Meet Me in Manhattan
I love to hear how people met their spouse/significant other, which ties in nicely with my love of romance novels. Most of my acquaintances have relatively common answers like church, work, or school, but my favorite thus far is the man who met his wife at a wedding. She had been a foreign exchange student from Italy back in high school, and the bride was the daughter of her host family. He was a friend of the groom. Their courtship involved commutes between two continents and romantic trappings like gondolas and weekend Paris rendezvous. I expected a tale a bit like that (or even more unique) from the new True Vows line. You know what they say about expectations.
When Ted Skala and Erika Fredell start their romance at the end of their senior year, it has a bittersweet flavor to it. They are a perfect couple – but there is already an expiration date racing toward them in the fall. Erika will be off to college and easy-go-lucky Ted plans to have a gap year before making any decisions. But when the end of summer comes, Ted has a hard time letting go and proposes. Erika breaks up with him, feeling that a clean finish is the only way either of them will be able to move on. Ted vows he will never let her hurt him again and the two, after a bit of back and forth, go their separate ways. Then as established adults, they meet again in New York City. The plans are for a simple coffee catch up, but both leave the cafe wanting more. Can first love really be reignited? Even when some hurt feelings still linger?
This is the kind of tale I love to hear over some cocktails at a social event. Read in a 248 page book, though, the story loses a lot of its charm. It isn’t that it is bad per se; it just doesn’t bear up well under that kind of intensive scrutiny. There isn’t much action or suspense, which would normally leave us with something that is really lacking in the current market: A character driven romance. That would have been pretty exciting – I love a good contemporary character romance – but this leads me to my other problem with the book.
I’m not familiar with Judith Arnold’s work, but this book was very low key, with little character building. Mostly we were told – told Erika was ambitious, told Ted had his own form of ambition, told how hardworking they were, told no one was to blame – in short, we were shown little and information was passed on like it would be in a second hand conversation. It could be I imagined it but it seemed as though the author was reluctant to take liberties with her real life characters. Nor was she willing to make any sort of judgment on their actions. That kept the book from really being about the characters in the deeper sense of having them be people you analyzed and empathized with, people who made it into that third dimension. As a result, I never really lost the sense that I was being told a story about two people in Manhattan as opposed to reading a romantic tale.
The book captures the real life experience of messy relationships, poor communication and confused feelings very well. It will probably remind you of a relationship that you or someone you know has had. But I don’t know that I can really recommend it. Ted and Erika seem like fun people to get acquainted with at a party. But their book wasn’t real life romanticized. It was just real life told in a low key, almost boring manner.