Mercer’s novel is the love story of Caitlyn Taylor, a 28-year-old American seamstress and fashion designer, and John Harrington, a 34-year-old wealthy Brit. It’s a modern fairy tale in which a deserving, beautiful woman gets the man of her dreams, but — unlike most fairy tales — the female protagonist is strong-willed and independent. Plus, there are no evil step-sisters, although Caitlyn does have several step-siblings, ex-step-siblings, and half-siblings through her father, a man whose womanizing ways have left his level-headed daughter wary of relationships. The way Caitlyn and John overcome this obstacle and other challenges was fun to witness as a reader.
The only part of this book that gnawed at me is its portrayal of love at first sight, which is essentially what happens to Caitlyn and John, though, to Mercer’s credit, both characters question the authenticity of their feelings initially. John tried “to determine whether his feelings were genuine or simply fanciful, romantic notions brought on by the chase. But try as he might to clarify his emotions, he just wasn’t sure.” For Caitlyn, sorting her feelings is even more complicated, but she quickly realizes that she “was falling desperately in love with John.” It’s sweet, but I rolled my eyes at the thought of a solid relationship developing out of such infatuation.
Maybe I have too narrow a view of lasting love, though. A study of 329 individuals who answered anonymous surveys suggests that couples who fell in love quickly were equally likely to feel satisfied in their relationships (even over the long-term) as individuals who fell in love gradually. However, this study surveyed only couples who were either married or co-habitating, thus excluding couples whose relationships fell apart before they were serious enough to unite legally or live together (the study also notes that it did not include divorced couples). I wonder if couples who fall in love at first sight, based primarily on looks, are less likely to stay together. So, while love at first sight happens for some, I remain unconvinced that it results in everlasting love to the same extent as love that blossoms over a longer period of time. Of course, this is an area of psychology** I know little about (apart from a quick search on PsycINFO). My beliefs come mostly from my own experiences and observations.
In the end, my personal feelings about love at first sight did not detract much from my enjoyment of Mercer’s fluffy, amusing novel, a different reaction to the one I had to Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s portrayal of sudden love (infatuation, really) in their “tween” novel, Between the Lines (Here is my review). As I have said before, I have a higher bar for literature aimed at impressionable youth than I do for literature aimed at the 17+ crowd (which is most likely to pick up Mercer’s novel). I would want my children to understand that worthwhile romantic relationships are best built on more than immediate infatuation, despite the fact that such infatuation is what literature often substitutes for love.
Mercer’s Caitlyn and John redeem themselves, though, and build a mutually beneficial relationship worth having (not a spoiler in this genre; we expect this result and rightly so). It was a pleasure to watch it unfold. Fashioning a Romance is a good option for those looking for a very light, fun read to get them through a rainy day or a low-grade hurricane, either figuratively or literally.
*The rain started late afternoon with heavier rain and high winds expected tomorrow (at which point I expect we’ll lose power as we usually do). I have several other books loaded on my Kindle to get me through the rest of this.
**Anyone interested in the psychology of falling in love should check out BroadBlogs, which has several relevant posts. Here are two: Who Falls in Love Faster? & Passionate Love: Like a Drug or Mental Illness?
***Be sure to check out my GIVEAWAY (see details on the linked post), part of the Literary Blog Hop (October 27-31, 2012).