Come Together
by Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees
(Villard, $21.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-375-50232-7
****
Come Together may not be a romance in the traditional sense it is far too realistic for that but that authenticity makes its happy ending extraordinarily powerful. Co-written by a British male/female duo, with alternating chapters told from the male and female viewpoint, it's a quick, can't-put-it-down read that should inspire some very interesting dialogue between the sexes.

Jack Rossiter isn't a bad guy. He's a 27-year-old underachieving artist who works part-time in an art gallery to pay rent for the flat he shares with his best mate Matt. Jack does like to sleep around a lot, but only if the girl knows the score and isn't expecting a long-term relationship. So here's a typical morning. He wakes up with a girl, can't remember her name and gets rid of her in a hurry so she won't run into the beautiful girl he convinced to model in the nude for him in hopes of eventually scoring. Then it's time to head out for the pub for Matt's birthday, at which point he meets...

Amy Crosbie didn't particularly want to go out tonight. A 25-year-old underachieving fashion designer who is doing temp work, she hasn't had sex in six months and is feeling pretty blue about her prospects for the future. But then she meets Jack. In a drunken state she confesses all of her woes to him and also lets him know she fancies Matt. But somehow she makes enough of an impression that Jack calls her the next week. Their relationship progresses tentatively from "mates" who sleep together to official boyfriend/girlfriend. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and Jack has a confession to make that just might blow the relationship out of the water...

Jack and Amy could be any under 30 couple who are trying to connect but also protect themselves at the same time. They're not especially unusual or interesting characters, and neither are their friends and co-workers. But their honest voices make Come Together a worthwhile read. It's intriguing to peek inside Jack's head and see his uniquely male logic about life (wait until you encounter his mathematical equation for ascertaining a given person's Promiscuity Rating). It's rewarding to watch him gradually realize he is in love with Amy even if he does fight the feeling almost all the way to the end. During the process, a genuine sweetness emerges in his chapters:

"A couple of weeks back, my reaction to lying here with my arm around this beautiful girl would have probably been:
a) There's a girl asleep in my bed; excellent, I've scored.
b) There's a girl asleep in my bed; shit, that means I can't do a runner.
c) There's a girl asleep in my bed; better wake her up - but what the hell's her name?
But I do know this girl's name. This girl's name is Amy. It's a week and half since I had that conversation with her in Hyde Park and we moved from a Me and a Her to an Us. And my reaction now to her being here is:
a) Amy's asleep in my bed; excellent, I've scored.
b) Amy's asleep in my bed; good, I don't want her to be in anyone else's.
c) Amy's asleep in my bed; great, because waking up without her on the nights we spend apart sucks."

As a group of primarily female readers, we're more familiar with Amy's story trying to pretend she doesn't care if Jack doesn't call, wondering if she's slept with him too soon, worrying if she's neglecting her best mate H. At first I questioned what she saw in this self-centered jerk, but as his human side emerged I admired her for sticking with it. And respected her for standing up for herself when it became necessary.

I asked my husband to read some of Jack's chapters to get his Y-chromosome opinion on whether they reflected a "true" male attitude. And with some disclaimers, he admitted that they did. Although he isn't a novel reader, he was intrigued enough to read the entire thing, which led to some extremely interesting conversations over the next few days.

The buzz about Come Together includes rumors that the authors fell in love while working together and are now engaged to be married. That's a sweet footnote to a book that made me believe that real women and real men actually do have a chance to be happy together.

--Susan Scribner


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