Chloe Kassidy has just been accepted into one of Manhattan’s most exclusive art exhibits, Love Through Light. However, with her singular dedication to her career, she soon realizes that in sacrificing her personal life, she has never been in love. A hopeless romantic who is terrified of heartbreak, Chloe begins to enlist the help of her circle of friends to learn about love through their very different stories and experiences.
In Chloe’s emotional rollercoaster to having the greatest love story ever told, she’ll learn that like her photography she must use the negatives in life to develop and prove that she’s a strong woman who found her way to love through light.
Inspired by the notion that women grow up with ideas of true love and destiny, For Internal Use Only approaches those ideas with a decidedly twenty-first century viewpoint. A humorous love story with an edgy and dramatic twist, For Internal Use Only is a vastly entertaining novel that gives each of us a new fairy tale to look forward to: our own.
New York is the city of dreams for many, and for overly rational, budding professional photographer Chloe Kassidy, it's the culmination of a lifetime of longing and planning. Originaly a Georgia-born country girl, she's now a firm Manhattanite, wandering dreamily through Central Park with her Canon 5D Mark III practically glued to her eye socket. Her unwavering dedication to furthering her career has driven her to apply for a place in a prestigious art exhibit for emerging photographer, headed by temperamental curator (and incurable flirt) Grayson Gates.
Believing her destiny hinges on the outcome of the gallery opening, entitled "Love Through Light", she is immediately overwhelmed with the enormity of the task ahead of her; her biggest problem being her belief that she's never really known true romantic love. Ever the 'Head' person, Chloe has never allowed her secretly romantic heart to be vulnerable to others, burying firmly underneath a controlling practicality and staunch professionalism.
When childhood friend (and fellow New York transfer) Emma West's never-ending quest for her "One True Love" drags her across the Brooklyn bridge to a book club, she takes the opportunity to explore new territories - both geographically and romantically, when an acquaintance at the meeting marks the beginning of a potential dalliance with mysterious Swedish diplomat Christoph Kostas. The dashing European is everything Chloe never knew she wanted in a potential love interest; handsome, intelligent, artistic (both a writer and a painter), compassionate, speaks with an accent.
Beginning with an exchange of emails, it escalates quickly - with Chloe falling hard and fast for the flutterings and feelings that Christoph arouses within her. Soon, she is struggling to juggle the budding hidden relationship with her exhibit commitments, including a trip to Miami to meet her Gates appointed mentor Reed Scott, and her day job at Bright Images, Inc, where tyrannical boss Milton lives to make money, and the lives of his employees miserable.
Piling the pressure onto Chloe is her commitments to friends - the ruthlessly heartbroken Kate, the sickeningly loving (and recently married) couple Stephanie and Alexander, as well as Emma and her daughter Lily, all of whom she is keeping her communication with Christoph a secret from. Add onto that disapproving parents, teacher Alice and accountant Robert, and separation anxiety, and things begin to take their toll on Chloe's artistic inspiration.
The biggest issue of all is that despite mounting emotional intimacy between the lovers, three months into their relationship, they are still yet to physically meet - having built their romantic foundation on emails, late night telephone conversations, and text message exchanges, which only serve to make them dependant on each other, especially with the blatant encouragement of book club acquaintance (and increasingly interfering 'secretary' to Christoph) Mary.
As Chloe edges closer and closer towards her exhibit deadline, still struggling with her theme (despite flagrant championing by mentor Reed), things start to really unravel for the lovers, culminating in heated phone exchanges, and a wild goose scavenger hunt through the city, and ending in a disastrous birthday dinner for the heroine. Lines are drawn, sage wisdom dispatched, truths told and lessons learned; the intrepid photographer must fight hard for herself, making hard decisions between her heavy brain and increasingly openly romantic heart, and which one is more likely to lead her to her dreams.
For Internal Use Only is a fantastic look at the perils of modern dating - where often we are forging relationship through technology rather than face to face, we are tending to rely on the mental over the physical to form our impressions. Do we believe what we are told, or do we take what we're given with a grain of salt, and a truck load of distrust? Given our societal dependance on technology to create bridges between people, we're having to learn how to get to know people in a whole way.
Ms Kamm very smartly grounds her 'love story' in a very modern device - using the convention of 'online dating', so to speak, to create a new kind of morality love story. She takes the format of the traditional fairy tales as a morality tale of warning, then opens it into the new century through how our lovers develop their relationship - completely on an emotional and intellectual level, removing the expected physical intimacy to expose the reader to old dangers in new ways. It's an interesting take, and one that for the most part, succeeds.
However, unfortunately, where the story really stumbles is in the relationship between two lead characters - Chloe and especially, Christoph. Never before have I read a more emotionally manipulative, borderline sociopathic romantic hero (can we even call him that?!?). It was extremely frustrating, taxing and frankly, disgusting to read their interactions at times - during the middle chunk, the plot gets extremely bogged down with these long winded emotional passages where every other page is another argument between the increasingly, ridiculously idiotic pair. Yes, I understand the point of this, but it was quite a turn off to read page after page (after page) of increasingly abusive correspondence. I cheered when Chloe realised the toxicity of their interactions, then despaired the very next chapter when he wormed his way back into her head/heart. Whether he won or not, you can discover for yourself, but his blatant disrespect of the woman he claims to want to marry - Dear Lord! If this is a real reflection of an adult relationship, count me out!
In comparison, Chloe is a rather flaccid heroine, but is fine enough when surrounded by her more sympathetic supporting characters - the Cudney married team are a wonderful side pairing (I'd be more than happy to read a book about them!) and the dichotomously opposing friendship of Emma and Kate round out all possible corners of any advice that Chloe could possibly need dispensed during her troubles throughout the novel. Each is given their own part to play, quite nicely, and without too much unnecessary exposition.
Plot wise, the novel is quite tight; well paced, plotted and executed. The writing is engaging, with some wonderfully visceral internal monologue passages that make Chloe more tolerable and somewhat interesting. The journey Ms Kamm takes her heroine on is one of relevance - how do you allow yourself to be completely vulnerable without someone you've never met? Do you trust yourself to trust in them? Are their words (truths, you hope) enough? Or do you take your hints from a higher power, believing in them to keep you safe and on the right path? Who knows?
In the end, For Internal Use Only is a well done cautionary tale - warning women that in this day and age, we can't place all our hopes in the ingrained Disney 'Fairy Tale' ending. That it may not be all we are brought up to believe it will be. And that in the end, if we find and trust in ourselves first, over our Prince (or Princess), then that is the more important lesson.