On a Night Like This: romance for those who hate romance
J. Gordon
3/14/2004 11:02:42 AM

I really wanted to hate Ellen Sussman’s debut novel, On a Night like This [Warner Books].

I mean, on the surface, it’s a romance. It’s got a gushy, romantic-sounding title. It’s got the handsome, successful playwright, Luke Bellingham, who sounds as if he’s 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. Blair’s not feeling sorry for herself. She’s not looking to be saved, and in point of fact, she’s whoring herself around town and making the most of her last months of life. She’s tough and sometimes kind of funny. She falls in love with Luke’s dog long before she gives Luke the time of day, and she distrusts him right until the end. What’s not to love?

Ellen Sussman’s 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, writer’s block, alcohol and angry teenagers. There’s 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. They’ll see that godawful title, and that dreamy, romantic picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, and that will be enough to scare them away. It’s too bad that this book is not called something dark and macho like “On Death’s Bridge” to gain a little attention from the Y-chromosomed gender—but I guess that’s their loss.


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