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Back to the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

Letter “K”

For the letter “K”, I turned to a book that is not a typical romance and was not written by a romance writer – in fact, Kay’s other works are poetry. Liz Kay’s Monsters: A Love Story, published in 2016, is a romantically inclined novel with a bit of an edge.

Like the author, our lead character, Stacey Lane, is a poet. She’s also thirty-something, newly widowed, and a mother of two young boys. Living in Nebraska, where her deceased husband was raised, Stacey has always felt a bit out of place. She grew up on the west coast and went to graduate school in the east, but having her sister and brother-in-law close by has been a help. Stacey has been more of a stay-at-home mom during her married life than a writer. She’s only published two books of poetry, but the latter one, Monsters in the Afterlife, a feminist take on the Frankenstein story, has gotten some traction. In fact, a Hollywood star has optioned it for adaptation, wants to produce, and invites Stacey to come out to his Caribbean vacation home to discuss the project. This invitation propels Stacey into Tommy DeMarco’s incredibly crazy life. DeMarco, in his latter 30’s, one assumes, is a charming, handsome womanizer. But he’s also smart, talented, and determined to make this book into a movie with the involvement of Stacey. Through the course of two years, not only do they work together off and on, but they carry on an affair at the same pace, falling in and out of each other’s lives, debating artistic visions, whether to have a relationship, how to deal with their children — Tommy has a young, troubled teenage daughter from a previous relationship – as well as trust and honesty. In a sense, the poetry Stacey has written almost becomes a metaphor for the type of woman Stacey tailors herself to be, i.e., either one that fits her traditional, steady, Midwest world with one man or one that fits into Tommy’s glamorous, bohemian, ego-driven, alcohol and Xanax-fueled existence.

For a first novel, I found this story to be a popcorn popping, fast read. I honestly didn’t know how it would end nor how I wanted it to end. Did I want Stacey and Tommy to eventually make things permanent – if Tommy could ever *be* with one woman? Did I want Stacey to remain in Nebraska in the stable but less exciting arms of a doctor she begins to date at her sister’s urging? Or would it be best if they were both alone, with Stacey facing her grief and her artistic stagnation and Tommy finally growing up and getting control of his daughter. The romantic in me wanted things to work out, but it seemed an unreachable goal, since they were both damaged and not always good for each other. Be that as it may, I *can* recommend this story to romance readers, as long as you are not expecting absolute fidelity through the couple’s struggles, are not offended by profanity, and can look past all the heavy drinking without developing cirrhosis by osmosis. (In fact, I thought it amusing that Stacey was such a health-nut in terms of the food she feeds her children and eats herself, but has no problem sucking back the wine and vodka!) Anyway, if you enjoy books about artists, the artistic process, imperfect people attracted to each other and yet maybe not good for each other, you’ve found your story here! Luckily, it was right up my alley. I’d give it an A/A-.

The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 10 down, 9 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)

The Phonics Challenge – 1 down, 18 to go