The Idea of Him
William Morrow / April 1, 2014 / $14.99 print, $10.99 digital
Allie Crawford has the life she always dreamed of—she's number two at a high-profile P.R. firm; she has two kids she adores; and her husband is a blend of handsome and heroic. Wade is everything she thought a man was supposed to be—he's running a successful newsmagazine and, best of all, he provides the stable yet exciting New York City life Allie believes she needs in order to feel secure and happy.
But when Allie finds Wade locked in their laundry room with a stunning blonde in snakeskin sandals, a scandal ensues that flips her life on its head. And when the woman wants to befriend Allie, an old flame calls, and a new guy gets a little too close for comfort, she starts to think her marriage is more of a facade than something real. Maybe she's fallen in love not with Wade—but with the idea of him.
Captivating and seductive, told in the whip-smart voice of a woman who is working hard to keep her parenting and career on track, The Idea of Him is a novel of conspiracy, intrigue, and intense passion—and discovering your greatest strength through your deepest fears.
It’s hard to describe exactly what category The Idea of Him falls into—it has elements of romance, mystery, suspense and women’s fiction. All I know is I could not put it down. Holly Peterson, also the author of The Manny, presents the story of Allie Crawford, a successful married Manhattan PR executive whose life gets turned upside down not (entirely) by another man, but another woman—no, not like that. Jackie Malone, the other woman who crosses her path, is sexy and mysterious, but looks like trouble. She’s someone Allie alternately hates, fears, and admires, a femme fatale who wreaks havoc on Allie’s life.
The action kicks off at a party at the Crawfords’ apartment, where Allie sees her husband Wade locked in the laundry room with Jackie:
I got up the guts to walk back down to the laundry room door, but she opened it herself just as I arrived. There stood the Tudor Room woman with her hair perfectly coiffed, and her full lips smothered with gloss, lavishly but accurately, without the remotest hint that she’d been performing sexual tongue gymnastics minutes before. She returned my stare with simple, elegant composure.
Though fuming, I was also heartbroken by her beauty and what it must mean to my husband. “What the hell was going on in here?!”
She then did the unthinkable—she held out her hand. “Jackie Malone.”
“What the . . .” My eyes darted to the vacant scene behind her.
“Look, he’s all yours.” She stared straight at me. “It’s not what you think. You may not believe me now, but I was in there on your behalf. I w as looking for something and he caught me.”
I studied her clothes for signs they’d just had mad groping sex. I had to admit that she did look completely unruffled. All I could see behind her was laundry neatly folded, and all I could smell was powder detergent—no scent of lust, no mess. “You’re telling me you were alone, locked in a room with my husband, and I’m supposed to believe nothing was going on in here?!!”
“Yes. Nothing. And more important . . .” She paused and held my arm. Then she said, “This is going to sound extremely improbable, but you are going to need to trust me.”
As bizarre as that sounds (to the reader and to Allie), Allie knows something is amiss with her husband, and the more she encounters Jackie, who manages to pop up here, there and everywhere, the more she’s inclined to believe what the woman has to say—at least, part of it. What follows is a whirlwind of intrigue, confusion, backstabbing, shady business dealings, flirtation and general chaos as Allie’s life is upended in every way possible.
While Allie is questioning whether her marriage is what it seems, she’s also thinking about James, her first love, whose life became inextricable from hers when his mother and Allie’s father died in a plane crash, from which a teenaged Allie managed to escape. Tommy, a hot, flirty guy from her screenwriting class, pushes her to recall in vivid detail her relationship with James, stirring up feelings for both men.
I especially appreciated that we don’t simply see Allie jumping headlong into an affair at the first opportunity, for either revenge or sexual satisfaction. Even though the plot deals with crime and some over-the-top drama, its treatment of a long-term marriage adds an element of realism to Allie. She has desires and longings, and is getting used to the fact that everything she thought she knew about herself, her business, her husband and her life may actually be quite different than what she’d assumed, but she’s as cautious as she is curious to get to the bottom of things.
“You can’t come up,” I blurted out.
“I wasn’t asking to.” He took a step closer to me. “But you could come to my apartment instead.”
“I’m married,” I blurted further.
“No shit,” he answered, his hand on my arm, his head tilting to the left. “We’d have fun. I promise you you’d have a great time.”
“I mean, I’m not in the greatest relationship.”
“What a surprise.” He smiled within inches of my lips.
“But it’s not, I mean, I’ve never . . . this isn’t what . . . I just wanted to talk about writing . . . I didn’t mean to get this so far down the line and give you the impression you were coming up or that I was going to run to your apartment or was ready in any way to . . .”
“Stop worrying. This isn’t about that.”
Tommy cupped my cheek in his large rough hand and kissed me so hard and feverishly that he had to hold the back of my neck with the other hand so I wouldn’t crash backward.
What makes The Idea of Him work is both excellent plotting as well as the dangling of romance before Allie, only to have it snatched away. It becomes clear early on that, as the title suggests, Wade is better on paper than he is in real life, yet it’s to Peterson’s credit that I wanted to like Wade, no matter how flawed he was. It’s refreshing to read a book where not only did I have no idea what would happen next, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to happen next. Bad guys (and girls) shift into good, and vice versa, and it’s hard to know who will prevail. There are some hard truths about love, affairs, family and trust buried not so far beneath the surface of the splashy storyline, yet it’s a complete page-turner that speeds along briskly, with plenty of sex, crime, and scandal. Highly recommended, but be prepared to get as sucked in as I did.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson, available April 1, 2014:
Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a freelance and erotica writer, and editor of over 50 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories; Only You: Erotic Romance for Women; Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission and others. She tweets @raquelita and blogs at Lusty Lady.