I should have known the mayo had gone south. I mean, my tuna fish sandwich last night didn't taste entirely right. The Boyfriend said, "Well did you smell the mayo?" I said, "Yeah, it smelled like mayo." How was I supposed to know it was starting to get funky? So I'm not at work, having spent my morning in the bathroom.
Ah well, this too shall pass. At least I had a very good book to keep me company. And stand back....it was a Chick Lit novel. I know! I can't believe I loved it either!
(Now before you start sending hateful comments, I have nothing against Chick Lit. It's just it very, very rarely works for me unless it's blended with another genre - mainly mystery. So to find a highly enjoyable straight Chick Lit novel, let alone one that's a keeper, is sort of like Wendy's Version Of The Holy Grail)
Anyway, it's Ex And The Single Girl by Lani Diane Rich - who won the RITA this summer for Best First Novel and who I had never heard of. Not surprising since she writes romantic comedy and Chick Lit - two sub genres that I have a bumpy past with. Anyway, Ex is super fantastic, and I know it's $12.95 and under 300 pages - but dagnabit, it's worth a library run.
Portia Fallon has been dumped, on Valentine's Day no less. Peter didn't even have the decency to break up to her face. No he scribbled a hasty goodbye on the title page of his well-reviewed but poor selling literary novel. So for the last several months Portia has been moping, not working on her dissertation, drinking a lot of chardonnay, eating Cheetos and watching Pride & Prejudice over and over and over.....
Then her mother calls. Mags says she's hurt her back. Please come home and help us run the family bookstore. The "us" being Mags, Vera (aunt) and Bev (grandma). Portia doesn't want to go home. Then she looks in a mirror and realizes she's about one step away from becoming a Crazy Cat Lady. So she sublets her Syracuse apartment and makes the drive to Truly, Georgia.
Slight problem on her arrival though. Mags isn't hurt. The back is fine. No, the Miz Fallons have merely conspired to get Portia home so she can get laid. They even have the perfect candidate for a Flyer (Miz Fallons term for "Rebound Man"). He's sexy British spy novelist, Ian Beckett - who just happens to be in town working on his latest novel.
I really enjoyed this book on several levels. The writing is crisp and breezy, the dialogue sparkling and the characters endearingly eccentric. However, it is ultimately the emotional exploration and romance that sells me on this story. Rich writes funny very well, and it would have been very easy for her to stick with funny and not have Portia really examine her life. To figure out the mess she's in, Portia must confront the family curse (Penis Teflon - the fact that no man "sticks" to a Miz Fallon) and really look not only within herself but at the women who raised her.
The romance is sweet because Ian is slightly befuddled by the Miz Fallons, but never lets on. You can just tell they charm the dickens out of him even if they are a bit "barmy" (crazy). He and Portia are soon enjoying a lovely friendship and repartee when the Peter situation rears up. What's nice here is that Rich doesn't populate her story with any villains. No, even the guy you think is "bad" is allowed to be a "real" person. This makes Portia's decision and choices all the more complex.
As readers of this blog have undoubtedly noted, I've been a bit whiny about the books I've read lately. They've been "OK" but not "good" let alone "great." The problem was I wasn't reading anything that had a real emotional undercurrent. Nothing where the characters really had to think and work to achieve a happily-ever-after. Portia had to work, and because she did, even if she didn't get a traditional happily-ever-after I knew she would be just fine. In fact, I'd take that to the bank.
A really excellent novel. Highly recommended indeed and only my third "keeper" of the year. What can I say? I'm stingy