Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: 'The Idea of You' by Robinne Lee

Los Angeles author/actor/producer Robinne Lee earned her degrees in Psychology from Yale University and her law degree from Columbia Law School. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, she has numerous acting credits in both television and film, most notably opposite Will Smith in both "Hitch" and "Seven Pounds." Her recent credits include "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," playing Ros Bailey. This very beautiful lady makes her novel writing debut with THE IDEA OF YOU.

Not only does Robinne demonstrate an eloquent, fluid writing style, but she also has the courage to write a novel that addresses disparities in age and the effect that has on forming relationships. She reverses the role of the older man playing the field of very young (often too young!) women and instead opts for making the heroine of her story nearly twice the age of her paramour. And in electing this route of attraction she also takes a leap between the ideologies and tastes and contemporary indulgences of the young set and sensitively contrasts that with the dignity of the educated artistic well-traveled persona of her lead character. All this she manages without denigrating choices and styles – a true gift form a nascent writer.

Robinne provides a fine condensation of the essential of the plot in the synopsis – ‘Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things. What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most.’

The story setup fits the events that follow – ‘Two days before my planned getaway to Ojai, he showed up at the house in a tux with our daughter, Isabelle, in tow. He’d left the car running in the driveway. “I can’t do the Vegas trip,” he said, thrusting a manila envelope in my hand. “I’m still working on the Fox deal and it’s not going to close anytime soon.” I must have looked at him in disbelief because he followed that up with: “I’m sorry. I know I promised the girls, but I can’t. You take them. Or I’ll eat the tickets. Whatever.” An unopened package of Da Vinci Maestro Kolinsky brushes was lying on the entry table, alongside a set of thirty-six Holbein watercolors. I’d spent a fortune at Blick stocking up on materials for my artist retreat. They were, like the trip to Ojai, my gift to myself. Forty-eight hours of art and sleep and wine. And now my ex-husband was standing in my living room in formal black tie and telling me there’d been a change of plans. “Does she know?” I asked. Isabelle, having retreated immediately to her room—no doubt to get on her phone—had missed the entire exchange. He shook his head. “I haven’t had time to tell her. I thought I’d wait and see if you could take them first.” “That’s convenient.” “Don’t start, okay?” He turned toward the door. “If you can’t do it, have her call me, and I’ll make it up the next time the group’s in town.” It was so like him to have a Band-Aid for everything. To walk away from commitments guilt-free. Would that I had acquired that gene.

And so Solène is plunged into Isobelle’s world with all the paraphernalia of rock bands et al that lead to Solène’s affair d’estime. It works so very well that the only negative aspect of completing this novel is that it is over too soon.

We have a major talent on stage here. She is destined to be writing her own screenplays and starring in them. Brava! Grady Harp, February 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.