When snobbish book critic Ellery Sharpe screws up at Vanity Place magazine, her boss assigns her the ultimate punishment: write an ode to romance novels, a genre she considers the literary equivalent of word search puzzles. To make matters worse, he hires her former party-boy ex, Axel Mackenzie, to shoot the photos. Axel knows the magazine will double his fee if he convinces strong-willed Ellery to make the story positive. But getting Ellery to fall for romance novels might be just the push she needs to believe people can change . . . even him. At his sister's advice, Axel gives Ellery a copy of Kiltlander, a much-adored romance whose warrior hero is utterly irresistible. To her dismay, Ellery finds herself secretly falling in love with the story -- and with Axel, who's drawing his own lessons from the book's compelling hero. With her carefully crafted image crumbling and her dream job on the line, will Ellery risk it all to make the leap from tight-lipped literati to happily-ever-after heroine?
What a fun book. Ellery is the book critic we all love to hate - the one who puts down romance novels and those who read them. At the start of the book, she has written a scathing review of the memoir of a romance publisher. Unknown to her, her boss is sleeping with said romance publisher and he is not happy with what she wrote, as it has put him in an awkward spot with his lover. He decides that the only way to fix it is to have Ellery write another story, this one from the other side of the issue.
Ellery is not happy about this assignment. She had other plans for her next article, one that would put her on the top of the list for a new job. This one is liable to make her a laughingstock in the business. To top it all off, her boss has assigned Ellery's ex as the photographer for the job. Alex really needs this job to work out. If he can get Ellery to do the job right, he'll get a bonus that will enable him to make a move into his own dream job. So he gets some advice from his sister and a bookstore clerk on books that will convert Ellery to a romance lover.
This is where it really gets fun. The books he picks are a Regency style historical romance, a Twilight style vampire novel published by the maligned memoir writer, and a wildly popular book called Kiltlander. Ellery starts out with her nose stuck firmly in the air, but thanks to Axel and some location work, her opinion slowly begins to change. Axel also takes the opportunity to show Ellery that their feelings for each other are still there. There are some flashbacks to their previous relationship, showing what was right and what eventually went wrong. Parts of the story told from Axel's point of view show that he's changed and wants another chance with her.
Their trip starts with a visit to a bar set up like a location from the vampire novel. Ellery has read some of it with her prejudices still firmly in place. Thanks to a little too much to drink, she finds herself slipping into the story, and behaving in a very uncharacteristic manner. Ellery's inhibitions get crushed by the alcohol and a need to show Axel that she can still have fun. I loved seeing Axel try to take care of her while at the same time trying to make his own dream come true. The attraction between them starts to flare back to life, but Ellery resists.
From there, they travel to London, setting of the historical romance. Ellery has read some of this one also, and surprises herself when she begins to enjoy it. They hit up some of the locations, one of which brings up some dark memories for Ellery. She's stunned by the depth of the emotions it has brought forth, and Axel's attempts to comfort her. There are some guilty feelings that also come out, having to do with something from their past, and she has to decide how to deal with them. There's a really funny scene in the hotel room as she and Axel "discuss" some of the descriptions of lovemaking in the book. That evening she has a meeting with a romance book club, another eye opening experience for her attitude toward romances. Kiltlander is the book under discussion, and the similarities to Outlander are obvious. I loved seeing Ellery's responses to the things she's reading and hearing, but she's still fighting hard to keep her original attitude. It is here that Ellery's future and Axel's past collide, in the person of Ellery's competition for the new job. Axel's feelings being what they are, he tries to protect Ellery, and ends up getting himself into trouble with her because of it.
Their final destination is Scotland, to speak with a sociologist about romance novels. This lady also lives near one of the iconic locations for Kiltlander, giving Axel and Ellery more chances to connect with the story. Her conversation with the sociologist batters away at her prejudices. In spite of her growing appreciation for romances, Ellery is still fighting against writing the required article because of the effect it could have on her job opportunity. Her attempt at a compromise article is a disaster and causes problems with her boss, Axel and the potential new boss. I loved seeing how Ellery finally sees the light and what she does about it.
I loved the resurrection of the relationship between Axel and Ellery. Through the flashbacks we saw that they were not really ready for the strength of their feelings. Axel is older than Ellery and set in his bachelor party animal ways. He cares for her, but he's not prepared to change his lifestyle. Ellery is still fairly young and idealistic. She has her plans for her future and wants Axel to be part of it. But something happens that shows her that maybe he doesn't feel the same way and she starts to pull away, eventually breaking off the relationship. Six years later, forced to work together, they will also have to face their pasts. Axel has had a life changing event that shows him that it is time to make major changes. He knows what he wants them to be, he just has to find a way to make it happen. His work with Ellery could be part of it. He also wants Ellery back in his life, but he's not sure how to make it happen. I loved seeing him reading the romances and trying to use the heroes as role models, though he is also confused by some of the things he sees as contradictions. It looks like he's making good progress until something happens that makes him question whether he knows her at all. Ellery is fighting her feelings for Axel from the beginning. The attraction is still there, but she doesn't want to risk her heart again. She isn't convinced that he has changed. But the more time they are together, the more she wants to give in. She starts to think that she hadn't been fair to him all those years ago, and when he steps up to help her with a problem with her sister, she finally admits her feelings. I loved the ending and how everything worked out for them.