, raging about (and to) a client who has not paid for editing/ghost-writing services, and it somehow gets misdirected. Woman checking her e-mail receives said message and responds with great, subdued humor. And we have achieved our rom-com meet cute.

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Sarah Lotz – image from A.M. Heath

Obviously the pair hit it off, as messages go zooming back and forth across the wires, ether, or whatever, and we get to the big Deborah Kerr/Cary Grant rendezvous scene. As this is London instead of New York, it is set under the large clock at Euston Station instead of at the top of the Empire State Building. And, well, as one might expect, it does not come off as planned, putting a huge dent in the “rom.” Pissed, Bee is about to write it all off when her bff convinces her to keep an open mind, and a good thing too. Turns out, her correspondent had indeed shown up, well, in his London, anyway. The two have somehow been the beneficiaries of a first-order MacGuffin, well a variant on one, anyway. Nick and Bee, while they may be able to exchange messages, are actually living in parallel universes. So I guess that makes their connection more of a meet moot?

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Big Clock at Euston Station image from AllAboard.eu

Still, the connection, divided as they are, is real. They try to figure out what to do. And that is where the next literary angle comes into play. Sarah Lotz adds into the mix references to Patricia Highsmith’s (and Alfred Hitchcock’s) Strangers on a Train. But not for the purpose of knocking off each other’s unwanted spouse. (Although now that you mention it…) If they can’t be together, maybe they can use their insider knowledge to find their side’s version of each other. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries for very similar girl? I mean really, what would you do if you found the one, but were precluded by the laws of physics from realizing your dream?

Lotz has fun with literary/cinematic references, even beyond the two noted above. There is a Rebeccan mad mate, chapters with titles like Love Actually and One Wedding and a Funeral, and on. This is one of the many joys of this book. Catching the references, the easter eggs deftly scattered all about. Cary Grant’s Nickie in An Affair… is Nick here. Rebecca of the story of that name is Bee in one world, Rebecca in another.

There are lovely secondary characters, Bee’s bff, Leila, is the sort of strong supporting sort a fraught leading lady needs. Nick engages with a group of oddballs who have some off-the-grid notions about space-time, and what rules should apply when contact is achieved. There is a grade-A baddie in dire need of removal, a harsh landlady, some adorable pooches, and a very sweet young man.

Another bit of fun is the repeated presence of David Bowie references, including an album you have never heard of.

There is some peripheral social commentary as Nick and Bee compare the worlds in which they live, what programs have been enacted, which politicians have gained office, or not, where the world stands with global warming, things of that nature. These offer food for thought, actually more like dessert to go with the main course of the romance.

Time travel romances have made an impressive dent in our overall reading time. The Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife pop immediately to mind. Other stories have been written about people communicating over time, but this is the first use I am aware of that makes use of parallel universes as an impediment to true love. You do not want to look too closely at the explanation for the whole parallel universe thing. Just go with it. suspend your disbelief. In fact, send it off for a long weekend to someplace nice.

Lotz has done an impressive job of delivering LOLs and tears all in the same book. I noted seven specific LOLs in my notes, and I expect there were more that I failed to jot down. On top of that, we can report that copious tears were shed. No count on that one. So Lotz certainly delivers on the feelz front.

Bee and Nick’s relationship may be insanely complicated, but there should be nothing complicated about your decision to check this one out. The Impossible Us is not only very possible, but practically mandatory. This is a super fun read that you should find a way to make happen for you, whether or not you have a tweed suit, a red coat, a rail station with a large clock, or a dodgy internet connection.

Review posted – March 18, 2022

Publication date – March 22, 2022

I received an ARE of The Impossible Us from Ace in return for a fair review in this universe. My much more successful self in that other place will have to handle the review on his side. Thanks, folks. And thanks to NetGalley for facilitating.

This review has been cross-posted on GoodReads

=======================================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the Lotz’s’s personal, FB, Instagram, and GR pages

Sarah Lotz writes under various names. Impossible Us (Impossible in the UK), is her eighth book under that name. Then there are four books written with her daughter, Savannah, as Lily Herne, five with Louis Greenburg as S.L. Grey, three with Helen Moffatt and Paige Nick as Helena S. Paige, and that does not even count screenplays.

Items of Interest
—–Parallel Universes in Fiction
—–MacGuffin
—–Rebecca
—–An Affair to Remember
—–Strangers on a Train

Reminds Me Of
—–Meet Me in Another Life
—–The Midnight Library

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Sci-fi, Science Fiction, Science Fiction

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

book coverI guarantee that when you reach the end of this novel the sound you hear will be coming from your own mouth, “Awwwwwwwwww.”

The last book I read and reviewed was David Vann’s magnificent Goat Mountain. Outstanding stuff, heavy with content, violent, dark. Someone Else’s Love Story, while not the opposite, is certainly worlds away. An antidote. Maybe chicken feathers for the soul.

The book opens with a poem by Emily Dickenson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

Keep it in mind. But back to beginnings. Consider the first actual paragraph

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. It was on a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could.

Hooked yet? I was. And glad of it.

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Joshilyn Jackson

Shandi is 21, the mother of Natty, a precocious three-year-old. Her bff, Walcott, is helping her move to an apartment her father keeps in Atlanta. She is a familiar sort, a good-hearted everygal of a single mother, except stuck between her long-divorced and still contentious Jewish father (remarried with three more kids) and Christian, still-single, bitter mother. Stopping en route at a convenience store, her journey is interrupted when a gunman holds the place up, shooting a cop and taking those present hostage. Good thing there is a hulk of a guy there, football-player heft, and with brains to boot, a godlike hero who makes sure neither Shandi nor Natty come to harm.

Of course William Ashe has issues of his own, and maybe he has other reasons for risking taking a bullet than solely to protect a damsel and child in distress. Maybe he is choosing his own destiny, on the anniversary of a terrible event in his life.

Destiny does figure large in this story, and it is the consideration of this and other underlying concerns that gives the book greater heft than if it were a simple rom-com. Religion figures as well. It is no accident that Jackson, for example, uses “ungodly hot” in her opening paragraph. It could just as easily have been unbearably or unspeakably. There is a wide range of content here that relates to god. There is a virgin birth, no, really, a resurrection, miracles of one sort and another, sacrifice, concern with mythological beings like Norse gods and animated anthropomorphic creatures from Jewish legend. The book also looks at love, not just between the plus and minus poles of human magnetism, but between humans and god, between friends, between parents and children.

There are some things you will want to note as they pop up in the book. Birdhouses, birds and feathers flutter into view from time to time. I just bet they stand for something. Flowers and flower beds receive similar treatment, always raising Eden-ic possibilities. Ditto fireworks of one kind and another as an expression of love.

There is an investigation here of a back-story crime. It is handled with considerable nuance and maturity. Doubtless, there will be some who take offense at how this is treated. I thought it was excellently done. There is also a jaw-dropping (and wonderful) twist late in the book.

I was reminded very much of the feel of Silver Linings Playbook. Shandi, (can Jennifer Lawrence play her, pleeeeeease) William, and Walcott will win your heart. These are lovely characters, people worth caring about, facing difficult decisions and looking at core elements of life. Someone Else’s Love Story is about all sorts of love stories. It is about doing the right thing and struggling to figure out what that actually is. And it is lovingly and beautifully told. One right thing you can do is read this book. It may not be a religious experience for you, but I guarantee that it will be uplifting and leave your spirit feeling light as a feather. This is a lovely, charming book.

PS – I really hope they keep the cover art that is on the ARE I read. The image of birds, along with a few bursts of fireworks, is nothing short of perfect.

posted 5/17/13

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Filed under Reviews, Romantic Comedy