Paris is Always a Good Idea
Paris Is Always a Good Idea, and reading this book could be too if you’re willing to accept some truly preposterous scenarios and assertions to get to an enjoyable romance. Personally, I felt the view didn’t quite justify the climb..
Chelsea Martin is thirty and a fundraiser for the American Cancer Coalition, a career that sprung from the loss of her mother when Chelsea was twenty-three. Everyone else is moving on (and on – her sister just finished up with her second husband) and her widower father is going for round two with marriage, but Chelsea takes joy in nothing but “video[s] of a pudgy kitten getting stuck in the narrow leg of a pair of tapered pants.” So, she decides to head off to Ireland, France, and Italy, “to remember what it felt like to be in love”, courtesy of her three old summer boyfriends (shades of Mamma Mia!, anyone?) But her trip is complicated by adult responsibilities: her work authorizes a “leave of absence” but she’ll still have one project to finish – getting a donation from an imitation Elon Musk billionaire. On the project with her is Jason Knightley (I’m thinking McKinlay was reading Emma when she picked her characters’ last names), whom Chelsea loathes for his work style (his most famous project was akin to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of a few years back), and the fact that he once saw her getting a mammogram (long story).
I am normally wary of Woman-In-Paris books; often I think they skew a little too far towards the women’s fiction genre instead of romance, and beat Paris like a dead horse. In that respect, Paris Is Always a Good Idea is a pleasant surprise: McKinlay has written an actual romance. She’s made the exceptionally smart decision to have Jason come over to Europe to ‘work’ with Chelsea for a large part of the book, so their relationship can actually develop. And I enjoyed that relationship a lot. So much, in fact, that I seriously considered giving the book a recommending grade, until I remembered all of the things I talk about in the next paragraph. The best thing about the relationship is Jason. This reviewer’s heart loves a hero who is obviously into the heroine and won’t be put off by her when she doesn’t see clearly enough to get with the program and love him back already, and Jason falls into that category. And the physical aspect is there, too; when Chelsea thought to herself:
“I wanted to know what made him sigh and moan, curse and grunt, and I wanted to know what he looked like when he went over the edge”
I made an all caps note that said SO DO I.
But I had a few problems with this book that no amount of mediated, socially-distanced teletherapy could fix. First, it’s just absurd at certain points, the Paris section in particular. Chelsea’s encounter with her ex there involves him dressing her up in a Devil Wears Prada knock-off sequence (there’s a big closet and free clothes), and then culminates in him trying to pimp her out to a French Harvey Weinstein in order to advance his business interests. What?! Second, this book’s definition of ‘love’ really bothered me. There seems to be this idea that long spells between love (or even decent attraction) isn’t normal, as if a mathematician had discovered the acceptable intervals at which a person should fall in love or lust (if I missed the announcement of such a discovery amongst all the coronavirus headlines, please let me know in the comments section). The whole premise of romance is that love and attraction is special, people. Finally, the obstacle of the book is Chelsea’s insistence she wants to force herself into being the woman she was at twenty-three emotionally. Jason does some loving psychoanalysis of her at the end that justifies/explains this stupidity, but it’s just the worst obstacle. And in this pandemic time, her waffling over being with a man like Jason made me want to yell ‘LUXURY PROBLEMS, CHELSEA!!’ at her (though I should really call her ‘Martin’ because she and Jason call each other by their last names a lot like they play on opposing sports teams or serve in the military together). Also, the epilogue felt exceptionally inauthentic and tried to make literally everyone in Chelsea’s family live HEA, not just her and Jason.
Paris Is Always A Good Idea landed somewhere in the French countryside for me. Lovely in moments, but not quite where I wanted to be.
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