REVIEW: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Published: 13th June 2017

Publisher: St Martin’s Press (print); Penguin Audio (Audio book)

Pages: 372 (Print); 11 hours 55 mins (Audiobook)

Format: Audiobook (Purchased via Audible subscription)

RRP: $ ; $39.50 or $14.95 with Audible Subscription

5/5 Stars

When Solene Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of a prestigious art gallery in Los Angeles, takes her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favourite boy band, she does so reluctantly and at her ex-husband’s request. The last thing she expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things. What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solene and Hayes navigate each other’s disparate worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. And for Solene, it is as much a reclaiming of self, as it is a rediscovery of happiness and love. When their romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solene must face how her new status has impacted not only her life, but the lives of those closest to her.

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee came highly recommended to me by a close friend, so I knew I was in for something special when I finally picked the book out of my TBR jar. That said, I genuinely had no idea what this book was about, and was henceforth not prepared for the intense reading experience and onslaught of emotions that this book brought out in me (in the best way possible). Honestly, I fear there is a HUGE book hangover in my future and I am still not better prepared for everything this romance made me think, feel, and live.

I’m really happy when I’m with you. I get the feeling you feel the same way. And if that’s true, I don’t think you should give a fuck about what people may or may not think of our age difference. Furthermore, if our ages were reversed, no one would bat an eyelash. Am I right? So now it’s just some sexist, patriarchal crap, and you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who’s going to let that dictate her happiness. All right? Next issue…

The Idea of You is a taboo, age-gap romance between Solene Marchand, a thirty-nine-year-old mother, and Hayes Cambell, a twenty-year-old member of the biggest boy band in circulation, August Moon. While the age gap is large, and further complicated by the presence of Solene’s thirteen-year-old-August-Moon-obsessed younger daughter, this novel was anything but icky. In fact, the romance between Solene and Hayes felt both genuine and heartfelt, that I was viscerally moved by their story throughout the entire book.

You afraid?” he asked. I nodded. “So am I. But I’m all right with that. If I get hurt, I get hurt. It happens, right? Someone always gets hurt. But I don’t want to miss out on us because I was afraid

Solene and Hayes’ romance was like a drug that I simply couldn’t get enough of. Whenever I was not listening to the audiobook, which is brilliantly narrated by Robinne Lee herself, I found myself itching to be alone so that I could listen to it for just a little bit longer. I was thinking about the characters and their predicament and trying to work out where Lee was going to take the book. I was desperate to know what was going to happen next and how things were going to work out, but also terrified at how quickly the end was approaching (I never wanted it to end) and what might happen. It was an INTENSE reading experience, that was both uncomfortable because of its intensity and taboo, but felt so right; I simply couldn’t get enough.

It’s art. And it makes people happy. And that’s a very good thing. We have this problem in our culture. We take art that appeals to women—film, books, music—and we undervalue it. We assume it can’t be high art. Especially if it’s not dark and tortured and wailing. And it follows that much of that art is created by other women, and so we undervalue them as well. We wrap it up in a pretty pink package and resist calling it art.

A lot of people will write The Idea of You off because of the taboo nature of the age-gap relationship. I beg you not to do this, for not only is the romance scorching hot, passionate and extremely steamy, it’s also very sweet and tender at heart while packing a MASSIVE emotional punch and sparking some amazing commentary on society as a whole. Throughout her novel, Lee has expertly woven through some hard hitting messages about fan culture and the issues with blind adoration, the idea of public versus private treatment, boundaries and behaviours, mental health representation, and themes about love, loss, sexuality, double standards and the silent devaluing of middle-aged women once they hit their forties (from a societal, media, stardom and everyday perspective). While the romance is fun, The Idea of You made me stop … think … and react in ways that I hadn’t considered previously.

It grated on me. That no one would question him moving on. Him marrying and impregnating someone more than ten years his junior. Because that’s what divorced men in their forties did. His stock was still rising. His power still intact. Daniel had become more desirable, and I somehow less so. As if time were paced differently for each of us.

Emotionally this book tore me to shreds. SHREDS. I keep saying it was an intense read, and I mean that in so many ways. As much as I was obsessed with Lee’s narration and beautiful story, I was also highly uncomfortable throughout the book. My body was on edge, never knowing when the tipping edge might come, be that some hard-hitting comment on society that hit home, or from the characters and their precarious relationship. I was torn between wanting the book to last forever, and NEEDING to know what was going to happen. I was both celebrating the characters wins and celebrating their HEA (happily ever after) whilst also thinking that their love was a complicated mess that couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t go on … man I was a mixed bag of emotions and walking oxymoron while reading the book because it is simply THAT good. I cried so hard, I laughed out loud, and I honestly enjoyed the book so much. It made me SMILE. It broke me. It brought me joy. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. You can bet, that I will be ordering a paperback of this book pronto.

Love is this very precious thing, Izz. It’s this precious, magical thing. But it’s not finite. There’s not a limited amount of it out there. You just have to be open to allowing it to find you. Allowing it to happen.

Lastly, I want to touch on the audiobook narration by Robinne Lee. As one might imagine, having the author narrate her own audiobook is an amazing experience to behold. Lee’s voice acting, emotion and her french accent and expressions truly give this book an entirely another dimension, making you feel amongst the characters as everything plays out. The story feels alive, tangible and whole. I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook if you can find a copy because it’s AMAZING. Also, keen listeners might also recognise Lee’s voice from Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid’s audiobook where she also voiced a character.

Love, she said, was not always perfect, and not exactly how you expected it to be. But when it descended upon you, there was no controlling it.

The Idea of You is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Currently, it’s competing with Loveless by Alice Oseman for my favourite book in 2021. I can not recommend this one enough!

To purchase a copy of The Idea of You, visit the following online retailers:

St Martin’s Press| Penguin Books Australia | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Audible AUS | Barnes & Noble | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | Kobo

To learn more about Robinee Lee, visit the following social media sites:

Robinee Lee’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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