Novelist Patti Callahan Henry knows how to brew up a good story. She picks a great setting, such as a small coastal town in South Carolina. She adds in a bright and inventive heroine. She matches her with a worthy, but flawed hero. And then she involves them in a plot with twist after twist. That is what she does, and she does it just fine in her new novel The Idea of Love.
Ella is a romantic so when her husband cheats on her she just can't accept it. She has romantic dreams they will get back together. Therefore she is not looking for a new relationship when she meets a man named Hunter. He tells her he is a writer looking for historical information about coastal towns. Not willing to reveal her true story she tells him she is a recent widow whose husband died in a boating accident.
Hunter is really a Hollywood screenwriter looking for inspiration for a new screenplay. He picks up on Ella's story and thinks it would make a great movie. Ella continues to see Hunter and each time plans to tell him the truth, but she knows he is leaving town soon so why bother? Hunter feels an attraction to Ella but he wants to know the details to her story. Could his movie be called "Liar, Liar"? Paging Jim Carrey!
Henry knows exactly how to work a plot such as this. She realizes lying might not make her two main characters totally likable, so she works diligently to uncover their charms. For the most part it works. Ella comes off as slightly naïve and evasive rather than intentionally deceptive. Hunter, however, is a man who also cheated on his wife which ended their marriage, so his road to redemption is slightly rockier. He has to overcome lying and cheating which does not make him a great candidate for hero status.
Patti Callahan Henry is also adept at adding solid secondary characters to her story. In this book Ella finds a new friend in an older woman who is full of sage advice. She also reconnects with one of her best friends. The reason they have been estranged is due to the fact her friend's sister was the woman who stole Ella's husband. That makes swapping confidences a little more difficult.
Henry takes us on a trip of discovery as to what creates our ideas of love. She realizes they can be many and can be varied. Still with any story by Henry she manages to pull it all together in the end. As for the reader, getting there is nothing but fun. If you are a fan of romantic novels put this one in your winners column.
The Idea of Love is published by St Martin's Press. It contains 256 pages and sells for $25.99.
Jackie K Cooper
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more