Mar 7 2016 11:00am

Younger’s Liza/Josh—Age Really Is Just a Number... or Is it?

Caught Up in Raine by L.G. O'Connor

Today we're joined by L.G. O'Connor on Heroes and Heartbreakers. L.G.'s upcoming release, Caught Up in Raine features one of our favorite types of heroines—a romance writer, Jillian! Throughout the course of her story, Jillian meets and falls in love with landscaper-turned-cover model, Raine (can you say, “wish fulfillment”?). One tiny hitch, Raine is almost 20 years younger than Jillian. L.G. found much inspiration from the show, Younger, starring Sutton Foster. L.G. is here today to talk about the May-December romance featured in Younger—and most likely convince you to watch the show yourself. Thanks, L.G.!

One of the things my husband and I do together is find shows and binge-watch them—On-Demand is our passport to a world of discovery. In early January, we stumbled across Sex in the City creator Darren Star’s new series, Younger. I was a huge Sex in the City fan, and convinced my husband to give it a try. The show features an older woman/younger man romance with a significant age gap, a relationship set-up of particular interest to me. Why? Stay with me to find out.

Though dubious, my husband agreed to watch the first episode. That’s all it took. We were both hooked, binge-watching the entire first season in one night and gearing us up for Season Two.

Hillary Duff and Sutton Foster in TV Land's Younger.

Coined a “dramedy” by Hillary Duff, who plays Kelsey Peters (friend and co-worker of main character Liza Miller), Younger raises real problems in an often hilarious way. The storyline centers around Liza Miller, a divorced 40-year old New Jersey housewife, who poses as a 26-year-old in order to fight the ageism she finds in publishing. She’s trying to reenter the workforce after staying home to raise her now college-aged daughter, Caitlyn. Lucky for Liza, she has a natural, fresh, young look which, paired with a creative makeover from her friend Maggie, allows her to pass as a millennial. No surprise, she’s hired as an assistant to 40-something, elitist Diana Trout at Empirical Press. However, Liza soon makes fast friends with Kelsey, a 20-something on her way up, which makes the job bearable.

But looking 26 and being 26, as Liza finds out, are two very different things. Liza not only has to pretend to be a millennial, she needs to understand how to be one. Between social media, personal grooming, hip vocabulary, and dating, she enters a new and vibrant world in an effort to support herself and her daughter.

One night at a Brooklyn bar, Liza meets 26-year-old tattoo artist, Josh, who tries to pick her up, thinking she’s a woman his age. The fact that he’s mistaken her for someone younger is not only flattering; it’s the impetus behind her journey.

Josh is hot with a capital “H.” He’s the right mix of sexy and adorable, but it takes some thought on Liza’s part before she takes him up on his offer.

The show, even though written as a comedy, quickly dredges up our age biases as it applies to romance and veers into the dreaded “cougar” territory. Liza’s daughter is appalled when she spies Liza kissing Josh, and decides to go live with her father.

A fourteen-year age difference between an older man and younger woman barely raises eyebrows, but done in reverse draws all kinds of criticism. In the “Truffle Butter” episode (Season 2, Number 5), Liza’s 40-ish New Jersey friends—a married couple—discover via her daughter’s Instagram account that mom is dating a much younger guy. So they show up at the Brooklyn bar where Josh’s band is playing to check him out. Before the night is over, they invite Liza and Josh to their New Jersey home for dinner. Though Josh is world-traveled, he’s never been to New Jersey. But curious about Liza’s life before Brooklyn, Josh says, sure, why not?

TV Land's Younger Liza/Josh TV Land's Younger Liza/Josh
TV Land's Younger Liza/Josh TV Land's Younger Liza/Josh
via daily-younger jennifirlawrence   

After dinner, Liza’s friend corners her in the kitchen, eager for delicious details on Liza’s “boy toy.” Liza shares with her friend that she and Josh “have something,” whereupon her friend accuses her of using Josh to reaffirm her desirability after a terrible marriage. Left alone after the  conversation, Liz accidentally gets stoned by chowing down on the marijuana-laced lollipop she confiscated from Josh on the way in. During a moment of enlightenment from Josh earlier in the evening, Liza finds out that the term “truffle butter” used in her friend’s suburban kitchen carries a much different meaning among hipster millennials, and gets the last laugh on her way out. Google it … there’s nothing culinary about it.

By the end of Season 1, Josh knows the truth. Though he and Liz repair their relationship during Season 2, things aren’t the same. On the upside, Liza’s confidence grows as she helps Kelsey with her new imprint, Millennial, at Empirical Press.

Charles, the owner of Empirical, is newly divorced—his wife left him. At this point in the season, the rapport has grown between him and Liza as she gets reeled in by his magnetic vulnerability. Forty-something and successful, he’s as nice of a guy as Josh, just a different flavor of delicious—one that is sure to create some sparks when her boss Diana finds out since she has her own plans for Charles. So as we head toward the Season 2 finale, we, the audience, are given this more socially “appropriate” option for Liza.

I have to say … I’m not happy about it.

I get Liza. Blessed with nice skin and good genes, I’ve always looked younger than I am. In my mind, I still feel 27. Then again, age is partially a state of mind, isn’t it? If I’d had the confidence then that I have today, I would’ve made a rocking 27-year-old. But in Liza’s case, she’s straddling two worlds, living a lie, which someone from her old publishing past is threatening to expose.

Back to my point. I don’t believe women have to give up their desirability at any age, yet that’s what society demands. So what happens to that 27-year-old locked inside of us?

I believe that under the right circumstances, age doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in whom you love or choose to spend your life with. Sometimes it’s what’s buried inside a person that makes them the right match, despite the social norms that taunt us. Age shouldn’t always be a barrier. Sometimes it’s just a number.

Nico Tortorella and Sutton Foster as Liza/Josh in Darren Star's Younger.

This is what inspired me to write Caught Up in Raine, a book about an older woman/younger man relationship. Raine’s tough upbringing makes him older than his 24 years, while 42-year-old Jillian’s tragic loss of the man she loved at a very early age keeps her stuck there...until she meets Raine. As unlikely as it seems, they’re the perfect match for each other. Can they overcome all that and enjoy the life together they deserve? It’s a tough journey, my friends. I hope you enjoy it.

What are your bets for Liza? Do you think she will give up Josh for the more age appropriate Charles (or someone like him)? Or do you think she and Josh have what it takes to find their “happy ever after”?



L.G. O’Connor is a member of the Romance Writers of America. A corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company, she writes adult paranormal and contemporary romance. She is the author of the four-book, one-novella urban fantasy / paranormal romance series The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles. The third full length novel launches in 2016. In addition, she is the author of the upcoming Romantic Women’s Fiction / New Adult Caught Up in Love seriesL.G. lives a life of adventure, navigating her way through dog toys and soccer balls. When she’s feeling particularly brave, she enters the kitchen . . .


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Sonya Heaney
1. Sonya Heaney
Never heard of this show, but then I'm not in the US.

Forty doesn't seem at all old, unless you're living in a cave and think it's still 1832! I'm thirty-four in a country where the legal drinking age is eighteen, and every single time I go to buy wine I have to have my passport with me because everyone thinks I'm still a teen. I know plenty of women around forty who look younger than some women in their twenties.

It just doesn't sound old to me...

Having lived in a number of expat communities, I have seen far more than my fair share of old men leaving their wives for mail order brides younger than their daughters. The attitudes to women of a certain age infuriate me.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
@Sonya Heaney, I think the age, by itself, wouldn't be an issue but there's quite a bit of ageism at play in this show—Liza was a housewife for many years until she and her husband divorced, so being out of the work force meant it was hard for her to get a job--hence her choosing to become "younger" to start with. Then there's the issue with her daughter actually being closer in age to Liza's new boyfriend than Liza is. Then there are the issues of joining the dating scene after being out of it for decades, and all the baggage that entails. It's really interesting how they play with those nuances.

So while I agree that 40 isn't old and that age really is just a number, it really does speak to the amount of experience you get from 24 to 40 than the actual number
Sonya Heaney
3. Kristin Noll-Marsh
I'm 13 years and 3 months older than my husband. We've been together nearly twelve years, married nine. We have four children between us, the youngest together. I haven't read the book yet, but I'll check it out. It sounds somewhat similar to our story (he with a tough youth, growing up fast, me with a husband wirh MS, who died when I was only 39.) I love the show Younger, because it doesn't jump to the cougar myths, mommy issues, the woman must be immature or stunted and age-gap clichés about tv shows and tastes in music. I'm looking forward to season three!
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