Falling by Jane Green

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Jane Green is the author of 18 novels, of which 17 are New York Times bestsellers. She joined the ABC News team to write their first enhanced digital book about the history of Royal marriages, then joined ABC News as a live correspondent covering Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.

Falling is the love story of Emma and Dominic falling in love. Yet it is more than a love story.

English Emma ends a long-term relationship with Rufus, the perfect gentleman for Emma, according to her mother. Emma had finally decided that they were not suited to each other. Rufus liked drinking and partying with his large group of friends, but Emma found them to be loud, arrogant and pretentious. Immediately after the breakup, her bank offers her a job in New York. Emma is ecstatic; she has always wanted to live in the States. She devotes herself to making money. But after five years, Emma has had it and leaves her high-profile, stressful job; she has made enough money in banking to be able to retire at 37. She has taken a package, and although she won’t be able to live forever on her savings; she wants to explore her options. She yearns for the freedom of a job that will allow her to use her creativity. Officially unemployed, she moves to Westport, Connecticut, so she can live near the beach.

Emma rents a small house that has seen better days. She is horrified by the salmon pink carpet, the fusty air and brown flowery wallpaper. Her landlord, Dominic, lives next door. He seems oblivious to how dated and unattractive the house is, but he’s amenable to Emma’s making a few changes. He offers to make bookshelves for all her books. He promises to clear all the weeds from the backyard. He seems like a nice guy. He explains that he inherited the house and his house next door from his grandparents. He rents out one and lives in the other one with his son, Jesse.

Dominic works as a carpenter and bartender. He is a single parent, very devoted to his son. Jesse’s mother, Stacy, left in the middle of the night when Jesse was about four months old. She decided that she wasn’t cut out to be a mother. Dominic has tried to communicate with her, but she never replies to any of his emails or letters.

Sophie is Emma’s only friend in Westport; they met when they were in banking. Sophie has become a stay-at-home mom living in a beautiful home with her husband, who commutes to the city. She is everything that Emma has rejected, but still, she likes her; Sophie is down to earth and lots of fun to be with. When Dominic invites Emma to go to The Hen, the bar where he works, Emma asks Sophie to accompany her. Sophie can’t wait to meet the sexy landlord.

Green explores the meaning of love in this romantic novel. What constitutes love and how do you get it? The theme permeates the novel, and finally she tells us what she believes is the answer. Emma isn’t interested in the sappy “he’s so hot and I’m in love” clichés. She is more interested in sincerity and people with good relationships, unlike her parents. Her mother is a notorious social climber, loud and snobbish; her father is a nice introvert who loves peace and quiet. Theirs is a marriage of opposites, which her father believes is a good thing.

Dominic’s parents are a dysfunctional couple and a bad example of what he believes love should be. His parents were always bickering and unhappy together, but they never divorced. Dominic explains to Emma how he turned his life around and how raising Jesse has helped him live up to his ideals. He has made an effort to change his life from the role model his parents lived. He has worked hard to build a pleasant life for himself and a good home for Jesse.

How do two people from completely opposite worlds get together? Desire is one reason, but is it sufficient for them to have a happy life or marriage together? Emma’s angst is a little tiresome, but Green throws in enough backstories to keep our interest high.

Dominic has no doubts that Emma is the woman he has been looking for. Emma, however, isn’t sure that Dominic is the right person for her. She loves him, or, at least, she believes she does, but what is love? She asks her father. She asks Sophie. The answer comes from neither, but from an unexpected source. Somehow Emma believes the woman may have the best answer that she has heard so far. It may not be a perfect answer, but it is a working hypothesis. After resolving the eternal question of what is love, Green closes the novel with a startling climax and conclusion. You won’t see it coming. ■