A sweet and witty romance novel about a thirty-seven-year-old woman starting over, Lisa Slabach’s Ten Thousand I Love Yous is a relatable book about never being too old to redefine yourself.
Writer Kimberly Braxton gets the shock of her life after her daughter Haley’s high school graduation: Jay, her attorney husband of eighteen years, has fallen out of love and wants to get a divorce. Kimberly, who was anticipating having empty nest time to rekindle her romance, is suddenly single and thrown into the complicated world of adult dating.
With Haley attending UC Berkeley, Kimberly is finally alone – for the first time in a very long time. Perhaps against her better judgment, she agrees to pen a sex and relationships column for divorced women, chronicling her entertaining escapades as an adult woman trying to navigate the contemporary world of flings and flirtations.
Kimberly’s lively dating life runs the gambit, from an incredibly messy night at the club, to an indulgence with a firefighter, to a serious attachment to a younger skilled sous-chef. These interactions are simultaneously hilarious and sobering, as they uncover the truth of many modern women’s personal lives. Kimberly goes through a lot of emotional pain over the course of Slabach’s novel, but she ultimately does end up on top.
A charismatic and cordial novel about the convoluted realities of adults’ intimate love lives, this tale will be immediately recognizable for anyone who’s faced getting back in the dating game after a long-term relationship, but Kimberley’s trials and successes are relatable for any reader. Books about steamy affairs among the young and naïve are common, but more serious novels about adult partnerships get less attention. Probably the closest contemporary text to Ten Thousand I Love Yous is Linda Holmes’ fantastic novel Evvie Drake Starts Over. There’s something so gorgeous and wonderful about love between two people with a lot of life experience, who never expected to find giddy teenage happiness again – an uplifting mixture of wisdom and optimism.
Author Slabach also uses Kimberly’s writing as an effective organic outlet for difficult questions about love and sex, such as is it possible for physical attachment to outweigh emotional attachment, or how do romantic partners negotiate significant age gaps? It’s not easy to bring up these queries naturally in a novel, without flattening the characters and making them seem like mouthpieces for the author’s opinions, but Slabach manages this conundrum expertly by making her main character a writer. Kimberly pulls no punches in her column, and these sorts of questions don’t have easy answers, which is what makes Ten Thousand I Love Yous such a realistic and impactful story.
The novel doesn’t make things simple or straightforward for the main character, and the reader benefits from this complex analysis of present-day existence, getting both a thought-provoking work of contemporary fiction and a cheerful romance in the bargain. Overall, Ten Thousand I Love Yous may cover some familiar ground, but it is thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. Kimberly is an adorable, kindhearted, and intelligent lead, and readers will enjoy rooting for her to find happiness. Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★½