Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones Mad About The Boy by Helen FieldingBook Review
Title: Bridget Jones Mad About The Boy
Author:  Helen Fielding
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Released: October 15, 2013
Pages: 386
ISBN-10: 0345807952
ISBN-13: 978-0345807953
Stars:  4.0

I’ll never forget reading Bridget Jones’s Diary. It was July 1998 and I was traveling through Ireland on my own for the first time. Helen Fielding’s iconic masterpiece was referred to me by my best friend who’d had it referred to her by a close girlfriend. I was sick with a terrible head cold and spent one day in the most miserable B&B in all of Ireland, I’m sure (Goin’ My Way in Dublin), trying to take care of myself. The room wasn’t clean, the mattresses were about three inches thick, the sheets musty, the pillow as flat as a pancake. There were cracks in the window and cobwebs everywhere. But I was too sick to care. It was cheap and I needed to just stay in bed and so I did and I read Bridget Jones’s Diary and I couldn’t put it down because I absolutely loved it!

Helen Fielding has been dubbed “the grandmother of chicklit” by Barbara Walters and I hadn’t read anything like chicklit before reading Bridget Jones’s Diary. She had created a single, thirty-something character who was bright, funny, insecure and far from perfect who had a circle of eccentric but loving friends and that’s almost exactly who I saw myself as at that time (I was 34). Bridget Jones is a woman that almost all women can relate to and in the third and long-time-coming novel about her, Bridget Jones Mad About The Boy, I can still relate to her 51-year-old self even though I’ve never married, had children, or had a partner die on me.

It’s no longer a surprise that Fielding decided to kill off the suave and debonair Mark Darcy (who loved Bridget “just the way she is”) and in fact, fans everywhere were horrified when they first heard the news. But it’s okay…really! The book only suffers a little from the fact that Darcy is not in it because his spirit certainly is and there are new characters that are almost as charming. Bridget still logs her calories and time spent tackling to-do lists in her diary. She still calls her pervert ex-boss Daniel Cleaver a friend, and while she’s more clean-living than she was in her 30s, she’s still as neurotic as she tries to figure out her way through raising two young children by herself while maneuvering through online dating in 2013. Of course it helps a lot that Darcy left her a fortune and she doesn’t really have to work to support her family. If he hadn’t this would have been a completely different book.

As the story begins, our heroine has been saved from her status as a born-again virgin by her soon to be 30-year-old toy boy Roxster whom she met on Twitter, but she doesn’t know how or whether she should invite him to her friend Talitha’s 60th birthday party, and she’s just discovered her children Mabel and Billy have head lice. Bridget is now attempting a career as a screenwriter and is adapting Ibsen’s Hedda Gabbler into a story relevant to modern women even though she thinks it was written by Chekhov and doesn’t know how to spell Gabler. She’s dealing with email inbox bombs, histrionic soccer moms, and trying to grow her followers on Twitter (while studying the Dalai Lama’s tweets). She has not got over the death of Mark, five years earlier, and she doesn’t know if she ever will. After the opening Prologue, Fielding takes us back to one year earlier and we find out how this situation came about.

There are appearances here by Daniel, Tom, Jude, Magda & Jeremy, Bridget’s mum and her friends Woney & Cosmo, but we also get to know Chloe the nanny, Perfect Nicolette, the Class Mother, gym teacher Mr. Wallaker (rather like Daniel Craig in appearance), first date Leatherjacketman, neighbour Rebecca, her eternally busy & bumbling agent Brian Katzenberg, and of course there’s a lot of flirtatious texting with Roxster in between Mummy moments. Bridget’s kids are endearing and into Minecraft and Plants versus Zombies too. However, none of the supporting characters in Mad About The Boy will ever be quite as appealing as Mark Darcy, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a fun, enjoyable read.

By Part Three of the book, Descent Into Chaos, Bridget’s life makes another U-turn and everything we supposed was going to happen, doesn’t. This is a good thing because the ending is a surprise. The tone changes and so does Bridget but there is an opening here for another volume, somewhere down the road.

The constant in Mad About The Boy is the comedy sprinkled with truly touching moments as expressed in a way that only Bridget Jones can. What really struck home for me this time was her decision to attend an obesity clinic to help her get her weight under control so she wouldn’t have to be a born-again virgin forever which is precisely what I’ve been going through for the past three months, during which time I haven’t eaten food but have been surviving on Optifast shakes, water, diet drinks and coffee with Stevia (I’ve lost 38 lbs).

The chapters on How Not To Do Dating, The Number One Key Dating Rule (DO NOT TEXT WHEN DRUNK) and Escalating Dating Incompetence are particularly hilarious. While I, too, find it easy enough to shag younger men, they’re not in it for a relationship and I can’t find anyone my own age with either integrity or baggage that’s light enough for me to carry. The thing is, Bridget Jones, even though she’s a fictional character, gives me hope! And that is the essence of her long-lasting appeal. She gives us all hope that we can figure out a way to get through the crap that life slings at us without totally losing our sense of humour and without having to give up on the notion that we’re entirely loveable just the way we are.

The Good Wife by Jane Porter

The Good Wife by Jane PorterBook Review
Title: The Good Wife (A Brennan Sisters Novel)
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: September 3, 2013
Pages: 432
ISBN-10: 0425253678
ISBN-13: 978-0425253670
Stars:  4.5

The Good Wife which asks the question, “Is it possible to love someone too much?” is the third book (and hopefully not final!) in the Brennan Sisters series by award-winning, national bestselling author Jane Porter who has more than five million copies of her books in print.  It’s also the one that caused me to shed the most tears.  Read it with a box of Kleenex at your side! I absolutely adore this series and Library Journal calls it, “An investment worth making for fans of smart women’s fiction.”  I couldn’t agree more.

This is the youngest Brennan sister’s story, that of beautiful Sarah Walker, wife of Tampa Bay Ray’s designated hitter and all-around “Spartacus” force of nature, N’awlins native Boone Walker, and mother of rambunctious eight-year-old son Brennan and his little sister Ella.  As the story opens, Sarah and the rest of her family are mourning the loss of their beloved mother to cancer and are attending her funeral.  Emotions are high, nerves frazzled, tempers at the boiling point. Sarah doesn’t approve of her sister Kit’s biker boyfriend Jude, her brother Tommy and his wife Cass are fighting over his unwillingness to try again to have a baby, there’s tension between Meg and Jack, and their sister Brianna is obviously ill but isn’t talking. All is not well in their big Irish Catholic family and we know for sure that nothing will be the same again.

Sarah, who gave up going to law school to marry her professional baseball player husband, is seriously struggling with trying to forgive him for cheating on her three years earlier. She wants to trust him but finds that she can’t and despite Sarah’s best efforts she’s spending her days obsessing over Boone and what he’s up to when he’s not home with her, which is most of the time as he’s on the road with the team.  Her family notices that she’s drinking too much wine and she’s lonely and exhausted at having to move her children and home yet again when Boone is traded to the Oakland A’s.

In the meantime we’re introduced to stunning bakery & café owner Lauren Summers who is trying to get on with her life after losing her seventeen-year-old sun Blake ten months earlier in a car accident. She’s left the business she owned with her sister Lisa in Napa to work for a struggling café owner in Alameda because she needed to get away and grieve in private.  Lauren is a friend of Sarah’s oldest sister Meg who we hear a lot more about in this book and who endures another tragedy after spending the last year trying to save her marriage after having an affair on her husband Jack.

Boone meets Lauren in Mama’s Café in Alameda and they soon become friends as he loves the food there, not to mention her company.  Lauren is someone he can talk to when Sarah, who is pushing him away, can’t be reasoned with.  At first Lauren develops a crush on him but when she finds out that he’s married with children and that he loves his wife, she tells herself that she can’t think about him in that way. Boone introduces her to his teammate, Chris Stier (who I happen to know was inspired by actor Chris Hemsworth…talk about heavy sigh!), who Lauren is determined not to give the time of day to.  But he’s not just a dark blonde, pony-tailed, hulking, overly confident, handsome athlete, he’s also smart, thoughtful and looking for a real relationship.

I love that Jane Porter’s male love interests are tall, muscular, handsome men who could charm the habit off a nun.  I’m attracted to both Boone and Chris, but for me, they’re not quite Jude Knight, who has been the one I would desire the most of all the men in Jane’s books and for that reason and the fact I relate the most to sister Kit, The Good Daughter is still my favourite of the Brennan Sisters novels.

There is a lot going on in this book, which is the longest in the series, and I love that we get to reconnect with Sarah’s sisters, Meg, Kit and Brianna.  These characters are by now old friends and we care about them and want to see them happy.  And even though Lauren is a new character, I found myself caring more about her than Sarah.  Is Lauren going to allow Chris into her heart?  Can she forget about Boone?  Will Sarah believe that Boone’s relationship with Lauren is truly platonic?  These questions and many more are waiting to be answered and once you start reading The Good Wife, you won’t want to put it down until you find out how it all turns out.

The Good Wife is full of gut-wrenching emotion, expressed honestly as always through the very authentic characters that Jane Porter has created. Its theme of the impact of infidelity on not only the couple involved but also their extended family is perfectly realized.  It also possesses a lot of love, humour, hope and redemption and is a story that I’m sure every woman can relate to in some way.

There has been some interest in these books being made into a television series and I can only implore the powers that be to please make it happen!  I’m someone who had never read romance or chick lit novels (except for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Daisy Dooley Does Divorce) before I discovered Jane Porter’s contemporary women’s fiction novels, but I credit her with influencing me to read more of them in the future.

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer
Book Review

Title: Weighting For Mr. Right
Author:  Patricia W. Fischer
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Released: November 13, 2012
Pages: 430
ASIN: B00A78F83E
Stars:  3.5

There are times when you read a book and it is so relatable to your own life that you can’t put it down. While you read this book all of your own major issues are pushed to the surface and you’re forced to confront them as you read the fictional version of what could be your life.  That’s how I felt as I read Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer.  The author, who happens to be a Facebook friend, offered this book in Kindle version for free on Amazon over the past weekend and for some reason, I decided to take advantage of it, downloaded it to my new Kindle for PC program and then transferred it to my iPhone.  I spent the next four days glued to my iPhone reading a book on it for the first time ever. 

Weighting For Mr. Right is the story of an intelligent, pretty, overweight nurse named Megan Sayla who on the day of her wedding to one of the richest bachelors in Dallas, hears herself saying no at the alter to the question, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”  Megan has an epiphany and realizes that she just can’t settle for Travis Carter (or his horribly snobby, shrew of an overbearing mother), even though he’s a nice guy, because he’s just not Mr. Right.  She runs out of the church and we catch up with her in a men’s bathroom at a local car wash where she falls apart as a handsome, young, brown haired, green eyed man named Jacob Dante listens. Jacob talks to her through the stall wall, really listens to her, and gives her the strength to move forward.  Their conversation is so compelling for both of them that they just have to meet each other and when they do, despite the fact that Megan is stuffed into a wedding dress, with hair teased two feet above her head and heavy make-up running down her face, Jacob is immediately attracted to her.  She does speak seven languages after all, one of them being Italian, which really turns Jacob on!  Of course he doesn’t reveal his true feelings for her because he believes that it’s too soon after she’s left her fiancé and it is.

As Megan has minimized her life so much to fit into Travis’ she has nowhere to live and ends up moving in with her overachieving cousin, Sam, who does not get along with Megan’s best friend, a decidedly gluttonous and underachieving Lydia who loves Megan because she has always accepted her for who she is.  Sam wants what she believes is best for her cousin and encourages Megan to join a gym that Jacob just happens to run (and co-own) and Megan finds herself with a new, enthusiastic cheerleading squad in her personal trainer, Carmen and her brother Jacob (although Megan doesn’t know Carmen is Jacob’s sister).  Megan starts a new nursing job at the children’s hospital where Sam works as well as a part-time tutoring gig and the rest of the time she spends at the gym trying to figure out how to deal with Jacob’s psycho ex-girlfriend, Angela.  In the meantime, Sam keeps secrets from Megan and her life changes drastically by the end of the story.

As Megan pushes forward with her goals to change her body and her life, finding confidence to stand up for herself in every situation for the first time, not everyone around her is happy with her transformation.  As her lifestyle change becomes more and more successful, her best friend becomes more and more alienated from her as she’s threatened by the new Megan.  Lydia is in fact, a prime example of a selfish, self-absorbed, unhappy woman who behaves as if she’s a teenager even though she’s in her mid-thirties.  Megan questions the path she’s on and we’re left wondering if she’ll believe in herself enough to finish what she’s started and stick to her new way of life.

What are the chances that most overweight girls would find a Jacob Dante to not only help them with their weight loss battle but actually be interested in them as a girlfriend too? I suspect not that many, but this is a chick lit/romance novel, and we read them to escape reality, right?  The dialogue in the book is sharp, witty and realistic, although sometimes ridiculous and the language when it comes to sex wouldn’t make it through the editing process by a professional publishing company.  However, it’s also quite funny and the characters, although some of them are almost caricatures, are entirely relevant.

The problem with this book for me, aside from the many typos in it, the constant switching back and forth between narrators, and that all the women can do when they’re nervous is “tuck a lock of hair behind her ear”, is the fact that only in a chick lit novel would a woman like Megan (or a woman like me), find a man like Jacob Dante.  A man who is totally hot, physically ripped, smart, sensitive and successful in business, whose three sisters have taught him quite a bit about women…and who likes a woman for her brains and personality, in spite of her less than perfect looks…I mean, where in the real world does a man like that exist?

I love that Fischer wrote about a beautiful, intelligent woman who battles her weight as well as her self worth while realizing that she shouldn’t settle for a relationship with anyone who isn’t Mr. Right (story of my life).  When Megan stands up to Sam and tells her that she could never really understand how much pain she was in after completing a 22 mile bike ride as well as resistance training because Sam has always been in shape and she doesn’t have a clue what Megan is really going through was very poignant and real. Sam had no idea that what she was doing to Megan was really hurting her.

As one of the broken ones, I could also relate to Carmen, Jacob’s younger sister whose fiancé left her just before their wedding for another, thinner woman, and whose rebound guy had ruined her financially.

I also thought that the relationship struggle between Megan and Lydia was quite realistic.  What it’s really about, for Megan, is learning to love herself enough to make the effort every single day to do the right thing when it comes to food and to when it comes to standing up for what she believes in.  Megan’s struggle to stick to her lifestyle change and to accept how it will affect her relationships for better or for worse is one that every overweight woman who has tried to do the same will empathize with.

Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book wasn’t as good as the rest of it and I caught myself rolling my eyes at the love scene between Megan and Jacob while being disappointed that less care was taken with the writing which felt hasty and over simplified.  The Epilogue which is written from Megan’s perspective was not entirely satisfying either, as Sam’s situation is not resolved and Angela is written off in a pithy manner.  These are things that prevented me from giving Weighting For Mr. Right a four star review, but I would definitely be willing to read more of Patricia W. Fischer’s work as she has a promising future as a romance novelist.

Single In The City by Michele Gorman

Single in the City by Michele Gorman

BOOK PREVIEW

Hey ladies,

Lookin’ for a fun in the sun summer read? Look no further!

Take one twenty six year old American, add to a two thousand year old city, add a big dose of culture clash and stir

To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That’s been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England’s gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the life she’s dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.

REVIEWS

“If you like your novels fun and sassy with a twist of the unexpected, you’ll devour Single in the City. 4 stars.” The Sun 

“I expected the book to be funny based on Michele’s awesome tweets, but I was in no way prepared for the hilarity that ensued – the book literally had me in stitches!” Bookalicious Ramblings

“Single in the City is an easy read that keeps you enthralled…” Female First 

“This is hilarious book, full of romance and laugh-out-loud situations that no woman would want to be in.” Chick Lit Club 

“Gorman has written a great story about making friends and fitting in, and it should be an inspiration to anyone with a hankering to dramatically change their life and/or move here to sunny England. The characters were realistic, the setting familiar and the plot fascinating. Whether you like adult chick lit or YA, Single in the City is definitely a book worth devoting some of your time to.” Wondrous Reads

“If you love chick-lit then you need to read this book. Actually, scratch that… if you enjoy a well written book with a fun and uplifting plot that takes place in England, then you will love Single in the City.” Paperback Dolls

“Single in the City is like Sex and the City told through the eyes of an American Bridget Jones and it was so funny that I laughed out loud throughout this delightful chick lit novel.” Novel Escapes 

“The main character Hannah is the perfect heroine for the book, and I loved seeing London through her eyes. It was a really fun journey and I really did care about her by the end. Recommended!” Chick Lit Reviews

* * * * * 

Single in the City
352 pages
Women’s fiction/Chick Lit
ISBN 9780141048260 (paperback) price £6.99
(ebook) price $3.99/£3.99/€4.49

Michele Gorman is the best-selling author of the Single in the City series and Bella Summer Takes a Chance. She also writes upmarket commercial fiction under the pen name Jamie Scott. Born and raised in the US, Michele has lived in London for 15 years.

Michele Gorman is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency (www.hardmanswainson.com). For further information please visit her website: www.michelegorman.co.uk.