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Review of "New York, Actually" by Sarah Morgan

TitleNew York, Actually
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: HQN Books
Series: From Manhattan with Love #4
Price: $5.98 (Paperback) $5.99 (e-book) $19.96 (Audible)

If you follow me on social media, you'll have seen my posts about this book over the last week.  For the most part, they weren't very positive -- until about 20% into the book, I hated the hero.  If I could have set him on fire, I probably would have.  It was only Ms. Morgan's prose and the fact that I had been looking forward to this book for 6 months that kept me reading.  For once, I am glad I was so wrong about a character.

From the Publisher

One man. One woman. Two dogs. 
Meet Molly—New York's most famous advice columnist, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they're other people's. Still bruised from her last breakup, Molly is in no rush to find happily-ever-after—the only love of her life is her dalmatian, Valentine. 
Meet Daniel—A cynical divorce lawyer, he's hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don't get involved, no one can get hurt. Until he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning… 
Molly and Daniel both think they know everything about relationships. But as they try—and fail—to resist their undeniable chemistry, they'll soon discover they just might have a lot left to learn…

* * * * *

When I started reading this book, I was preparing myself to write a different review -- one expressing my disappointment and wishing that I hadn't just re-read Sleepless in Manhattan.  Thankfully, I won't be writing that review and I have to admit that I am surprised.  I'd pretty much decided that I would force myself to keep reading it when all I wanted to do was smack Daniel, the hero, so hard that the resulting slap would have been heard from space.  There would have been such a disturbance of the Force that the people filming the next Star Wars movie would be scratching their heads and wondering what was going on, because seriously, Daniel was a total nozzle at the begining of the book.

I know the main characters are supposed to go on a "hero's journey," but it takes skill for an author to write a character that is awful and redeem him so well that within a quarter of the book I am rooting for him to end up with the heroine.  For that, Ms. Morgan, you have my eternal respect.  Let's be clear: Daniel is a detestable know-it-all for the first part of the book.  The thing that really pissed me off about early Daniel was that he felt the need to "borrow" a dog and change its name in order to get Molly to notice him.  It wasn't even that it was dishonest that bugged me.  It was that he acted as if he had to right to manipulate another person into doing what he wanted.  He was attracted to Molly and that was all that mattered.  To make it worse, he refused to call the dog by its name.

When Daniel first starts walking the dog for his sisters, Harriet and Fliss (the heroines of the next two books in the series), his name is Ruffles.  This poor animal has a sad back story and to top it all off he wasn't allowed to keep his name because Daniel didn't think Ruffles was a dignified enough name for a German Shepherd.  Sure, people change dogs' names all the time, but in this instance it was heartless to do so because Daniel had no plans to adopt him, so he had no right to change his name to Brutus.  It would have just confused the poor dog even more once he was adopted by someone else.  While Daniel's attitude about Brutus doesn't change until the very end, it is the relationship between him and both Brutus and Molly's dog, Valentine that slowly had me changing my mind about him.  I imagine it had the same effect on most of the other readers as well.

As for Molly, I found her to be both relatable and likable, however, she was a hot mess.  For a psychologist, she did not seem to understand herself, most specifically, her emotions.  
The one part of her characterization that I did not like was how dense she was about this aspect of her life.  For instance:

'You need evidence?' She scrabbled around for something that might convince him. “I don’t look at you with starry eyes and talk to you in a baby voice.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “Good. I’m not big on baby voices.” “My appetite is fine. At no point has being with you ever put me off my food.” “That’s good, too.” There was a tenderness in his voice that almost crushed her. 'I don’t even dream about you.'                       Morgan, Sarah (2017-06-01). New York, Actually: A Romance Novel (From Manhattan with Love) (Kindle Locations 4461-4465). HQN Books. Kindle Edition. 
How is it that someone who makes her living helping people fix their relationships doesn't know a damn thing about love?  How is it that she thinks that the things that mean someone was in love are that they talk in baby talk and have stars in their eyes?  That is some stereotypical bullshit right there, and she should know this.

My guess is that this was supposed to make her from being perfect, which is definitely is a good thing.  No one wants a Mary Sue or a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I wish Ms. Morgan could have found another way to do this.  It didn't exactly stop me from liking Molly, but I did roll my eyes a time or two while reading.

I know that none of this sounds like I enjoyed the book, but I did.  The writing is spectacular and again, Ms. Morgan has made New York seem like a magical place full of endless possibilities.  That might be how the City sees itself, but for those of us that lived there and found themselves drowing in it, it is hard to see it as anything other than the place that nearly killed us.  The ability to make us see romance in its streets is an admirable one.  I actually found myself wishing I could be there while reading.  Thankfully, I would stop reading for long enough to make me remember that the place she was writing about does not exist and never has.  That New York is just as fake as any other romance locale, be it a kingdom far, far away or Regency London, none of those places are real -- not in any way that counts.

The last thing I want to talk about is the cover -- or rather, the covers.  There are two.  The above photo is of the American cover, which while pretty is nothing compared to the UK edition.

I love the colors of the UK edition as well as the fact that both Molly and Valentine are depicted.  Both covers evoke the feeling of romance, but to me only the UK version connects with the story within.  I can almost feel Molly's wonder at seeing her adopted city, of standing there with Valentine and knowing that she could be anyone she wanted there.  What about you?  Which cover speaks to you and what does it say?

All I know is that I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.


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