Stacey Lane feels like a monster. Tommy DeMarco might be one.
Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries.
Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist re-imagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret.
As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s. About desire, love, grief, parenthood, sexual politics, and gender, Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.
Still struggling to cope with the loss of her husband, Stacey Lane is surprised when she is approached about selling the film rights to her latest work, Monsters in the Afterlife to a film producer. Things move quickly, and before she knows it, she’s flying to Hollywood on a regular basis to meet with superstar Tommy DeMarco and to watch her book being transformed on screen. While on the surface this may read as a somewhat frothy “opposites attract” romance, there’s a darkness to this story of two dysfunctional people that moves it beyond your standard fun summer read.
Stacey and Tommy are very much opposites of each other. Stacey has become reserved and closed off, controlling each minute aspect of her life, including her food intake, while Tommy lives for excess. What I liked about them was that they were both unapologetic about their lives, and gave each other hell for daring to comment upon them. Their relationship worked for both of them. They had separate lives to lead outside of their time together, and their expectations of their relationship together are, while unconventional, totally in line with how their lives are working at that moment. As a reader, I could appreciate their connection and chemistry, and respected that they weren’t falling into a “does (s)he love me?” convention. In my mind, their FOB status (friends with benefits) really allowed them to appreciate each other as individuals before they even considered romance.
Stacey, in particular, stuck with me. She’s a good if slightly indifferent mom to her two boys, a solid writer who hasn’t produced anything new in three years and a somewhat lost soul who isn’t really sure where she is heading. She doubts herself constantly, and wonders if she really is keeping it together. She falls into a physical relationship with Tommy, but refuses to let it become a ‘real’ relationship, despite constant texting and time spent with each other’s families. Instead, she tries dating again and even becomes engaged – following the convention of what she thinks she should be doing, instead of realizing that she was doing what she really wanted all along. I’m not entirely sure that she’s likeable, but she’s definitely relatable. Additionally, she is a great observer of the process from page to screen, and it’s through her eyes that we understand some of the complications involved in bringing a movie to life. Both she and Tommy are a bit of a mess, but the acknowledge that about themselves, so it works.
Perhaps my only quibble about the book lies in the sometimes awkward pacing. The emphasis on the amount of time spent flying back and forth between Nebraska and Hollywood and the reminder of the amount of alcohol consumed (can these two actually be together without alcohol involved?) grows exhausting after a while and the narrative would move along just as well without the repetition.
Monsters: A Love Story may not be the story you expect, but it’s an intriguing story of unexpected love in a fractured fairy tale kind of way. I’ll confess to devouring it over the course of one weekend, only coming up for air when necessary. Intrigued enough to try it yourself? The publisher is offering a physical copy for you to WIN – click here to enter. Please note: this contest is open to readers in the US and Canada. Prizes will be awarded by the publisher.
Monsters: A Love Story is available for purchase from your favourite online, bricks & mortar and indie booksellers. A copy was provided by the G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House, in exchange for an honest review; a giveway copy will be provided by the publisher. ISBN: 9781101982471, 368 pages.