Ellery Sharpe, a distinguished book critic, has made a horrible mistake by writing a scathing review of Bettina Moore's memoirs for her magazine Vanity Place. Bettina is the darling of romance publishing world and is also the secret mistress of Ellery's publisher, Buhl Martin Black. In retaliation for the review and to appease his mistress, he orders Ellery to write a new magazine piece praising romance novels and the audience that reads them. Ellery also has to work with a photographer on this and her publisher hires Axel Mackenzie, Ellery's ex-boyfriend for this assignment.
Axel is a reformed party-boy that is looking for more in his future. Diagnosed with a health condition that he has kept hidden from everyone, he is saving his money to buy his friend's brewery in Pittsburgh. He looks at this assignment as an opportunity to make amends with Ellery and discover where their relationship went wrong. With advice from his sister, he picks up three romance novels to put him in the mood and give him some pointers on how to win Ellery back. Ellery reads these romance novels on their trip and finds that she is falling in love with the stories and their heroes. Ellery and Axel have some unresolved issues from their past and hopefully this assignment can bring them closer together and help them find their happy-ever-after.
I finished this novel in one sitting because the story grabs you and doesn't let you go until the end. Ellery is your typical uptight character who focuses on her career and success, while letting any opportunity for love fall to the wayside. After being introduced to romance novels, you can see her walls slowly come down as she gets involved in the stories and she can almost see herself as the heroine of these novels. The bar scene at the Monkey's Bar is a prime example of Ellery finally letting her hair down.
One of the themes in this book I felt was forgiveness and communication. A lot of Ellery and Alex's problems could have been solved if they just let down their emotional walls and communicated with one another instead of hiding behind their pride. Most of this is revealed in past scenes that took place during Ellery's and Axel's relationship. There is a scene in this book from the past where Ellery becomes pregnant and has a miscarriage and she goes to the hospital alone. Alex is nowhere to be found and when he finds out what happened to Ellery from a phone call from a nurse, he doesn't confront Ellery. Then, they continue on in their relationship hiding behind the knowledge of this secret and turn their relationship into something so toxic that they have to separate. Each of them is unaware that the other knows and no one asked the question why. When they finally have this conversation several years later it is almost heartbreaking that they have been carrying this burden when they didn't have to.
Romance novels have always been an escape but the majority of them have characters dealing with true life issues and they work through those issues together because love can survive anything that life throws at it. I believe this and I was glad that these two characters were able to sort through the ashes of their past and finally start a new life together without secrets and finally see each other for who they truly are.
From the old steel mills of Pittsburgh to the picturesque hills of Scotland, romance novels save the day in RITA Award–winning author Gwyn Cready’s fun and sensuous take on literature and modern-day love.
When snobbish book critic Ellery Sharpe screws up at Vanity Place magazine, her boss assigns her the ultimate punishment: write an ode to romance novels, a genre she considers the literary equivalent of word search puzzles. To make matters worse, he hires her sexy former party boy ex, Axel Mackenzie, to shoot the photos. Axel really wants the project to succeed. For one, the magazine will double his fee if he convinces strong-willed Ellery to write a story no woman can resist. Besides, getting Ellery to fall for romance novels might be just the push she needs to believe people can change . . . even him. At his sister’s advice, Axel gives Ellery a copy of Kiltlander, a much-adored romance whose warrior hero is utterly irresistible. To her dismay, Ellery finds herself secretly falling in love with the story—and with Axel, who’s drawing his own lessons from the book’s compelling hero. With her carefully crafted image of herself crumbling and her dream job on the line, will Ellery risk it all to make the leap from tight-lipped literati to happily-ever-after heroine?