The Opposite of Drowning by Erin McRae
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Harry is a mid-career editor and minor travel writer. Elizabeth is a digital strategy consultant brought in to update the publishing firm’s marketing.
This is a May-December workplace romance set in the publishing industry. This is a great example of how NOT to do a squick-worthy version of these tropes.
Harry and Eliza are fully-rounded, understandable characters that are struggling to feel like they individually fit in their own worlds, just as they realize that they fit :together: despite all the outward indicators telling them that they really shouldn’t.
Harry and Eliza are both complicated, intelligent adults with support systems who have been through some challenging things, at different stages of their lives. Although Harry in particular makes a couple of bad choices, they are completely UNDERSTANDABLE choices, not a function of him needing to make bad choices for plot purposes. This is the opposite of Bad Life Choices theater, with an underlying theme/extended metaphor about the drowned city of Ys. Including a fantastic scene (NOT about harassment) with the publishing company’s HR department that holds all of the tension it needs to and gets it right.
This is a book about two adults making a series of understandable good and bad choices, and realizing that the best choices lead to their collective happiness. And this is a book that drives home that being complicated, and having a history, does not mean you are not worthy of love. The histories that make Harry and Eliza who they are is also what makes them such a good match for each other.
Thoroughly enjoyable because I loved the characters, I loved how they interact with each other, and I love how their different, nuanced perspectives and life experiences worked to complement each other and strengthen their collective relationship.
(Also, there’s a fair amount of wandering around Paris, which I personally view as a bonus.)
McRae and Maltese are on my auto-buy list, because they always have well-rounded characters, excellent interactions, and enjoyable thematic elements that actually do tie in to the story.