Trembling on the brink of war, it’s time for a book review: Jill Urbach’s “Two-Room Flat”

In both personal correspondence and in work for Mr. Conservative, I’ve been writing about Obama and the imminent strike on Syria.  I’ve also been writing legal briefs because, when it comes to work, it’s always drought or deluge.  I’m in a deluge now and pretty much hanging in by the skin of my teeth.  I start working at 5:30 a.m. and finish around 11 p.m.  Blech.

Let’s talk of pleasant things.  One of those pleasant things is Jill Urbach’s Two-Room Flat, a novel about a slow-growing love between two people who have a tragic death standing between them.  I’m not giving anything away when I say that these two people do find their way to love.  In romance novels, the ending is a foregone conclusion.  What makes or breaks a book is how the author gets her (or, occasionally, his) readers to that ending.  Urbach gets her readers there very pleasantly.

Preliminarily this is a “clean” romance novel.  There are allusions to sex, but the book isn’t about sex; it’s about friendship and about love.  I’m growing quite fond of these “clean” romances.  Good erotica is hard to write, and too many romance novels sound like pornography run through a euphemism filter, so that one is drowned in an embarrassing sea of throbbing hardnesses and heaving mounds.  You won’t find any of that here.

The novel’s female protagonist is Claire Gissler, who became famous writing slightly spicy fictions about a cheerfully adventurous heroine.  Since her husband died in an accident two years before the book begins, she’s had writer’s block.  Her publisher has fired her and she’s in deep financial straits.  Help and hope comes from an unexpected source — Adam Lambright, a widower who was once her husband’s best friend, but whom she now hates because of his connection to her husband’s death.  When Adam has the opportunity to go to London on business, however, he invites Claire to share his two-room flat.

Once in London, Claire and Adam explore the city, meet new people, and start coming out of their spousal-death funks.  They also begin to learn more about each other, and about the need for forgiveness and generosity of spirit.  I can’t say more than that without giving the book away, but I can say that, for the most part, the characters’ trajectory is realistic.  Additionally, they’re nice people.  I need nice people in my books, because I give myself so wholeheartedly to a story.  I don’t want to spend a couple of hours with icky, boring, selfish people.  If I wanted that, I’d just talk to myself.

The book stumbles occasionally, leaving a few loose ends regarding Adam’s and Claire’s relationships with their own adult children and with the other’s children.  Additionally, there are occasional plot points where Urbach has the character’s behave irrationally in order to move the story forward.  These are minor quibbles though, regarding a book that I otherwise found to be a fun, romantic read.

One more thing.  After I had already finished the book, Urbach sent me a very charming promotional video she (and her friends?) made to help publicize the book.  I think you’ll like it.  Also, after you watch it, get back to me and tell me whether Urbach doesn’t look like a younger, prettier Annette Benning (and I totally love her haircut).  The “abs” aren’t bad either: