REVIEW: “Love by the Numbers” by Karin Kallmaker

It’s been a busy year.  Yes, 2013 has kept me hopping, that’s for sure.  Because if this, I’ve had little time to read and even less time to write reviews.

Well, that’s not completely true.  I’ve had time.  Not much, but I’ve had it.  There have just been so many other things going on that I haven’t had the energy to read.  I remember the days when I would pick up a book and not go to sleep until I finished it.  Can’t do that anymore.  At least, not right now.

So, it’ takes me a bit longer to get through my pile of books.  And even longer to get to the computer to write up a review.  I still owe a few people.

I’d started Love by the Numbers (Bella Books) back in June, I believe it was.  There were some interesting rumors about the book floating about the internet and I was rather intrigued. So I picked it up and started reading.  Unfortunately, it was far too close to the annual conference for the Golden Crown Literary Society and I wasn’t able to finish it.

I went back to it a few days ago.  Of course, I had to go back and read the first few chapters again…just to make sure I had the story straight (for lack of a better term).  And I wasn’t able to finish it in one sitting.  But I remained determined to read it all before the end of the weekend.  I guess I’m a little ahead of schedule.

Love By the Numbers_lg

Nicole Hathaway, Ph.D is a behavioral scientist whose life seems to follow her research – explainable, quantifiable, objective.  When her published research findings earn her a name as “The Love Doctor,” Nicole is sent on a world-wide book tour.  Nicole has driven away assistant after assistant after assistant.  Until now.

Lillian Linden-Smith is a former wealthy socialite who has fallen from grace – through no fault of her own.  Hounded by a relentless TV lawyer, with nothing to her name but a LBD (and some awesome shoes), Lily needs this opportunity to support herself financially…and to escape overwhelming public persecution that follows her.  Dr. Hathaway will not be rid of Lily Smith!

I don’t think I’m saying anything original when I tell you that Karin Kallmaker has done it again.  Love by the Numbers is an engrossing, romantic, sexy novel.  It has everything I could hope for in a novel – great story, great characters, great character development, great settings.

I’ve often heard Kallmaker say that her biggest fear is writing the same novel over and over. Well, I can say that she does not write the same novel over and over.  Okay, okay.  Yeah, sure….there’s the “formula” of the romance novel.  So what?  That’s why we read them, right?  Because we love the formula.  It’s what we want – and expect – when we pick up a romance, isn’t it?  (If that’s not what you want and expect when you pick up a romance, then I suggest you try reading something else.)  But what people fail to realize is that the “formula” is a framework – it’s not the story. Kallmaker is a master at using that framework to tell unique stories.

A novel without good characters – to me – is not a good novel.  I need to like the characters; I need to relate to the characters.  While I don’t see myself as either Nicole or Lily, I definitely see myself in Nicole and Lily.  (Oh, minds out of the gutter, people!)  Nicole and Lily each have traits that are identifiable for me. That draws me into their individual and combined stories.  I love that.  Even the secondary characters Kallmaker creates are fabulous.  Merrill Boone, the tenacious “bloodhound” who insists on making Lily’s life a living Hell, is even likable as a character.  The fact that I don’t like Merrill Boone speaks to Kallmaker’s ability to create a deliciously three-dimensional character; because she’s so well created, I’m able to dislike the person.  Thus, I like the character.  (Make sense?  Sure, it does.  You know it does.)  And the fact that a good friend of mine and I show up in an early chapter has nothing to do with the fact that I love the characters in this novel.

It’s one thing to have interesting, three-dimensional characters in a novel, it’s another thing all-together to have characters that develop over the course of the novel.  Again, Kallmaker nails it. What I find most fascinating about the development of these characters is that they seem to have made a 180 degree change in direction…but, really, they haven’t. At the core, they are the same people on page 281 as they were on page 1.  “Wait,” you’re saying, “how can you say that, Carleen?  They need to have changed if you’re saying there was character development.”  Well now, I don’t think so.  In my very humble opinion, I don’t think characters have to change.  In the case of Nicole and Lily, I truly felt as if who they are remained the same.  For me what happened is this:  What was already inside of each of these women was allowed to come to the surface as they came to know and love each other.  Each woman found what she was longing for – perhaps subconsciously – in the other.  In other words, I saw these women making a journey of discovery rather than change.  (Have thoughts about this?  Disagree with me?  Cool!  Leave a comment.  Let’s start a discussion.)

One of the things I love about Kallmaker’s novels is that the locations her protagonists visit become characters within the novel.  Kallmaker’s writing is so vivid – she paints the picture so wonderfully it’s as if I’m right there with the characters, seeing what they are seeing, smelling the same aromas, tasting the same food.  It’s wonderful!  I’ve never been to the places Nicole and Lily visit, but that doesn’t matter.  They are brought to life so beautifully I feel as if I have a scrapbook of my own.

Here is my favorite aspect of reading this novel…if you were to hand it to me without telling me who wrote it, I would know it was a Karin Kallmaker novel within the first two chapters.  That’s a compliment!  It has nothing to do with the story.  It has everything to do with the writing.  Kallmaker has a style all her own.  It’s fresh.  It’s vivid.  It’s intelligent.  It’s witty.  Once again, Kallmaker gives us a “hook” that runs throughout the novel – and it is uniquely hers.  I love that!

Love by the Numbers is another of Kallmaker’s books that has been added to my “re-read” pile.  I have no doubt that it will remain just as engrossing, romantic, and sexy as the first reading.  If you haven’t picked this one up, don’t hesitate.  Trust me on this one.

One thought on “REVIEW: “Love by the Numbers” by Karin Kallmaker

  1. Pingback: Link Round Up: August 21-28 | The Lesbrary

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