SEX, DRINKS & GETTING OLDER
September 27, 2019
Imaginary Affairs is a champagne-filled romp that navigates
love and lust with abandon.
In Robin Arkus’s indulgent, humorous, and dramatic romance Imaginary
Affairs, a middle-aged woman looks for love after loss.
After losing two husbands—one to divorce, the other to death—Mallory
finds herself in her most serious relationship yet, though it’s with a married
man who will never leave his wife. Approaching her fiftieth birthday, she
decides that she’s going to redirect her energy into finding her next Mr.
On vacation, Mallory thinks she’s found him: she shares champagne, long
nights of lovemaking, and fantasies of a future life with Brad. When Brad
starts bailing on their plans, though, Mallory second guesses her devotion
and decides to have fun with other suitors, of which she has plenty. Her
fast-paced, high-class single life in Cannes is full of drinks, gossip, and
men who are never quite who they seem to be.
Though painted as strong-willed, Mallory also exhibits weakness when it
comes to men. Her relationships drive the story; descriptions of her
encounters are juicy, dramatic, and excessive, though the text steers away
from erotic details. Her sexual empowerment is depicted as positive, but in
practice it’s problematic. Some such problems are recognized and explored
as part of Mallory’s development; still, more universal are the text’s
thoughtful idealizations of relationships.
The supporting cast is made up of the men with whom Mallory has flings.
Their antics are entertaining and are the text’s main source of theatrical
tension. In her inner monologues, Mallory grapples with social expectations
in a way that ends up being compliant; she considers herself in debt to
most such social mores. Her relationship with Brad is the story’s central
feature. Mallory’s girlfriends are important, if most so because they help
Mallory to reflect on situations.
Mallory’s breezy story mostly takes place in Cannes; her love for luxury
means that the town is painted as a place built around lunching and
spending money. Settings, from restaurants to homes, are described with
an emphasis on designer names and elegant elements. The Cannes Film
Festival plays in, too; the story celebrity name drops, embellishing its
general atmosphere of wealth and fame.
Approachable prose moves fast through Mallory’s affairs; the end effect is
that the novel reads like a tabloid, building anticipation around Mallory’s
love life. A hasty last chapter catches the audience up on where characters
Imaginary Affairs is a champagne-filled romp that navigates love and lust