When you first look at The Idea of You by Robinne Lee it will appear like the ultimate immersion fantasy to get lost in. The glitz and glam of a forty-year-old woman having a torrid affair with a boyband star half her age seems pretty amazing. Lee pulls back the curtain and shows the reality hidden in that fantasy. This doesn’t mean that the novel isn’t immersive. Quite the opposite, the combination of an easy reading and suspense makes for a fun page turner that you can’t put down.
Solène Marchand appears to have it all. She lives in a fabulous house, works at a gallery she co-owns with her best friend, and a wonderful relationship with her thirteen-year-old daughter, Isabelle. Then one night changes everything. Solène takes Isabelle to see her favorite band August Moon and chaperones while they do a meet and greet with the band. Solène makes a connection with one of the band members, Hayes Campbell, and the chemistry is obvious. Though Solène tries to fight the attraction, she ends up in a relationship with Hayes that spreads across the globe. But the closer they get, the harder it becomes to maintain the relationship. Between his fame, fans, and how it hurts the ones she’s closest to, the strain becomes too much.
Lee uses her background in her own acting career as a way to make everything feel real despite the wildness of it all. Whenever the couple jet sets to Paris together, they have to avoid rabid teenage fans. For every amazing accomplishment that Hayes makes, Solène can’t help but feel left behind. She also notices the price for each accomplishment, he can’t dress the way he wants, he has to be careful around people, and he doesn’t trust anyone. The security detail, the consequences of being together, and how the toll fame takes on Hayes grounds the reader in a sparkling world.
What’s probably most fascinating about this entire novel is what Lee has done to Solène. She’s such a strong tragic figure in this novel to the point of frustration. Solène is a character that somehow manages to change a lot, yet not all. She starts out lonely and ends up lonelier. In the beginning, she tries to deny her feeling of lonely, claims she okay with her post-divorce slump that she’s been in. Honestly, part of her is okay with it. She is running a very successful gallery with her best friend, she gets to travel to talk about art, and she finds meaning in her daughter, but there is that one spot that none of those things touch. She fills that hole with Hayes. Despite her constantly bringing up their age difference, she forty, he twenty, Hayes breaks down her walls and makes her feel young again. She puts more effort into how she looks, loves seeing the places he can take her to, and not to mention the incredible sex.
But ultimately she is not allowed this indulgence. Despite her forward views on sexism and ageism, especially with women her age, she ultimately allows that to push Hayes and her apart. She constantly thinks about their age difference while being with him and his friends. Every time she is caught by the paparazzi she says someone her age shouldn’t be doing this, someone her age shouldn’t be wearing this, someone her age shouldn’t be with him. Solène even tries to parent the boyband. She gives into the scandal magazines and mean comments made by his fans and her neighbors. She also sacrifices the relationship for her daughter who is not only heartbroken by the relationship but is teased for it too. She ultimately is forced back into only being a mother which ultimately breaks her heart and the readers’ too.
Erynn Porter just graduated New Hampshire Institute of Art’s BFA program and is currently assistant editor and staff writer for Quail Bell Magazine. She has been published in Extract(s), The Mighty, and Quail Bell Magazine. She often jumps between her interests of writing fiction and nonfiction, short stories and children’s books.
Robinne Lee is a Los Angeles-based actor, writer and producer. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Robinne was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. Robinne has numerous acting credits in both television and film, most notably opposite Will Smith in both Hitch and Seven Pounds, Don Cheadle in Hotel for Dogs, and Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30. She recently completed shooting Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, playing Christian Grey’s trusted COO, Ros Bailey. Robinne currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. The Idea of You is her first novel.