My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m going to be upfront and personal here. I am a dyed in the wool Francophile. I get giddy at all things French. Anything to do with France and I’m pretty well sold on the concept. I follow bloggers from France, I buy photography books with photos from France, I dream of the day I can visit the country and I even own salt and pepper shaking in the form of the Eiffel Tower. (Yes, I really do and they are glorious.) So to learn that Marc Levy is a French writer who has written a romance novel that I get to review seems almost too good to be true. I was pretty well in love with it before I’ve even read the opening lines.
This story is told from two main protagonists’ points of view; Mia and Paul. And there are inherent complications in the romantic situation where Mia and Paul are involved. Both of them are tangled up with other people romantically. We have Mia, who is a successful British actress married to a chump who is having an affair with the co-star and we have Paul, an American writer who has taken refuge in Paris because he found the fame of writing a best seller too much to cope with whose girlfriend Kyong lives in Seoul. But these prior romantic situations do cause problems. Mia’s husband wants to be forgiven for his bad behaviour and taken back and Kyong appears to be holding Paul at arm’s length when he makes a trip to South Korea.
This is a lovely romance story that avoids the dreaded insta-love situation; in fact, love isn’t mentioned until the very end of the novel. The love story unfolds under the guise of friendship, because Mia and Paul appear to want to ignore the fact they are attracted to each other. There is a great supporting cast of characters in the form of friends who watch with amusement as they see the romance developing. There are charming situations where mayhem unfolds, such as a night at the Opera House resulting in a possible legal situation and times in which one person thinks the other person is lying about facts about themselves and it turns out to be misunderstandings and there are texting conversations that feel adolescent in pace and fervour but are sweet. The city of Paris plays a great supporting actress role for the book, where we are taken on walks through the city and see some of the sights that make a Francophile sigh with delight.
I wanted Mia and Paul to end up together, although there were times when it didn’t appear to be likely. The times when Mia and Paul realise that they do have feelings for one another and how it is played out are what romantic dreams are made of. Levy is absolutely brilliant at writing snappy dialogue between characters, but one issue I had was that he seems to forget to show us, the reader, that there is more than a conversation happening. For example in one scene we follow a conversation in which Mia and Paul are walking along a street, only we don’t know that until Paul is pulling Mia away from the path of an oncoming car and telling her to watch herself. It just came out of nowhere; I had no idea that they were walking as they were talking. It was odd. And it happens more than once in the book. We are privy to the thoughts of both Mia and Paul and it includes some rather amusing inner monologues but because there is no differentiation between the type the thoughts can become jumbled and confusing on reading. One person’s inner thoughts are followed immediately by the thoughts of the other, making for a muddle of words.
Much like French films are very different from English films in style and focus that take time to become accustomed to and then appreciated, this romance is written in what must be a very French method. Paris was delightful as always and I would definitely read more of Levy’s other works.