Desert Isle Keeper
Adult Assembly Required
If you’ve missed Nina and her friends from The Bookish Life of Nina Hill you absolutely must read Adult Assembly Required. It’s a sequel featuring a different couple who know Nina, Polly and company, and it is absolutely fantastic. If you haven’t read Nina Hill yet, rush out and pick up both books now. They’re wonderful.
When graduate student Laura Costello walks into Knight’s bookstore, she is soaked and sobbing. Getting caught in a torrential downpour was just the icing on the cake of what had turned out to be a very bad day. Not only had she not gotten the job she desperately needed, the apartment she just rented caught on fire. The entire building is uninhabitable and all her belongings have literally gone up in smoke. She’s only been in Los Angeles a short time but it’s looking more and more as though the city wants her gone, pronto. Luckily, Knight’s is exactly the right place to go when you’re in a crisis.
Before Laura quite knows what’s happening, clerk Polly has found her a place to live (the boarding house where Polly stays), Nina has lent her dry clothes and bookstore owner Liz has given her hot tea and comfort. Polly’s boarding house turns out to be an entirely lovely place, where proprietress Maggie rents out rooms, doles out excellent advice, and feeds guests who are in obvious need of some loving care. The other tenants are a delightfully eclectic, quirky bunch who make Laura feel right at home. Well, except Impossibly Handsome Bob. He makes her feel flustered and has awakened feelings Laura was quite sure she had beaten remorselessly into submission.
This is the setup for Adult Assembly Required and I laughed out loud, completely uncontrollably, several times as we get to the point where Laura is settled into Maggie’s house. And the hits kept coming – giggles galore accompanied my perusal of this sweet, charming love story about finding your place – and your people – in the world.
Laura is a fantastic heroine. The only daughter of two ornithology professors and sister to three other scientists as well as the ex-fiancée of one, her desire to get a doctorate in the practical field of physical therapy has caused something of a scandal in her family. Her desire to do so in California has her native New Yorker kindred all in a tizzy. Laura’s mother spends the first portion of the book trying to convince her to come home and become a college professor.
We quickly learn that Laura has good cause for wanting to be away from home to get a degree in a medical field. She had always been the only athlete in her family, and when she was in a bad car accident, being practically immobilized had been horrifying for her. Physical therapists helped her literally get back on her feet and back into shape and Laura definitely wants to pay that forward. In addition, her family (and her ex) simply can’t take no for an answer. Laura fled New York for her own sanity.
Impossibly Handsome Bob has the stellar looks of a movie star and the body of an Adonis but zero flirtation skills. None. Nada. Zilch. Making small talk is torture for him and he inevitably chases girls away with his total lack of banter and inability to talk about much of anything except sports and plants. A horticulturalist, he can bore a woman to death in ten minutes flat simply by overloading her with the details of the growth cycle of a perennial. Laura, the daughter, sister and friend of people who endlessly discuss their passions, is actually interested in what Bob has to say and doesn’t find info dumps annoying at all. Moreover, a sports enthusiast herself, she can participate fully in those conversations and turns out to be the perfect partner for this gorgeous socially awkward gentleman.
Because this is woman’s fiction, much of the story is spent watching Laura grow into who she was always meant to be. She spends lots of time with her new friends Polly and Nina, joins Nina’s trivia team and hangs out with Bob a ton. One of my few quibbles with the book is that aside from one on-page kiss, Bob and Nina don’t get together until after eighty percent of the story is over. As a result, their romance, in terms of them being more than friends and actually acknowledging that, feels incomplete. We’re really only privy to the very start of that.
My only other quibble is that Maggie, the landlord, has a reconciliation with her daughter that is very rushed and completely unnecessary. That page space could definitely have been used to further the romance between our leads or between Polly and the young man who has taken a shine to her.
Adult Assembly Required is such a gem of a book. Ms. Waxman’s writing style is so lovely, lively, and laugh-out-loud funny that it is a complete pleasure to read her work. Laura and Bob are utterly enchanting – they’re the besties you wish you had in real life. My two tiny quibbles aside, this tale is perfection and a must read for anyone who likes books.
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I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.