Because Cliche can be Cute Sometimes

loveletters

Please don’t hate me for that picture. I know it reeks of cliché and cheese and I apparently suck big-time at anything valentines-related but it’s all in the effort to be consistent with this month’s theme, which is, come to think of it—still my fault. Those two extra-fluffy bears are my parents’ by the way and not mine. See, I’m born to a love-struck couple who has a flair for melodrama and acting all teenagey when it comes to expressing affection. My mom has an inexplicable penchant for stuffed toys that I did not inherit and which my dad indulges. Thank goodness no suitor of mine has ever made the mistake of gifting me one. I don’t know—I probably exude my dislike for stuffed toys a lot more obvious than I thought. Does it say anything about my reading habits and the books I love and hate? Well, perhaps.

First book for the fickle month of hearts is Katie Fforde’s ‘Love Letters’ which I bought on a whim last year at one of my random strolls at my favorite Book Sale branch. It looked harmless enough, stacked between piles and piles of chick-lit and trashy paperback romances. This is yet another episode of me being enchanted by a book cover, but what really made me take it home was the plot. Our female protagonist is a bookish woman working at a bookstore (of course) who finds herself in sudden participation for organizing a literary festival that gets her on the task to convince one of the most popular and promising writers in modern fiction—who also happens to be her favorite author of all time and a well-known recluse—to be their main attraction guest. A bookish girl in a love story with her favorite author? It’s every bookworm’s romantic fantasy, okay. There’s no way on earth that I will pass up on that one.

Did I like it? Yes. Did it rock my world? Er, not really.

The book is zippy and engaging—I’ve breezed through the story and finished it in half a day, which is really a rare feat these days. I guess it’s more of a matter of really likeable and vividly-drawn characters. Each of them has something special and endearing that honestly made me care about them. Laura Horsely, our main girl, is smart, sassy when she has to and has a lot of traits that we can easily identify with. She exhibits this kind of simplicity about her that makes her more of a universal persona instead of a dull, average twenty-something woman. Of course her love for books is a given, but what really made her extra-special (and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way) is her virginity. Yes, you’ve read that right. See, she’s twenty-six, and in modern standards in pretty much anywhere in the world, that’s already a kind of miracle. In Laura’s own words, she’s ‘the last virgin in the Eastern Hemisphere.’ And boy, do I love characters who know how to poke fun at themselves. Self-deprecating humor for the win. Even at her weakest moments, her emotions are always relatable but never undignified and I appreciated that she always has her head between her shoulders even if her heart and her feelings are already driving her mad. Although there are moments where she totally overestimate things, she still acts sensibly, despite of what’s going on inside her mind.  Respect, you guys, is indeed earned.

It’s crazy because it’s probably the first time that I loved the female character more than her love interest, although it’s likely because Dermott Flynn, the hot, award-winning author and object of Laura’s romantic (and admittedly sexual) fantasies, appeared for only ¼ of the book. I would’ve loved to know more details about him other than his being temperamental and potty-mouthed and socially-rude. He’s your bleeding-heart rebel with strings of literary awards under his sleeve, and his main problem is his writer’s block, which is interesting enough by itself and something I would’ve wanted to read more about. Unfortunately, the plot focused more on the technicalities of organizing a literary and music festival. I wouldn’t have minded all the behind-the-scenes bits because they’re really informative, but if they take up like half of the story, it might come off as a little too much and overwhelming, because it’s not really what I paid money for when I bought the book. But I guess that’s also a good thing in a way because that only made the ¼ of the book which focused on Laura and Dermott’s love story, a little bit more precious. And I kid you not, they practically sizzle off the page. The intensity will make you grip the book a little tighter.

Although the plot isn’t really what you’d call groundbreaking, it remained sweet and fun all throughout. The romantic bantering and the push-and-pull of attraction between our girl and her guy will leave you smiling and satisfied, albeit lacking the much-awaited oomph.

Now to neatly tie up the knots, let me get my teddy bear metaphor real quick. Some books are just as cuddly and cute, a reminder of things in the world that are still untainted, pristine, child-like. But there will always be days when we have to grow out of them and want more practical things—like someone who we can actually hug for real and someone who will hug us back.

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