Jordan is a divorce lawyer, and a good one. While he’s seen couples who loathe one another and couples who can’t stop fighting, he’s also seen couples who still love one another, and it’s couples like those who help Jordan hold on to his romantic side. Every Valentine’s day, he decorates the office with paper hearts and cupcakes to remind his staff and his partners that there’s still love in the world. Even now, entering his mid-thirties, Jordan still holds out hope that one day he’ll find a love of his own.
Sam, as Vice President of Programming, is familiar with the ways in which television manipulates its audience’s emotions. The cloying music and saccharine smiles lure people into a world where the wedding matters more than the marriage, and the lie of a happily ever has greater importance than the romance ever could. It doesn’t matter if one character betrayed another (or stabbed them a little with an ice pick), it only matters that, at the end of the day, they say “I do.” And he hates it.
Sam accompanies his friend, Dinesh, to Jordan’s offices for moral support as Dinesh seeks to divorce his wife, who just so happens to be Sam’s sister. Ida has recently found a new religion, a religion in which her gay brother is an abomination, a religion in which her Hindu husband is unforgivable. It’s a cult of hate, and as much as Dinesh loves his wife, it’s time to let her go. Sam knew he’d have to be strong for his friend, but he hadn’t expected to be so smitten by Dinesh’s new lawyer.
Jordan is a successful lawyer, already a partner at his firm, and has been struggling when it comes to dating. He doesn’t want a casual fling and he doesn’t want to settle. What he wants, what he really wants, is his own happily ever after. He wants someone to love, and someone who will love him. He wouldn’t mind kids, trips to the country, or big family holidays, but in order to have those things, he needs someone to have them with. When he sees Sam and gets to know him as a boyfriend, a lover, and the warm, loving uncle who dotes on Dinesh and Ida’s children, Jordan’s heart melts a little. He feels something real when he’s with Sam and sees a chance for a loving relationship with him.
Sam was kicked out of his house when he was 15 for being gay, and since then he’s learned that love is something manufactured rather than the magical fairy tale his shows pretend it is. And seeing his best friend and sister go through an acrimonious divorce only enforces the idea that relationships don’t work. Better to have a good time and part as friends than to try for something you can’t have and have it end so badly that both parties are left broken.
The paper hearts refer to Valentine’s day — both the decoration and the fragility of the human heart. Paper isn’t meant to last forever, after all, no matter how much you want it to. Jordan and Sam struggle to come to terms with what they both want, as opposed to what they thought they wanted. Jordan wants that perfect love so much he’s willing to let Sam go, and Sam is so sure that love doesn’t exist that he’s willing to watch Jordan walk away. The two of them have very different approaches to love, but they both want it. One of them just has to open his eyes, and the other has to open his heart.
This is an adorable little story, for all that it’s a divorce that brought them together. Jordan and Sam are a charming couple and Dinesh and his children aren’t simply there as set decoration. Dinesh’s story works well as a contrast for Sam, and to explain how and why Sam came to the conclusions he did about romance and relationships. Dinesh’s wife was the only sour note, being the only character with neither growth or personality. She and her religion were conveniently bad and wrong without giving her any humanity, but that’s a small quibble.
The story takes place over seven months, from October to February, and keeps the romance at a slow simmer for much of the book. While the two men get each other’s numbers quickly, this isn’t an insta-love story. It’s a holiday story, culminating in the expected and cute Valentine’s Day celebration that isn’t the artificial, merchandized happily ever after but is, instead, the start of a loving relationship.