Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2010
Genre: Fiction, “Brit Chick Lit” or “Women’s Fiction” or “A Fun Frothy Beach Read”
My rating: 3.5 stars
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 (and its May 1 release date is just around the corner … along with warmer weather). 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.
The Whys and Wheres
I received a copy of this book for review from Sourcebooks (thank you, Danielle!) and will be giving away my copy in my upcoming May giveaway extravaganza. I’d heard lovely things about this author on other blogs (including Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit) so it was cool to see blurbs from various bloggers on the back cover of the book, including a blurb from Serena about Mansell’s book Perfect Timing that read:
Will have readers laughing out loud …. I’m now a Jill Mansell junkie!”
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