Elmore Leonard wasn’t a great writer, but he was, at his best and within his limits, quite exceptionally good. Moreover, he was never better than when writing about how men and women relate to one another, an area of life with which many, perhaps most male thriller writers are variously uncomfortable.
I’ve been rereading Unknown Man No. 89, one of the four novels reprinted in the Library of America’s first collection of Leonard’s work, and ran across this passage. It seems to me to describe just about perfectly what it feels like to be with a romantic partner whom you like very much but with whom you nonetheless can’t quite imagine spending the rest of your life:
She was all right. She tried a little too hard—like someone who didn’t have an ear or a sense of timing trying to be funny—but there was a lot of girl there in Rita.
That nails it, don’t you think?