Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.
Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?
A few weeks ago I read The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers, it was great, and because it has been a while since I’d read m/f romance. I then asked for suggestions with strong contemporary female leads. Along with some others, Ruthie Knox’s name came back time and again. I noticed she had a really recent book out, and so I bought it!
I have to say that this was one of the best romances I have read in a very long time, I was hooked from the first page and I couldn’t put it down.
So, a guy walks into a bar and is hijacked by a girl looking for her errant mother… and that is the meet cute. Madly is set in New York, but Allie is a girl from Wisconsin and Winston is from London and they meet (in a bar). Allie believes her mum could be having an affair, and ropes Winston into helping her find out what’s going on. Over the space of the evening they develop a connection and an emotional honesty that results in a list of all the things they would like to do with a lover. It ranges from holding hands to … well they decide to work through the list.
Now I’ve seen this book described as opposites attract, and on one hand I suppose that’s true, but what Allie and Winston share is their desire to be just themselves. This transcends their differences, which are almost entirely physical. From the moment they share their feelings, these two people connect. Yes, it’s physical but from the start they both can see that there is more here than sex.
In the same way that a romance featuring a road trip forces people to be intimate, the circumstances in Madly strip all but the most important things from their relationship, as they share emotional intimacies that they have never shared before.
Allie has been perceived as flighty and quirky all her life, and yet she is a creative, focused and very successful business woman. Even so, she seems to have believed that thought until very recently. The reactions of people, especially to the way she dresses and how she makes her living both actual and perceived have in a way sapped her belief in herself as a woman. Coming to NYC to find her mother triggers a lot of self awareness and desire in Allie, and meeting Winston at this time is of course perfect.
Winston is less well observed than Allie, and in a way he has less of a journey to make, as he’s already made peace with himself, yet he’s lacking in impetus and lives a kind of half-life. Winston is unaware of how much those around him care – and seems to have one foot back in London.
I really appreciated the lack of focus on the character’s looks, which is not to say that I didn’t “see” them, quite the reverse, but the little details; big hair, sharp elbows, laughter lines and hints of grey hair were perfect.
All the supporting characters, are well-rounded and necessary and gave such a feeling of love, family and support. Madly is preceded by May’s book (Truly), who is Allie’s sister. Then also, Winston’s brother and his lover are featured in another book by Ms. Knox, About Last Night, but at no stage did I feel I was missing out on anything by not reading them – although I so will now!
My only minor niggle was that I didn’t really feel NYC as a city, and I wish that there was in a word like knickers in the US, as the word panties make me wince. I say this only to temper my raving over Madly which is a glorious romance with a strong and believable female main character, a vulnerable and sympathetic male main character, and a very satisfactory ending.