by James Collins
(Little, Brown, $24)
James Collins’ debut novel relies on “a stunning number” of familiar romantic comedy tropes, said Jennifer Armstrong in Entertainment Weekly. Peter, a slightly awkward young financial type, meets the woman of his dreams on an airplane, misplaces her phone number, then spends years waiting for life’s soap opera to bring his soul mate back to him. But Collins infuses each twist along the way with “so much old-school charm” that Beginner’s Greek becomes 400-plus pages of escapist magic. More vigorous editing would have made the book better, said Celia McGee in The New York Observer. Though Collins displays an assured touch with high-WASP culture, Wall Street lingo, and even the subject of love, “the pearls on this necklace” are separated by generous amounts of filler prose. The novel also feels as if Collins is avoiding an authentic portrait of haute suburbia in order to usher us around the grounds of “ye olde estate of Ralph Lauren.” Collins’ “sly humor” makes such faults forgivable, said Lee Rhodes in the Charlotte, N.C., Observer. More important, the humor makes it possible for sophisticated readers to believe, at least for 450 pages, that love still conquers all.