I really wanted to hate Ellen Sussmanís debut novel, On a Night like This [Warner Books].
I mean, on the surface, itís a romance. Itís got a gushy, romantic-sounding title. Itís got the handsome, successful playwright, Luke Bellingham, who sounds as if heís walked off of the set of The Young and the Restless. And the star of the show, Blair Clemens, is a struggling single mother who happens to be dying of cancer. Gag me now, right?
Wrong. Blairís not feeling sorry for herself. Sheís not looking to be saved, and in point of fact, sheís whoring herself around town and making the most of her last months of life. Sheís tough and sometimes kind of funny. She falls in love with Lukeís dog long before she gives Luke the time of day, and she distrusts him right until the end. Whatís not to love?
Ellen Sussmanís writing is skillful, adept and realistic. She takes the reader into believable scenes of raunchiness and romance, complicated by the small details of life: errant, pregnant wives, writerís block, alcohol and angry teenagers. Thereís even an element of mystery and suspense to close out this successful story that never gets weepy or stupid.
Male readers will most likely never pick up a copy of On a Night like This. Theyíll see that godawful title, and that dreamy, romantic picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, and that will be enough to scare them away. Itís too bad that this book is not called something dark and macho like ďOn Deathís BridgeĒ to gain a little attention from the Y-chromosomed genderóbut I guess thatís their loss.