This is the story of what happens when a girl from the city moves to a little town and finds out what happens when people stop being pol...moreStory Overview
This is the story of what happens when a girl from the city moves to a little town and finds out what happens when people stop being polite ... and start being real. (Oh wait ... that is the description of The Real World, isn't it?) But, essentially, this book is about how living in a small town can be a little like living in fish bowl. The town in question is Roxborough (located in the UK ... but I'm not sure if it is a real town or a Mansell creation). When Tilly Cole is left by her live-in boyfriend (who she secretly wished would leave her so she didn't have to do the dirty work of breaking up with him), she impulsively moves to Roxborough to work as a Girl Friday for an interior designer named Max. As she gets involved in town life, it turns out that almost everyone is the victim of a rumor or has a secret of some kind, including:
* Erin - Tilly's best friend who owns a dress shop and recently began a secret romance with a not quite yet divorced man
* Stella - the wife of Erin's new boyfriend, who attempts to get revenge for her husband leaving her by spreading nasty rumors about Erin
* Max - Tilly's new employer who is openly gay but knows a few secrets about other folks who may be gay (whether they know it or not)
* Lou (Louisa) - Max's daughter who has a secret of her own that she is keeping from her family ... but it isn't the one that Tilly and her mother think it is
* Kaye - Max's ex-wife and Lou's mom, who moved to America and became a TV star but who recently got blacklisted in Hollywood after falling victim to a nasty rumor started by the deranged wife of a producer on her show
* Jack Lucas -Roxborough's resident hottie and tragic widower, who seems to have slept with every woman in town (if you believe the rumors ... ) and now seems to want to add Tilly to his list of conquests.
The heart of the story is the relationship between Tilly and Jack, but all the characters get attention and a chance to work through their rumors, relationships and secrets. Although the book is light-hearted and fun, Mansell is careful to add grayer tones to the story as well.
This was a fun read that is perfect for the beach or summertime reading. Mansell populates Roxborough with a collection of fun characters who all have their own issues, secrets and rumors to deal with. Yet, at the same time, Mansell isn't afraid to add in more serious story lines as well, including cancer, homophobia and a tragic early death for Jack's first love. This helps ground the book and make it more than just a fluff piece. Yet, at the same time, you don't have to worry about things not working out or the story suddenly turning into a tragedy when you just wanted to have a happy little read.
The press release I got with the book describes Mansell as the "Brit-Chick-Lit Sensation" and later describes the books as "funny, sassy woman's novel." (Are women not "chicks" I wonder?) Now I personally have no problem with books labeled "chick lit," but I think they've gotten a bit of a bad reputation. According to the Source of All Knowledge (Wikipedia), chick lit is fiction that addresses issues of modern women often humorously and lightheartedly. When you think about that way, what is the matter with that? I know I don't always want to read heavy books; you need a light, humorous book every now and then to cleanse your palate.
My Final Recommendation
Don't be turned off by the "chick lit" label! If you're looking for a funny, light read that entertains, this books fits the bill nicely. Mansell has a breezy writing style that moves the story along nicely, and I appreciated that she took the time to develop the secondary story lines as much as the romance between Jack and Tilly. Mansell is a bestselling author in the UK, and I suspect she will be here in the US as well. I mean, how can you not want to support an author whose bio reads like this:
"Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums (gum drops), admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the Internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write."(less)
Story Overview Set primarily in glitzy Miami, this book tells the stories of three different women at a crossroads in life.
* Ranya is a stunningly bea...moreStory Overview Set primarily in glitzy Miami, this book tells the stories of three different women at a crossroads in life.
* Ranya is a stunningly beautiful but sheltered daughter of wealthy Lebanese parents. She has lived a pampered existence and recently won the "marriage sweepstakes" -- until she finds out her new husband seems to prefer their interior decorator Paolo. Fleeing her sham marriage and protective family in Montreal, she travels first to London where she meets Georges Mallouk -- a handsome, kind millionaire who is quite taken with her. She eventually ends up in Miami, where she seeks out Georges' help in starting a new life.
* Zahra is Georges's intelligent, competent right-hand woman and CFO of his company. Her Palestinian roots run deep -- as do her insecurities about her appearance. She knew Ranya when they were in school years ago. Although Zahra recognizes Ranya instantly upon running into her, Ranya barely remembers her. Zahra is half in love with Georges -- and still wishing that the night they shared years ago will return and Georges will realize Zahra is the right woman for him. But waiting is getting her nowhere -- especially when Georges seems to have fallen for Ranya.
* Rio is the tough-talking, ambitious editor of Sueltate magazine -- an up and coming Latina magazine that is Rio's pride and job. Rio is proud of how she's escaped the poverty of her native Honduras -- even though her parents don't seem to appreciate her success as much as she wished. Her affair with Georges's younger playboy brother Joe is not always the best thing for her -- but Rio can't seem to just say no. After all, she can't let anything jeopardize her position at the magazine. But with the Mallouk brothers questioning whether the magazine truly benefits their company, Rio's hard work may be for naught.
Circumstances bring these three women together in Miami, but what transpires between them is not quite what you might expect. Each woman learns important lessons about themselves and their past and realize that to move forward, you sometimes need to "cut loose."
My Thoughts What I liked most about this book was seeing the three women go from being their own worst enemies to learning how to trust and believe in themselves. When we meet them, each lets herself be defined by a man, family expectations, and her own need to "fit in" to the world where she chose to live. Yet each is fundamentally unhappy. Over the course of the book, each woman learns that letting others define you leads to an unfufilling life. Only when they learn to "cut loose," do they begin to find true happiness and success.
It was interesting to have three strong female characters from different cultural backgrounds that you don't often see represented in mainstream fiction. Yet the author does a good job of making each woman "universal." They all worry about their appearance, anguish over the "wrong guy," and try to please their parents. One aspect of the book that I thought was "right on" was how each woman struggled with similar issues but their fears and insecurities keep them from opening themselves up to each other. For example, Zahra is intimidated by Ranya's beauty, and Ranya is awed by Zahra's intelligence. Therefore, they never allow themselves to become friends. Unfortunately, I think this is quite accurate in female relationships. We often feel jealous of what we think we don't have so we keep our distance from the women that could probably help and empathize with us the most.
The book has a very modern, up-to-the-minute feel. There are lots of references to celebrities, fashion and cultural touchstones that squarely place the book in the modern era. I think the author does a good job of capturing the voice of each character; each chapter switches from one woman to the other and is written in the first person. This lends a kind of intimacy to each woman's interior thoughts, and I think it works better than if the author had chosen to write the book in the third person.
My Final Thoughts This book is a fun but thoughtful book that has some important messages (clothed in the latest designer duds!) about how women can lose a part of themselves when they let men, family or career define them. The book isn't preachy nor does it follow many of the conventions of "chick lit," which I'm thinking it is the genre that it will be "lumped into." I also think the book will be of particular interest to women whose cultural backgrounds are reflected in the three women. (less)