Love, Literally
by J.T. Tierney
Curtiss Street Press

"Words and language were the most valued currencies in our family, our favorite pastime, our religion."

When the COVID-19 virus shuts down the Boston theater scene, Hallie, a theater set designer, loses her job, boyfriend, and apartment. Her friend, Maria, offers a lifeline when she invites Hallie to move in with her and her husband, Mike. Maria’s friend Lisa invites Maria, Mike, and Hallie to come to their vacation home on the Cape for an extended stay away from the horrors of the virus. The very wealthy Lisa and Paul also invite a friend, Quinn. As everyone settles in for a relaxing first night, it is obvious that Hallie and Quinn are very compatible.

A widowed Tufts English professor, Quinn, enjoys wordplay, and Hallie is up to the challenge, having been brought up to love words and their nuanced meanings. Her quick wit and intelligence enthrall Quinn as does her love of life and adventure. As the extended holiday continues, they grow close to each other. They each begin to think they might have a life together. However, circumstances are making things difficult for the two. The ex-boyfriend looms large as the break-up was only months before, and Quinn’s two adult children are less than thrilled with their father dating someone else. Can they overcome these obstacles, or are they doomed to stop this budding love affair before it even gets started?

Though it is the love story between Quinn and Hallie that takes center stage in this novel, there are other themes that merit mention. For example, Maria, both frugal and charitable, spends much of the couple’s money helping charities, one of which is a program for feeding families hit hard by COVID-19. She is drawn to helping Cape Verdean families who have migrated to areas of Massachusetts. The tension arises, though, with Maria’s disdain for “conspicuous consumption,” which is ever present in the vacation house. Another aspect of the novel is the exploration of the surroundings on the Cape. It offers an intimate view of the historical and cultural offerings of Cape Cod and brings interest and depth to the narrative. As these themes emerge along with the romance of Hallie and Quinn, the novel displays a wealth of local information written in an entertaining dialogue between characters.

Tierney writes in an easy, conversational manner, which early on proves to be a style of writing that immediately draws one into the book. It is well-paced and explores the characters’ motivations and concerns in a dramatic tension that holds well throughout the novel. The reader is very quickly immersed in the lives of the author's strong characters and their interactions.

One of the most engaging and delightful aspects of the narrative is the wordplay between Quinn and Hallie. Anyone who loves words will enjoy the many puns included, as well as the information concerning the origin of certain words and phrases. Tierney does a fabulous job with this language theme in the novel. The spontaneous wordplay is well done and fun to read. In fact, it is what sets this book above others and makes the love story angle interesting. This is certainly a wonderful read with many layers. It is one of those books that stays with you. Readers may find themselves rereading passages that are most compelling and informative. This one belongs on the shelf of anyone who enjoys a good story, rich language, historical information, and cultural details.

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