Hot Stuff - Elaine Fox This book made an impression on me. It made me think, and my thoughts steered into a path rarely explored by romance writers. 3,5 stars.
The protagonist Laurel is over 30, still single, and tired of it. She stopped believing in love some time ago: after all, love has never worked for her. So when she reads a book entitled Love Is Not the Answer, which promotes the cerebral approach to selecting a spouse, the approach based on common values, as opposed to the emotional approach, based on passion, she becomes an avid proponent of the book and its message. She decides to arrange her own marriage without love.
Her only problem is Joe, the owner of a coffee cart in front of her office building. Joe is a romantic; he believes in love and he wants a love-based marriage… with Laurel.
While Laurel’s mind resists her attraction to Joe; it plays havoc with her cool and rational husband-hunting operation, her body has ideas of its own, and all these ideas are centered on the handsome coffee man Joe: his engaging grin, his muscular body, his capable hands. Their mutual mating dance makes for a lovely, if unconventional romance novel, sometimes funny, sometimes sad.
As love blossoms between them, both hero and heroine come out well-defined and sympathetic; I wanted them to find happiness. The plot that outlined their search for happiness was absorbing, if a bit slow, but what attracted me most to this book was the idea behind it.
I read and I wasn’t sure: should I condemn the heroine and her untraditional, loveless approach to marriage or should I embrace her convictions and apply them to my life. Despite the novel’s standard happily-ever-after ending, it seems to me that the author herself sits on the fence.
I’m on the fence too and I have given thought to this issue before. Many romance readers would probably consider my opinion anathema, but look at the marriages around us. Most of them are based on ‘love’, or rather what the majority of young and not so young people view as love—interpersonal chemistry or sexual attraction. Unfortunately, after several years it wears off in 90% of the relationships. Maybe that’s why the average length of marriages in Western society is 7 years. That’s not my imagining; that’s stats. Perhaps, there is a kernel of truth in the idea of an arranged marriage, when a couple stays together because they make a mutual informed commitment, not because they like mutual sex.
In the book, some female characters express their feelings of love as “My heart flutters when he enters the room” or “I’m walking on clouds”, but how long can one walk on clouds? And how far can one trust such an ephemeral footing as clouds? I’d believe in love much more, if a woman said: “He stayed with me after my mastectomy. He cut my toenails and changed the bandages on my ugly scar. He never averted his eyes.” That’s love, not walking on clouds, which is predominantly a chemical phenomenon.
Perhaps, if more people built their relationships on firmer grounds than sensuality and pleasurable coupling, fewer families would break. Perhaps separating marriage and sex into two distinct categories, unnecessary for each other, would benefit us all?
I'd qualify this novel as a romance for older readers and recommend it to anyone looking for love over the age of 30.

A note on the cover art: it’s projecting a different, much fluffier story, but I love it all the same.