On The Bookshelf: From Notting Hill With Love Actually

Well, I'm happy to have at least one book finished in 2013; I'm also glad I got it for free on my Nook. There is something irresistible to me about a good boy meets girl story. Chalk it up to that stingy extra "X" chromosome or the monthly hormone imbalance, but I've always been a fan of a decent meet-cute, and a satisfactory happy ending. While this book does actually have both of those, it's the pesky in-between that gets tedious.
From the outset, the premise is, at best highly questionable. A girl wants to housesit at her wealthy friend of a friend's home because she wants to prove that the same scenarios that happen in the movies she loves, also happen in real life. I know what you're thinking right now. It's something along the lines of "WHAAAAAA...?" Yeah, it took me a couple of minutes for my eyes to refocus after rolling so far back in my head as well. In today's digitially addicted, pop-culture saturated world, this notion seems just, well, silly. The fact that this would be the thesis statement of this book, if this book were, say a research paper, is not even on the road to Plausible Town. However, there are moments when Ms. McNamara forgets about this idea and focuses just on telling the story. The problem is that, it's not often enough. Just when you're getting into a chapter, enjoying the will they, won't they aspect that's part of every great romantic comedy, an actual admission of "another movie moment to add to my list" is uttered from the heroine's subconscious, snapping the reader jarringly back to the real world.
The pop culture references while, on point, are pervasive to the point of distraction. Anyone who is going to pick up a book titled "From Notting Hill to Love Actually" knows exactly what they're looking to read. This isn't going to be a murderous thriller or a novel about surviving the apocalypse; it's going to be a book that we read in bubble baths, on beaches, or after terrible days of dealing with even more horrible bosses, an escape. We probably won't need to be reminded what EVERY SINGLE reference is from. It's kind of like explaining a joke after you realize the audience was already laughing. It's just excessive. While it's clear that all of the references are coming from a place of charm and homage, it's almost too explanatory. A paint-by-numbers of adorable coupling. I mean I wasn't necessarily looking for anything astoundingly original, but I was looking for something that didn't insult my excessive knowledge of Julia Roberts movies or make me feel even a little dirty for owning Sleepless in Seattle.
If you can carry on through the bits where you'd rather just say "DUH!" out loud and you enjoy your (insert favorite cheesy chick flick movie title here) well then, it's not an overly long book to finish and it does have all of the components that any good romance would, the main of which is making sure the answer to the "will they/won't they" question is "they will". However, it may also make you think "if this were a romantic comedy, I wish there were more comedy". While cinema benefits from the visuals and the allowances it can make for physical comedy, with that dimension removed, the banter should be wittier than is mostly found here.
I liked it well enough, but wouldn't necessarily recommend it across the board. The two star rating is mainly earned from the nostalgia garnered from the constant reminders about the movies that I did, in fact, love. However, if all you're looking for is that beach read, tub read, or that book to make you forget about the fact that you're sitting next to the guy who's hogging the armrest and is in constant threat of snoring, well then, this will probably get you through. But if Love Actually is the homemade bacon macaroni and cheese of the movie world, this book is the stale Kraft equivalent. It'll do, but it won't satisfy as much as you wish it would.

Overall: 2 stars


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