New York, Actually
Sarah Morgan continues her From Manhattan With Love series of romantic comedy-esque books with New York, Actually. This new installment is a little bit Must Love Dogs, a little Dear Abby, and a lot deception. Sadly, it turned out to be the most disappointing book in the series, with less chemistry than its predecessors and not enough conflict to keep me turning the pages.
Molly is an advice columnist writing under the false name Dear Aggie. She fled her career as a television psychologist and her life in England after a terrible relationship and started over in New York. Now she happily hides behind her pseudonym and avoids relationships because, in her mind, every man she dates falls madly in love with her and she is incapable of love. Now the only man she needs is her pet Dalmatian.
Divorce attorney Daniel has seen Molly around the park and decides the best way to meet her is to borrow his sisters’ foster dog and walk him at the same time Molly takes out her dog so he can somehow engineer a meeting. Sure, this sounds like something a creepy stalker would do, but we forgive him because he’s a handsome romance hero, right? The dogs hit it off right away and Daniel has his in with Molly. She turns him down every time he asks her out – because of course she does – so he has to continue to borrow his sisters’ German Shepherd and visit the park to see her.
I loved how Molly eventually confronts him when she learns of his deception. It’s funny and has tons of personality. I even loved how the dog connection brought in characters who will appear in the next two books, Daniel’s twin sisters Fliss and Harriet. However, I after that section, I found myself putting the book down for long stretches and not coming back to it. In fact, I read a complete novel while ignoring New York, Actually, which is a certain sign that something is off.
This book is not short on charm or humor, as Morgan excels at both. But what I realized after I finally made myself come back to it, was that it lacked tension. Daniel’s interest in Molly is simply because she’s a pretty girl he sees that the park, and that’s it, because he doesn’t learn much more about her. She hides her career from him to avoid his learning about Dear Aggie and her past. A romance novel can’t just be about the characters dating; there has to be conflict. I’m sorry to say Daniel and Molly are just dating. Sure, little conflicts pop up like the dog lie, and her dog getting ill, but they are resolved quickly and easily. The only thing really keeping the two of them apart is Molly’s belief that she is incapable of falling in love. She had a weird on-screen/off-screen relationship when she was a TV psychologist that went catastrophically sour because she didn’t feel deeply enough for the guy and now she thinks that she can’t love, and that just isn’t a convincing enough reason for Molly to keep turning Daniel down. It’s clear that a bond is forming between them, and this weird past relationship disaster doesn’t feel like enough to set her against love for life, especially at such a young age. She has some abandonment issues relating to her mother as well, but they come up so late into the novel that I had a hard time adding them to the image I had already formed of her character.
Daniel’s inner conflict – which stems from his family background – is more believable. He has seen his own family break apart, and as a divorce lawyer, watches the worst possible outcome of love. I even loved his adorable, if inevitable, story arc with the borrowed foster dog. All in all, I found him much more believable and likeable than Molly. She’s too hard to pin down – and just plain odd. There was something really strange to me about a TV psychologist-turned-secret-advice-blogger-turned-secret-relationship-book-author who apparently has outrageous success at all of those while being a complete mess of a person.
This is a personal pet peeve of mine, but with longer series I hate when there is a roll call of characters from previous novels just to force a series connection. Eva and Lucas from the previous book just so happen to live in the same building as Daniel and just so happen to be his great friends who can drop off gourmet food at a moment’s notice. You know, because everyone in high-dollar Manhattan apartments knows their neighbors. Plus there’s an Urban Genie connection to Paige and Frankie. It would have been fine to continue the Manhattan theme with the fresh set of characters.
I have enjoyed the three previous installments in this series, as well as pretty much everything I have read from Sarah Morgan so I can’t tell you what a letdown it was to not love this book, but I just didn’t. It had so many of the elements I enjoy about her books but it was missing the extra oomph that would have sucked me in and pushed the rating higher. I know many will love New York, Actually anyway, but I also know it could have been so much better.