Summary (Amazon): The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.
My Review (Spoilers!!)
Executive Summary: Sweet
This is our love/romance book for book club this year. Partway through, I told my husband that I was reading a love story book and really liking it, and he said something along the lines of, “Are you feeling OK?” Needless to say, this is typically not the sort of genre I’m interested in. But this book isn’t typical. This book is written by a man (not too unusual given the popularity of Nicholas Sparks) but also the main character is a man, Don Tillman. Don is a socially awkward genetics professor in his late 30s. With encouragement from a fellow professor, Gene, and his wife Claudia (his only friends), Don embarks on the wife project after many failed dates. The wife project is a questionnaire to which Don has already selected one acceptable answer for each. There are no gray areas. Don collects a variety of completed questionnaires from various sources, and he discusses the results with Gene. Due to Gene’s own research (trying to have sex with a woman from every country), he tells Don that he will take the questionnaires, review them, and select some candidates who may be worth some compromises. Shortly thereafter, a woman arrives at Tillman’s office at Gene’s request. Don asks her to dinner that evening to which she sarcastically suggests (presumably) an expensive place. Don doesn’t understand the nuance and agrees. He calls Gene who will reveal nothing except that her name is Rosie. Don arrives at the restaurant that evening and is wearing his very practical clothing for biking there. He is not allowed to enter the restaurant without a jacket (read: sport coat) as the place has a dress coat. Don argues that he is in fact wearing a very expensive jacket and ends up getting into a fight with the doorman, knocking him down with his aikido skills just as Rosie arrives. The two leave, and go back to Don’s house where he cooks dinner. The same dinner he cooks every single Tuesday. He learns that Rosie is on a mission to figure out who her real father is because her eye color, brown, is impossible with two blue eyed parents (my uncle has brown eyes and two blue eyed parents too). Eventually Don calls Rosie a taxi and she leaves. He calls Claudia to ask what Gene was thinking with Rosie since she smokes, drinks, is mostly a vegetarian (but will eat sustainable seafood), does not follow an exact timeline, and has dyed hair. Gene is not there, and has told his wife he had been hanging out with Don. Despite knowing that Rosie is unsuitable for the wife project, the geneticist comes out in Don, and he decides that he ought to help Rosie find her father. He knows where she works and tracks her down at the gay bar where she works. Rosie tells Don to call her. The meet the following day and begin to form a plan. Rosie believes that her father is a man who graduated with her mother from medical school, specifically someone who was at the graduation party. She has a few main potential candidates to begin with, so they start there. The first one is a family friend, so Rosie schedules an appointment to go see him and his wife, getting his DNA in the meantime. Unfortunately it is not a match. Rosie and Don go grab some dinner and drinks (even though Don has his daily dinner ingredients at home). There, they see Gene and one of the applicants of the Wife Project. At the end of the night, Don asks Rosie who is next, and she suggests two additional family friends. Rosie and Don make appointments to meet with both of the potential fathers. The first has died from prostate cancer, so they meet his daughter and steal some hair from her brush. The other is now a faculty member at a university, and they meet at a coffee shop, where Rosie inquires about attending medical school there. Don is simultaneously impressed with her fake credentials and also a little embarrassed since she is only a bartender. They obtain DNA off of the coffee cup, and return to his lab to check both. Neither is the father. Rosie, disappointed, leaves. Don is hooked on the Father Project and begins doing some internet research. Don finds pictures of the graduation class and the graduation party. He locates a discussion board where he finds that the 30 year reunion is coming up in three weeks. He goes back to the gay bar to find Rosie, but she is not working. Don realizes he knows very little about Rosie, but reappears the following night when the bar opens to speak to her, but she asks him to come back at closing when she isn’t busy–at 3AM. Don is shocked, but he agrees. When he returns, he convinces Rosie to pull some strings to be a bartender at the reunion. Rosie appears at Don’s apartment two days later to inform him that they are BOTH bartending at the reunion, and she leaves him a copy of The Bartender’s Companion to review. The event goes swimmingly with Don having memorized the cocktail book and having an exceptional memory for drink orders and names. They manage to get a bunch of samples, however, none are a match. While they are running the tests, Don informs Rosie that he is not interested in her as a partner, and she says that she understands and agrees. So he asks her why she applied for the Wife Project, and to no one’s surprise, she didn’t. Gene and she had a bet and that’s why she showed up at Don’s office. She is a bit aghast at the whole sexist idea of the Wife Project, and when Don refers to her as a barmaid, she clarifies that she is a PhD student in psychology and walks out. Luckily for Don, he has an applicant to the Wife Project who meets all the requirements. One minor issue for Don though is that the candidate, Bianca, is an accomplished ballroom dancer, and she expects her partner to be as well. Don RSVPs to the faculty ball and begins practicing his steps. He’s distracted though by the thought of Rosie and the Father Project (despite her not being around) and conversations with Claudia about his feelings. When Don and Bianca arrive at the reception, Rosie is there too, with her date, Stefan. Stefan is aggressive toward Don, and eventually takes the microphone from the band to announce that there is a former national dancing champion in their midst. So Don and Bianca are drawn out to the floor to dance, which is a complete train wreck. Bianca leaves, embarrassed. Rosie is furious with Stefan for behaving that way. Rosie saves the day by taking Don back out to dance, revealing little secrets of her life. Her mother realized that Rosie wasn’t Phil’s when her eyes changed from blue to brown, and then she told Phil. And he was “all over the place” like once he promised to take her to Disneyland, and she told everyone at school, but he never took her. Don takes Rosie home, and she asks him to come upstairs. He says no. When she asks him if he finds her attractive, he says “I haven’t really noticed.” Ugh! Come on, Don!!! In fairness, Don realizes he screwed up, and he schedules a run with Gene to discuss. Gene agrees as long as Don brings him Bianca’s contact info. Gene suggests that Don do a bit more research into two-person sex. lol. As he is doing research in his office, the Dean arrives. She brings with her one of the doctors from the reunion who was a Father Project candidate to discuss funding. Don goes to talk to Rosie about sex, which is even more awkward than imaginable as Stefan is there, and Rosie dismisses Don fully, even the Father Project. Don sulks for a while, talking to Claudia, and continuing the Father Project on his own, narrowing it down to only a few candidates. He begins loitering in the cafeteria to “accidentally” catch Rosie. On the third day, she appears, and he asks her to go to New York with him so that they can get two of the three final candidates. Eventually she agrees, and Don decides to collect the final sample which is a long drive away. But he doesn’t test it because he still wants the excuse to go to New York! When they get to New York, Don reluctantly agrees to relinquish two days’ plans to Rosie’s schedule. She gets him to break free from his schedule and experience some new things including a baseball game where Don made a new friend and was introduced to baseball stats. They manage to get all the samples they need, and one of the potential candidates figures out what they are doing and gives Don a warning. Don and Rosie are growing closer over the trip, and they get to being intimate, and Don awkwardly gives Rosie the sexual positions book that Gene gave him for the trip. Rosie changes her mind. On the trip back, Don does some soul searching and realizes that he really likes Rosie, and he needs to make some changes. Don meets with Gene and realizes that Gene was the one who took the graduation photo they have been using for the Father Project, so Don takes Gene’s DNA too. Don meets Rosie the following week to check the four samples, and he asks her if she might consider him as a partner. She dismisses him because he doesn’t know how to love, doesn’t understand social interaction, and can’t not have a schedule. He decides to rectify these. Don breaks his weekly menu schedule and starts trying new things. Gene tells Don that people have never taken him seriously and everyone always just regards him as a buffoon. Don tells Gene to grow up and stop treating Claudia like crap. The final father candidate is Phil so Don schedules a personal training session with him to collect a sample and also to question him about Rosie. Phil does not understand why Rosie has hung onto the Disneyland thing forever and tries to convince Don that he tried to be a good parent. Don continues his changes and gets a new wardrobe and a new haircut and then invites Rosie to dinner at the restaurant where he previously was kicked out. He plans on proposing to her but she leaves before he can, upset that he can’t love her. When Don eventually goes into his office, he finds the roses he has given to Rosie along with a note saying that she knows who the napkin belongs to (Gene). Don rushes to fix the miscommunication and finds Rosie and Claudia in the cafeteria. Phil and Gene appear with Gene looking worse for the wear. Rosie agrees to marry Don. And Don has tickets for he, Rosie and Phil to go to Disneyland! Rosie and Don get married and move to New York, and it’s revealed that Phil actually is Rosie’s father.
Verdict: 4 stars
This is definitely one of the better love stories I’ve read, and certainly a fun modern take on it. My only real issue with it was that it ended so quickly and predictably, but certainly certainly not enough to sway my opinion of the entire book. Apparently a movie version will be coming out soon. I’ll probably wait until it comes available for borrow.