Foreward Clarion Review

BOOK REVIEWS

IMAGINARY AFFAIRS

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.

Right.

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

landed.

Imaginary Affairs is a champagne-filled romp that navigates love and lust

with abandon.

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