It’s a premise fit for a holiday blockbuster: Oliver Russell is a business magnate with buckets of money, movie star charisma and every luxury a man could want—except someone to share it with. Victoria Scott is a struggling but spirited fashion designer who shows Oliver a fresh perspective, but needs his encouragement to view herself in a new light. She needs a place to demonstrate her talent, and he has a department store empire and a favor to ask: Will she fake an engagement to please his interfering mother in exchange for the showcase of her dreams? Oh, and did I mention that it’s Christmastime? And that the story unfolds in Chelsea, a particularly charming section of London? And that Victoria has a Greek chorus of quirky friends and protegees who support and encourage her along the way?
Author Georgia Toffolo mixes all of these ingredients into Meet Me in London, an airy, lace-edged creation that is just as charming as you could hope . . . and might seem, at first glance, to be just a wee bit predictable. But underneath its frills lie additional layers that explore more than you might expect.
Oliver’s wealth and privilege don’t shield him from problems; in fact, they seem to have caused some. His family’s legacy of focusing on business at the expense of spending time with their children has left him and his parents with plenty of genuine affection for each other but no real vocabulary to connect. And they needto connect, now more than ever, because Oliver’s father is going through a health crisis that’s showing them that there might not be many chances left. It’s moving but also terribly sad that it takes cooking up a fake fiancée to finally give Oliver and his parents something to talk about.
Meanwhile, Victoria has all the emotional intelligence and insight that Oliver and his family lack, but she gained those skills through pain and suffering. A serious accident changed her life and the lives of her closest friends forever and left Victoria unable to have children. The emotional weight of that loss has ground her down, especially when it led to a humiliating rejection by a previous boyfriend.
These elements darken the story, but it’s to Meet Me in London’s benefit. The premise is cotton-candy fluff, but with the addition of real stakes, real pain and real issues to overcome, the plot gains substance and significance. Victoria and Oliver deserve their happy ending not because they’re gorgeous and engaging—though they both definitely are—or because their romance is sweet and satisfying. No, they deserve their happily ever after because they’ve worked toward it, growing and changing beyond the pain in their pasts to build a future together that’s full of true love and Christmas cheer.