Our review copy of Aidan Donnelley Rowley's debut novel, Life After Yes (out yesterday from Avon), came stamped with a big, red disclaimer: "Warning: This is NOT a Fairytale." It's true—despite the dreamy wedding dress on the cover, the engagement-themed story, and the seemingly picture-perfect life of the author (Yale- and Columbia Law-educated, married with two blue-eyed darlings, living on the Upper West Side where she was born and raised), Rowley's book is far from the starry-eyed "happily ever after" you might expect.
Life After Yes is the story of Quinn O'Malley, a Manhattan born and bred attorney (sound familiar?) thrust into confusion and indecision after she accepts her Prince Charming of a boyfriend's romantic proposal in Paris. Suddenly she's surrounded by temptation—in the forms of ex-boyfriends, charming coworkers, even her personal trainer. And, despite the gravity of her romantic situation, it all seems somewhat insignificant in the context of her family life: It's 2002, and Quinn's father was having breakfast on the top floor of Tower One on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Quinn's grief and the toll it takes on her personal life and health (in the form of semblant gallons of white wine) provide a realistic and heart-wrenching backdrop for the rest of the story, but that remainder falls flat. We found Quinn's infidelities and dishonesty, well, icky, as there seemed to be no real repercussions, and the takeaway was "monogamy is hard." And while we enjoy Rowley's contemplative writing style (particularly on her cheesy-in-a-good-way blog, ivyleagueinsecurities.com), in novel form it comes across as heavy-handed, overly earnest, and unrealistic (the characters communicate almost exclusively in Sex and the City-style quips).
We've got our eye on Rowley, and we look forward to a more subtle, nuanced sophomore effort—in the meantime, save Life After Yes for a lazy weekend when you're feeling down on marriage and aren't necessarily in the mood to be proved wrong.