cover image A Little Love Story

A Little Love Story

Roland Merullo, . . Shaye Areheart, $23 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4867-0

Merullo, author of the Revere Beach series, starts out with a hoary cliché: Jake Entwhistle, on the one-year anniversary of his girlfriend's death, goes out for a doughnut, and his '49 Dodge truck gets smashed in the parking lot by cowboy-booted, 27-year-old Janet Rossi. Chemistry wins out over a series of first-date pratfalls, and Entwhistle, a handsome, successful painter, finds himself smitten. Rossi, however, has cystic fibrosis, and Merullo does his best work in the deceptively lighthearted chapters that follow the lovers trying to shed their romantic baggage on top of dealing with Rossi's illness. Entwhistle must overcome his jealousy over Rossi's affair with the governor of Massachusetts (she's still his aide), and he must also finally mourn the late Giselle (an attendant on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11). Rossi's debilitating disease quickly sends her into a tailspin; Jake tries to pull together lung donors and a "psycho-genius" doctor for an operation that could save Rossi's life. Merullo counters the cardboard morbidity and overdetermined incidentals with considerable emotional depth, making this a solid romance. (On sale Aug. 9)