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To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell tackles relationships on a whole new level and looks at what it means to love someone for better and for worse and in sickness and in health.  While the novel is infused with Mansell’s humorous style, it is more serious than her other novels.

Ellie Kendall, the main protagonist, finds that losing the love of one’s life is not the end of the world, though it is devastating.  She finds a way to move on with her life, though she’s cut herself off from all of her friends and family to do it and feels as though she’s drowning in sympathy.  Meanwhile, Zach McLaren is a workaholic with no idea what his life is missing until Ellie literally walks through and into it.

“It was starting to concern her, just slightly, that it wasn’t quite normal to be doing what she’d been doing for the last year.  Because Jamie wasn’t here anymore.  And he wasn’t a ghost either.  All she did was conjure up a mental image of him in her mind, talk to him and have him talk back as if he were real.”  (page 18 of ARC)

In addition to the two main leads, there are some great side characters who are fleshed out really well, including the U.S. actor/father-in-law Tony Weston and the former girl band bad girl Roo.  Todd, who was one of Ellie’s good friends before her husband died, is not as well fleshed out as the others — at least initially — but readers won’t mind because he’s sort of a stand in for Ellie’s deceased husband much of the time.  Roo is a delight with all of her antics and her selfish nature, which as always gets turned on its ear when she realizes that the man she’s dating is a cheater.

Mansell’s got a wit about her unlike other authors in her genre, she’s connected to her characters in a way that makes readers feel like they are hanging out with friends, even if those friends are formerly famous. Ellie has a great deal of grief to deal with, while Zack must navigate his relationship with her very carefully and wait for her to be ready to begin again.  Readers will enjoy the realistic way in which their relationship blossoms and their tentative interactions as they become friends and more.  Todd and Tony round out the narrative, showing how events can change relationships in unexpected ways.

Readers seeking happy endings at the end of an evolutionary road will adore To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell.  When you need a pick me up, her books are there to cheer you up, provide a spot of romance, and tug at your heart strings.

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is a summer read for Austenites and those who want to have fun.  Set in modern day England, Dr. Katherine Roberts works too hard as a professor at St. Bridget’s College in Oxford and sees her role as lecturer at the Jane Austen Conference as a way for her to get away and relax.  She befriends regency romance author Lorna Warwick through letters and hopes that the conference will put a face to the name she’s begun to call friend.  Meanwhile, Robyn is stuck in a relationship with Jace (Jason Collins) and is too worried about his feelings to express her own or to end their relationship.  She decides that she’s not going to think about her life while at the Austen conference, but just enjoy herself before dealing with her fading relationship with her childhood friend.

“She thought of the secret bookshelves in her study at home and ho they groaned deliciously under the weight of Miss Warwick’s work.  How her colleagues would frown and fret at such horrors as popular fiction!  How quickly would she be marched from her Oxford office and escorted from St. Bridget’s College if they knew of her wicked passion?”  (page 2 of ARC)

Women and their passion for Jane Austen’s characters seems never-ending, but does this passion for Austen sometimes prevent these women from living their own lives?  And does it ensure that the men in their lives will never measure up to Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth?  Connelly has created a cast of characters that have flaws and find themselves in situations they never expected.  Dr. Roberts is a strong woman with a passion for sexy Regency romances, but her own love life is a disaster until she finds herself in situation much like Captain Wentworth, while Robyn is trapped by obligation in a life much like Edward Ferrars.  It is an interesting correlation between Austen’s characters and Connelly’s female leads, as it demonstrates a new perspective on how these situations would be handled.

Connelly also creates a cast of characters that are fun and outrageous from Dame Pamela to Higgins the butler.  And of course, what Austen spinoff doesn’t have its own Lady Catherine de Bourgh — in this case, it’s Mrs. Soames.  A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is a great romp in the English countryside with some gal pals and hot men that will make you giggle, squirm, and sit on the edge of your seat.  A quick summer read that will have readers wondering if an Austen-filled weekend should be their next vacation.

About the Author:

Victoria Connelly grew up in Norfolk before attending Worcester University where she studied English Literature. After graduating, she worked her way through a number of jobs before becoming a teacher in North Yorkshire.  In 2000, she got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and moved to London.  She is currently working on a trilogy about Jane Austen addicts.  The first, A Weekend with Mr Darcy, was published in the UK by Avon, HarperCollins, and will be published in the US by Sourcebooks in July 2011.   The second in the trilogy, The Perfect Hero, was published in the UK in April 2011.  She lives in London with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and four ex-battery hens.

 

This is my 34th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Staying at Daisy’s by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell continues to be one of the best writers of witty women’s fiction.  In Staying at Daisy’s, the hotel business is never dull even in a tourist trap like Colworth, England, particularly if the owner and his daughter are running the show.  Daisy is straight-laced and in charge, while her father, Hector, continues to sing and dance with the guests and be the life of the party.  Daisy’s best friend Tara, the chambermaid, continues to struggle with her love life and falls into a familiar role with a past lover, while the new porter, Barney, has fallen in love with a woman from Daisy’s past.  Mix it all together with two desirable men, Josh and Dev, and Staying at Daisy’s is bound to lighten readers’ moods and ensure at least a dozen laughs and smirks.

“‘Which just goes to show how brilliant my choice is when it comes to men.’

He half smiled.  ‘That’s not true.  You used to have excellent taste.’

‘Whereas you went for quantity rather than quality.’  Daisy couldn’t resist teasing him.  ‘Anyway, never mind all that.  How long are you down here for?’

Josh shrugged and ruffled his hair.  ‘I’m easy.’

‘We already know that.'”  (Page 167 of ARC)

Daisy has always been on the lookout for the perfect man . . . her #10 even when she was dating a great guy.  Ironically, her husband may have looked like a #10, but his personality was far from it.  Her foil in terms of dating and relationships, Tara, goes for any man that pays her the least bit of attention, even if he is a scoundrel and already married.  In a way, Daisy’s father, Hector, also acts as a foil to her responsible nature as he gets drunk and serenades the guests with his not-so-great singing voice and his bagpipes.  Daisy can learn a lot from Tara and Hector.  She needs to loosen up and let her hair down, but she plays things close to the vest.

Mansell keeps you guessing with Daisy and Hector with Daisy waffling between her two male interests and Hector not letting on which woman he prefers.  Staying at Daisy’s is a novel that will take you into the country and show you its lighter side amidst the fashionable and elite.  Readers, however, may find that certain events or moments come to pass that seem a little “too convenient” and yet random.  Overall, Mansell creates fun characters that will keep you guessing and laughing.

***Please stop by Reading Frenzy for today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop on Dylan Thomas.

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella has become a chicklit icon with her shopaholic series, but after five books what could be left to hold readers’ interest?  Rebecca Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is back in Mini Shopaholic, credit cards in hand, and white lies streaming from her lips.  However, instead of simply facing rising debt, she must learn to deal with her two-year-old daughter Minnie and her penchant for shopping and acting out.  She also bites off more than she can chew as her and her husband, Luke, try to find the perfect home and navigate an economic meltdown.

“‘My darling, we’re not quite that penurious.’  Luke kisses me on the forehead.  ‘The easiest way we could save money, if you ask me, would be if you wore some of your clothes more than once.'” (page 100)

Kinsella takes a real-life situation and makes it wildly funny, but there are times in the novel where Becky seems to have learned absolutely nothing over the course of six books.  She still shops for brands, barely uses or wears the brand items she buys, and lies to her husband about the purchases she makes.  The one main difference in this novel is that Becky is not just shopping for herself.

“Minnie definitely scores top marks for her outfit.  (Dress:  one-off Danny Kovitz; coat:  Rachel Riley; shoes:  Baby Dior.)  And I’ve got her safely strapped into her toddler reins (Bill Amberg, leather, really cool; they were in Vogue).  But instead of smiling angelically like the little girl in the photo shoot, she’s straining against them like a bull waiting to dash into the ring.  Her eyebrows are knitted with fury, her cheeks are bright pink, and she’s drawing breath to shriek again.”  (page 8 )

Readers who love the previous books will enjoy the latest in the series, but some readers may find Becky’s lack of growth disappointing.  Readers looking for the focus to be on Minnie will find that the daughter plays more of a subordinate role, though Becky continuously deals with keeping her under control.  Kinsella does provide a bit more depth to the character in that she clearly loves her daughter, refuses to believe that she needs a boot camp, and would rather run off with her daughter than send her away.  Overall, Mini Shopaholic is a fun read that pokes fun at addiction and the lengths people go to to hide those addictions.  What will happen next in this series is anyone’s guess.

About the Author:

Sophie Kinsella raced into the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide and she has since featured in five further adventures in Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister and Shopaholic & Baby. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Other Kinsella Books Reviewed:

Can You Keep a Secret?
The Undomestic Goddess
Remember Me?

Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell‘s Take a Chance on Me is another romp in England with some outrageous characters from the chauffeur Cleo Quinn to teenager Georgia Summers.  Set in Channings Hill, Cleo has been unlucky in love for a long time, but she’s had dreams of meeting Mr. Right for a long time, so long as he meets her expectations set by her sister Abbie’s marriage to Tom.  Johnny LaVenture, a former classmate and now famous sculpture, was the closest to her dream boy until he asked her out on a bet in high school and ruined her impressions of him forever.

The drama in this novel is over the top, but engaging.  Each character is quirkier than the last, but each is endearing to readers in their own special way.  Cleo is often helping her friends find their true love while sitting on the sidelines, and for too much of the book, she seems to be the supporting character.  However, readers soon discover that she is the glue that holds this madcap bunch together and keeps them rolling.

“He was looking smarter than usual in a dark suit and with his habitually wayward black hair combed back from his forehead.  For a split second, he glanced to the left and their eyes met, prompting a Pavlovian jolt of resentment in her chest.  She couldn’t help it; old habits die hard.  Then Johnny looked away, carried on past, and took his place between his ancient aunts in the front pew.”  (page 3 of ARC)

Despite her disastrous love life, Cleo manages to help her DJ friend Ash snag his dream girl, repair her sister’s marriage, and help Johnny meet the needs of his aunt.  Mansell has a gift for witty dialogue and creating characters who are memorable and that you love to hate.  Georgia is forthright to a fault, and Fia fawns too heavily over Johnny, but eventually even these characters mellow and stabilize.  Another fun, quirky winner from Mansell.  Take a Chance on Me is more than a fun chicklit novel, dealing with not only promiscuity, alcoholism, shyness, and childhood trauma, but also finding oneself, learning to stand on your own, and learning to love without fear.

***Thanks to Sourcebooks and Jill Mansell for sending me a copy for review.***

Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell‘s Rumor Has It departs somewhat from the romantic comedies she’s written previously in that it tackles tough issues of acceptance, compassion, and tragedy.  Mansell has a writing style that will make readers stand up and pay attention as well as fall of their chairs in laughter.

“Normally she could shave her legs without incident in two minutes flat, but tonight — OK, probably because she’d given herself half a dozen razor cuts and the shower had ended up looking like the one in Psycho.  Then, having stubbed her tow against the chest of drawers in the bedroom, she’d managed to drop the hairdryer on her other foot.”  (page 67 of ARC)

“‘Bloody hell,’ complained Max, just home from a meeting with a client in Bristol.  ‘You’d think I was threatening you with a night in a torture chamber having your ribs cracked without anesthetic.'”  (page 133 of ARC)

Tilly Cole leaves London for Roxborough when her live-in boyfriend abandons their apartment when she’s at work.  She becomes a “Girl Friday” for a suburban family led by an interior designer, Max Dineen.  She’s thrilled to have an out and to be near her friend Erin.

Tilly has sworn off men and is prepared to step into her role as Girl Friday until she meets Jack Lucas, a man with a severe reputation as a philanderer.  He’s to die for, but he should be ignored because all he does is break women’s hearts.  Tilly fights her passion for him on many occasions, but Mansell does not get overly melodramatic with the love triangles she creates.  In fact, she uses humor to illustrate the social ineptitude of her characters.

“But since he wasn’t stupid, he couldn’t really think that.  The chemistry between them was inescapable; there was a crackling electricity in the air that only a turnip could miss.”  (page 219 of ARC)

From down-to-earth Tilly to her loyal friend Erin and conceited Stella, Mansell creates a cast of characters who are fun to watch and be around.  At times, they make stupid decisions, but doesn’t everyone?  Rumor Has It has everything you need in a beach read, a quick read, and a moment of entertainment on a train ride.  Mansell is a fantastic comedic writer, but she also has the skill to deal with more tragic topics such as death and trying to fit in knowing that you are a social outsider.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of Rumor Has It for review.  If you pick up a copy to read, you’ll probably notice a quote from my blog on the back.

The Bum Magnet by K.L. Brady

K.L. Brady’s The Bum Magnet is local chicklit for Washington, D.C., residents and stars the bum magnet herself, Charisse.  She’s a real estate agent with a serial dating problem, always seeming to attract the wrong kind of man and hanging onto them.  Dwayne, Lamar, Sean, and Marcus are just some of the bums in this book, but are they all bums?  That’s what Charisse has to figure out, if she can get past her own hangups.

“‘Charisse, a good man is like Santa Claus, believing in him feels real good until you find out he doesn’t really exist.'”  (Page 1)

Brady’s debut novel uses a lot of colloquial language and delves into the wrong relationships of her characters through journal entries and flashbacks, but readers may not feel a connection to Charisse right off.  She’s a bristly, independent woman on the one hand, but a dependent, lonely woman on the other.  Like all of us, Charisse has her strengths and her weaknesses, but she seems to have a hard time recognizing the obvious and in many ways she goes off the deep end.

“No, to me, spying on a boyfriend was not only justified, it was a requirement.  Hey, I keep it real.  To ask me not to spy on a scheming boyfriend would be like asking a lion not to hunt, a dog not to bark, or babies not to throw up.  ‘Verification’ was an instinctive to me (and all womankind), as giving birth.”  (Page 61)

As she makes the decision to focus on herself and analyze her past relationship failures to improve her relationship capabilities, she stumbles upon the man of her “dreams,” Dwayne, shortly after breaking it off with Marcus.  Things are soon spiraling out of control for Charisse when past flames reappear and past mistakes rear their ugly heads.   

“I hoped she wasn’t crazy.  For some reason, I’d always attracted crazy people.  Not eccentric crazy, but wear aluminum foil as a fashion accessory crazy.  They always shared their life stories with me.  Did I have an inviting demeanor or a friendly face? Perhaps.  Although I had a deep-rooted fear that crazy people might just be naturally drawn to other crazy people, which would make me one of them.”  (Page 122)

The Bum Magnet has a lot of drama, and Charisse attracts it like wildfire.  Readers will either enjoy the roller coaster ride or wonder when they can get off.  Brady has an active imagination and the dialogue will have readers giggling.  Brady’s writing is entertaining and has great potential.

FTC Disclosure:  Thanks to K.L. Brady for providing me with a free copy of The Bum Magnet for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

***International Giveaway Details*** 

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what new author you’ve found in the new year.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post.

Deadline Jan. 14, 2010, 11:59PM EST

This is my 1st book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Also, this another stop on the Literary Road Trip.

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White pits Melanie Middleton, a Realtor who guards her emotions like most would protect buried treasure, against Jack Trenholm, a confident author and potential suitor, and elements of the supernatural.  Melanie must face her fears about her abilities and the truth behind the break-up of her family when her famous mother and opera singer returns to Charleston, South Carolina.

“We stood gaping at the marble-tiled floor with the faux-zebra shag area rug galloping down the middle of the hall.  The elegant egg-and-dart carved cornices had been painted black to offset the fuchsia hue of the walls.  Lime green beanbag chairs with legs offered seating to anybody with enough taste to make their knees go weak upon viewing the psychedelic colors of the hallway.  (Page 44-45)

White creates an intricate mystery that Melanie must unravel for herself without relying heavily on Jack, as she did in the previous book, The House on Tradd Street (click for my review).  White’s characters are vivid; so much so, that readers may want to smack Melanie through the pages and tell her to get a grip.  The beginning chapters spend a bit of time with Melanie as she attempts to sort out her feelings for Jack, her mother, and her abilities.  In some cases, Melanie’s whining may be a bit much for readers, but the action picks up and the knotted lives of Melanie’s ancestors will hook readers until the very last pages.

“I didn’t wait for a response, and was glad he didn’t show any resistance as I dragged him toward the back door.  . . .  I gave a brief wave and had pulled Jack through the door and closed it before my mother made it into the kitchen.

‘I think I like it when you’re rough,’ Jack said.”  (Page 143)

White introduces new characters, like Rebecca Eggerton, and resurrects some of the older characters, like Sophie and Chad, from the first book.  This provides readers with new relationship triangles to navigate, while trying to work through the paranormal mystery.  If readers have read and enjoyed The House on Tradd Street, they will enjoy this tale.

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White is an entertaining and a good second book in this paranormal-gothic romance-mystery series.  At times, readers could find the repetitive elements in Melanie’s narration distracting, as she repeats her grudge against her mother and her indecision about letting go of her self control where Jack is concerned.  It is clear that this is a second book and that there is more to come given the final lines of the book.

Stay tuned tomorrow, Dec. 1., for a guest post from Karen White about her writing.

FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on images and title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchases are necessary.  I received my free review copy of The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White from the author and Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting.

I read this book as part of the recent Thankfully Reading Weekend Challenge.  Did you participate?  Which books did you read?  I only read two.

Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell

I’m now a Jill Mansell junkie!  Perfect Timing is an ironic title for this British chicklit novel because nothing is perfectly timed in this novel, from Poppy’s last minute decision to jilt her fiance hours before their wedding to finding her biological father after years of not knowing she wasn’t living with him.

“‘The thing is,’ Poppy prevaricated, ‘my room’s only tiny.’

‘And who am I, two-ton Tess? All I’m asking for is a bit of floor space.’  Dina was wheedling now.  ‘I’ll sleep under the bed if it makes you happier.  In the bath, even.'”  (Page 106 of ARC)

Poppy Dunbar is a twenty-something mess of a girl, who thinks she has her life figured out until she meets Tom at a bar during her bachelorette party.  After giving Rob the brush off, she packs up and moves from Bristol to London to start her life over and to find her biological father.  She works two jobs, lands a room in a house with a famous painter Caspar French and a haughty socialite Claudia Slade-Welch, but seems content.

“‘Try patches.  They worked for my agent and he was a twenty-a-dayman.’

Only a lifelong non-smoker, Rita thought affectionately, could think twenty-a-day was a lot.

‘I was a fifty-a-day woman.’  She looked depressed.  ‘Anyway, why d’you suppose I’m wearing long sleeves? I’ve already got a week’s supply slapped all over me.  Underneath this dress I look like Mr. Blobby.'”  (Page 391 of ARC)

Mansell’s writing style draws readers quickly into the drama as they watch Poppy grow, mature, and find her center.  The dialogue between Poppy, Caspar, Claudia, and Poppy’s boss, Jake, will have readers laughing out loud on their transit commutes, in their bedrooms, on their sofas, or wherever they happen to read.

Poppy is a disaster, but so are Caspar, Claudia, and Jake.  It’s a wonder they ever get it together in this book.  Some of the funniest scenes are when Jake leaves Poppy along to bid at auctions and estate sales.  Readers will enjoy how easily Poppy takes leaps into the unknown and how blind she is to the love and family she has in front of her.  Mansell has another winner with Perfect Timing.

Additionally, I would like to thank Jill Mansell and Sourcebooks for sending me a free copy of Perfect Timing for review.  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary.

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini is loosely based upon Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the youngest judge appointed to the bench of San Francisco and Meryton is not a town in England, but a town outside of San Francisco, California. Elizabeth Bennet is an attorney with Gardiner & Associates, and the lead attorney is not her uncle Mr. Gardiner, but her boss. California has laws about fraternization between judges and attorneys who work on the same cases, and when sparks fly between Elizabeth and Will, it becomes a sticky situation.

“‘So, what are you doing during the first two weeks of June?’ Jane asked. Elizabeth switched the phone cradle to her other ear and spread the California Bar Journal in the desk before her.

‘Um, same thing as usual. Bill ten hours and work fourteen. Go home, eat Lean Cuisine over the sink, and go to bed convinced I’m never going to meet Mr. Right. I blame Mom. Oh, and I’ll probably have Lou give me a massage.'” (Page 63 of ARC)

Angelini has a brash style all her own in this modern take on these famous characters, but readers could find the explicit sex scenes and sometimes crass language tough to take if they are looking for the same Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam. However, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy exhibits the dynamics of modern relationships well, from the frenzied first glimpses of attraction to the obsessive first moments together and more.

Elizabeth and Darcy spar well in the courtroom before they realize their attraction, but attorneys, clients, and readers will cringe at the biting remarks they make to one another in the courtroom following a break from the realities of California.

“‘How did it go?’ he asked anxiously.

‘I’ve got competition,’ Elizabeth replied.

‘Lady Boobs-a-Lot?’ he asked, referring to Caroline.

‘Yep. She’s catty too.’

‘I know you. You can match her bitch-slap for bitch-slap.'” (Page 251 of ARC)

Readers will enjoy this retelling, though they should expect differences in the characters’ personalities from Elizabeth’s greater outspoken nature and stubbornness to Lou Hurst, Elizabeth’s gay friend and confidante. Jane is in the novel with Bingley–both work at the hospital in Meryton–but their love story is more of a sideline and is derailed less by Darcy and more by Jane’s need to defend her sister against Bingley’s sister, Caroline.

Overall, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini could have been its own stand-alone chicklit novel without the references to Pride & Prejudice, but the modern spin Angelini gives to the characters and the plot makes the novel a quick, fun read. A great way to spend a lazy afternoon.



Thanks to Sourcebooks for providing the advanced readers copy of The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy. Stay tuned for a guest post from Sara Angelini on Sept. 28, 2009 with a giveaway.

This is the second book or third item I’ve completed for the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.


Millie’s Fling by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell has surpassed herself once again in Millie’s Fling. Chicklit and women’s fiction readers will enjoy this spontaneous journey in Cornwall, England.

“Having ignored his plea, Millie promptly cannoned into the lamp-post behind her. Clutching her left shoulder and trying to pretend it hardly hurt at all–ow, ouch–she wondered why her life had to so closely resemble Mr. Bean’s. What she wouldn’t give to be sleek and chic and in control at all times.” (Page 108-9 of ARC)

Millie is a down-to-earth girl, whose life is a bit like Mr. Bean’s because she tends to fall into ridiculous situations unwittingly. Her roomie, Hester, is in a long-term relationship with an up-and-coming chef, Nat, but still has a flamethrower burning for an old love, Lucas Kemp. Millie’s Fling is the age-old search for love and happiness, but this serendipitous journey is rounded out with Orla Hart, a highly successful author with marital problems whom Millie befriends atop a cliff.

Happily single, Millie consistently tries to keep her roomie on the right relationship track since Hester’s boyfriend has taken a job in Glasgow to further his career as a chef. By chance, Millie stumbles upon a lost wallet in the bushes–a wallet that becomes the tie between her and Hugh Emerson, a young recently widowed computer specialist. Readers will giggle, tense up, and shake their heads as Hugh and Millie fumble through getting to know one another under impossible circumstances.

“‘Two more things I can’t stand,’ said Hugh. ‘Violent women. And girls who can’t take a joke.’

‘I hate men who wear nasty cheap aftershave.’

‘What really annoys me is getting phone calls from people putting on ridiculous accents, asking me the answer to crossword clues.’

‘That isn’t true!’ Millie exclaimed. ‘You asked me to give you the clues. You were bursting to show off how clever you were. And that’s something I really can’t stand in a man.'” (Page 398 of ARC)

Mansell’s dialogue between Millie and Hugh is fresh and witty; some of the best sequences involve them rattling off their favorite words or their most hated things about people, particularly at times when they are awkward with one another. Although there are some cliche moments in this novel, Mansell has well-developed characters on the edge of reality who bounce dialogue off one another in a way that makes the pages fly in Millie’s Fling.

If you missed Mansell’s guest post about writing, check it out and enter the giveaway for this fun book.


Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

“Writing wasn’t about telling the truth at all; it was about rearranging truth, stretching it, and warping it to fit some safe and less-chaotic world of the writer’s own making. And Mel has been doing that, in one way or another, all her life.” (Page 215)

Cathy Holton’s Beach Trip is Southern women’s fiction with a twist. Mel, Annie, Sara, and Lola were college roommates and reunite in this novel two decades later. Like the heavy surf churned up by an offshore hurricane, their relationships are wrought with tension, love, jealousy, and forgiveness. Each chapter shifts between the past and the present–the mid-1980s to the early 2000s.

“‘Twenty years from now,’ Annie said, looking thin and melancholy. ‘I don’t want to be sitting around regretting the past. I don’t want to be sitting around thinking about what I should have done.’

Mel gave her a heavy look. ‘Twenty years from now, none of us will remember any of this.'” (Page 5)

Each woman embarks upon their own path and makes her way in the world. Sara, Annie, and Lola each marry and have children, while Mel marries and divorces a few men and concentrates on her career as a novelist. Mel is the independent, strong-willed feminist, while Sara is a follower and tough attorney fighting for the rights of children caught in the middle of parental divorce. Lola is laid back and pushed around by her husband, friends, and mother, and Annie is obsessive compulsive and striving for perfection. Each of these characters juxtaposes the other, and these characteristics weigh heavily on their relationships in college and beyond.

“‘I’m so glad you’re here,’ Sara said, smiling at Annie. ‘We need someone to keep us in line.’

Mel swung her arm around her head like she was twirling a lasso. ‘Crack that whip,’ she said.

‘Crack it yourself,’ Annie said. ‘I’m on vacation.'” (Page 25)

Holton creates deep characters with simple flaws, placing them in situations of their own making. Readers just have to sit back and watch how they make their way out. The secrets revealed by these women as they reflect on the past are sometimes cliche, but the end of this novel will leave many readers agape. Overall, Beach Trip examines the complicated relationships of women with a flare of wit, humor, and sarcasm.

If you missed Cathy Holton’s guest post, you should check it out.

DON’T FORGET:

You have until Aug. 28 to vote for Charlee in the Dog Days of Summer Photo Contest. Help a Hot Dog out!