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.

The Good Daughter (A Brennan Sisters Novel) by Jane Porter

The Good DaughterBook Review
Title: The Good Daughter (A Brennan Sisters Novel)
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: February 5, 2013
Pages: 384
ISBN-10: 0425253422
ISBN-13: 978-0425253427
Stars:  5.0

The Good Daughter is the second book in the Brennan Sisters series by award-winning, national bestselling author Jane Porter.  I was very fortunate to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) from Jane but the public won’t get to read it until its release date: February 5, 2013.  My review contains spoilers, so read it at your own discretion.

This is the story of Catholic school English teacher, people pleaser, and all around grounded good girl, Katherine Elizabeth “Kit” Brennan whom we first meet in The Good Woman.  Kit is about to turn 40, she’s single, hates dating, and all she knows for sure is that she wants to be a mother.  However, her family is dealing with some heavy burdens and for now, they have to come first.

Although I don’t care for the book cover as much as I did for The Good Womanit’s a little bit too girly and I would have rather seen a cover style similar to that of The Good Woman, with a beautiful, curly red-haired, blue-eyed model looking up at the camera from under her lashes, sporting a sweet but mischievous smile on her face – the story is superlative.

The Good Daughter opens with Kit and most of her family celebrating her sister-in-law Cass’ 36th birthday.  Cass, a labor and delivery nurse, who after six years of trying to have a baby, and who was pregnant at the end of The Good Woman, miscarried, and is now devastated.  Her firefighter husband Tommy Brennan has made up his mind that he’s finished with trying to have a family.  He won’t consider adoption or surrogacy and he doesn’t want to go through another miscarriage with his wife.  He’s done.  Kit’s heart is breaking, not only for Cass and Tommy’s predicament, but also for her father Tommy Sr. and mother Marilyn, who is in the final stages of fighting terminal breast cancer.

I know it sounds depressing, but it’s actually far from it.  These are issues that most of us or someone we know has had to deal with and Porter writes about them with perception, grace and compassion.  Kit had left her boyfriend of ten years in The Good Woman and in this book we find her living happily alone in her newly purchased 1895 Queen Anne style home in Oakland’s Highland Park where she loves to curl up and read when she’s not busy grading papers, visiting with family, or going out with her best friends, Polly Powers and Fiona Hughes, fellow teachers at Memorial High.

Although she’s really not into it, Kit’s friends encourage her to date.  However, the smart, beautiful, red-haired Kit reveals that although she loves to have fun, she hates the torture of online dating, has had some pretty horrific experiences (which I totally identified with), and now feels that she would rather just adopt a baby and be a single parent.

Kit, Polly and Fiona head to the Brennan family’s beach house in Capitola, California for a much needed girls weekend in January.  While they’re at a local bar having drinks, they run into an old beau of Polly’s and his handsome, cocky, aggressive friend, Michael Dempsey.  Dempsey quickly asks Kit out for dinner and against her better judgment, she goes out with him once, only to find out that he’s not yet divorced.  That’s a real deal breaker for her so she tells him that she won’t see him again, but he doesn’t want to take no for an answer.

As it turns out Dempsey is the devil in disguise but his character opens the door for Porter to introduce his step-daughter Delilah Hartnel (who we first met in She’s Gone Country) who becomes one of Kit’s students and we soon discover is living in an unfathomable hell with her wickedly cruel stepfather who beats her mother regularly.  Delilah is a fifteen year old emo girl who has had to move from place to place, enrolling in school after school, where she never fits in, because of her family’s deep dark secret.  We care about her and so do the heroine and hero of this novel.

Dempsey’s next door neighbour is the smoulderingly beautiful, tall, long black haired, dark eyed, tattooed, leather & denim wearing biker, Jude Knight, who Kit had a brief chance meeting with the weekend of her girlfriends’ getaway in Capitola.  Upon first seeing Jude, she’s immediately attracted to him but judging a book by its cover, she just as quickly dismisses him as being a bad boy and entirely unsuitable boyfriend material.  He wouldn’t fit into her tight knit, Irish Catholic family, so she writes him off in her mind right then and there.  I knew Jude would appear again so when he showed up later as Dempsey’s neighbour I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next because frankly, he’s the type of man I can’t take my eyes off.

It took me to almost half way through The Good Daughter to realize that I liked it more than The Good Woman and I did because of the characters and subplot.  The theme of child and spousal abuse is not only heartrending, but is one that needs to be shared and yet isn’t often, if ever explored within the parameters of chick lit.  This is what makes Porter better than any other chick or Mom lit author that I’ve ever read.  She doesn’t make light of serious situations and she wants to include a substantial, thought-provoking subplot in each of her novels.  I loved how Porter wove Delilah and Shey from She’s Gone Country into the story and I fell for Jude Knight more than any other love interest she has ever written because he’s quite simply my kind of guy!

Jude is not at all what he appears to be and his looks, personality traits and hidden life makes him a fascinating hero.  The love scenes that Porter has written for Jude and Kit are far more stimulating to me than what I’m currently reading between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey.  I’m half way through the book and the sex scenes have left me cold, while Jane Porter’s scenes with Jude & Kit had me reaching for my vibrator.  Although I realize that there’s a place for soft core pornography in women’s fiction (and women obviously want it or Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t be the bestselling book of all time in the UK – or are British girls just hornier than the rest of us?), I personally want to experience an emotional investment in the protagonists of a novel and with Jane Porter’s stories, I always do.

I saw a lot of myself in Kit although there are considerable differences as well, but I could relate to how she feels about men after we discover that she was sexually abused as a small child by a neighbour, as was her wild child sister Brianna (an infectious diseases nurse in the Congo), who we learn more about in this story, and who I really hope that Jane will write a book for.

I didn’t want The Good Daughter to end.  I didn’t want to say goodbye to Kit and Jude.  This is the best contemporary women’s fiction novel that Jane Porter has written yet, and after writing 41 novels, she certainly has the right to write the stories that she wants to tell.  Because Jane Porter knows what matters to women and she’s damn good at telling their tales!

The Good Woman (A Brennan Sisters Novel) by Jane Porter

The Good WomanBook Review
Title: The Good Woman (A Brennan Sisters Novel)
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: September 4, 2012
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0425253007
ISBN-13: 978-0425253007
Stars:  4.5

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jane Porter’s contemporary women’s fiction.  I’ve read almost every book in that line (she also writes for Harlequin) that she’s written.  So I was really excited to hear that she’d written a new series about the Brennan Sisters that’s been published by her new publisher, Berkley Trade.  The Good Woman is the first novel in that trilogy.

The first thing that struck me about The Good Woman is its exquisite cover – the model who was chosen to represent leading character Meg Roberts is exceptionally lovely and beautifully photographed – as well as its tag line, “sisters always know…”  I have two sisters who are among my best friends in the world so that phrase really rings true for me.

The Good Woman is the story of Mary Margaret Brennan Roberts, a.k.a. Meg, who on the outside would appear to have it all.  She’s married to a successful architect (Jack), has three children (Tessa, JJ and Gabi), a gorgeous home, drives a Lexus SUV, and has a great job as a publicist working at a Napa Valley winery called Dark Horse for a very kind, warm and ruggedly handsome boss, vintner Chad Hallahan.  We just know something’s going to happen between Meg and Chad, but it’s the way Porter reveals how her heroine feels, why she ends up doing what she does, and how she deals with the consequences that is remarkable.  Porter writes with such a truthful and authentic voice about the issues that women deal with, that her stories are always completely relatable.

Meg is the oldest child of a large Irish-American family.  She’s smart, ambitious and a perfectionist with control issues, but she’s also a faithful wife and loving mother who constantly makes the right decisions.  Her father Tommy is a sixth generation San Francisco firefighter and her mother Marilyn is battling breast cancer.  Meg’s brother Tommy is also a firefighter and he and his wife Cass are struggling with long-term fertility issues.  Meg is closest to her sister Kit, a Catholic school English teacher, who has been with her boyfriend Richard for 10 years and has never received a proposal.  Her youngest sister Sarah is married to professional baseball player, Boone (who has had an affair on her but she’s stayed with him), while Kit’s fraternal twin Brianna is the family wild child who has never married and is an activist who works in the Congo in Africa.

The sisters meet up with their mother for their annual Brennan Sisters’ Getaway at the family beach house in Capitola and it’s not long before Brianna and Meg are at each other’s throats.  They don’t get along and constantly rub each other the wrong way.  Meg’s relationship with her sisters is both rewarding and realistic and sometimes the family’s gossiping astounds her.  However, her family dynamics are an important part of her life and we see how they perceive Meg and how her decisions impact them too.

Years of being “the good woman” has left Meg feeling burned out, empty and lonely as she finds herself disconnected from a distant Jack.  A perimenopausal woman in her forties, Meg wants sex all the time, her husband barely wants it at all, and when they do have sex, it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and Jack doesn’t seem to care that Meg never has an orgasm.  There’s no touching, no lingering, and no intimacy and Meg is not happy or satisfied.  However, rather than try to talk to her husband about it, she thinks that she has to just suck it up and deal with it, and that her role in life is simply to look after everyone else.  But we women know that you can only live like that for so long before something has to change.  And when it does for Meg, the shit really hits the fan.

Meg decides to attend the London Wine Trade Fair with her boss, Chad, who over late night business dinners and multiple glasses of wine, ends up revealing his deep-rooted desire for her.  At first she’s determined not to give in to her feelings for him, but ultimately she just can’t, and “the good woman” Meg becomes the wanton adulteress who risks losing her entire family because of her reckless and irreversible decision.

I love that Jane has brought up the issue of oral sex in Meg’s story and the fact that some men don’t seem to like to reciprocate although they certainly enjoy receiving it.  Every woman I know, including me, wouldn’t want to be with a man who wasn’t into oral sex, that’s for sure!

Infidelity is also an issue that has touched most of us at some time in our lives and as a woman in her late forties, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about men screwing around on the women that I know, and I’ve been cheated on as well, so it’s an issue that’s very close to the surface of my emotions.  In The Good Woman, Jane Porter writes about what drives a woman who would never be suspected of it to cheat on her husband, and rather than be angry with her, I found that I couldn’t blame Meg for her actions at all.  I cried while reading her story, but what I was amazed by was how she chose to accept the consequences of her actions and decided to fight to keep her family together after realizing that she really was meant to be a good woman after all.  That decision is something that I think that only married women with children can truly understand.

The Good Woman is a captivating page turner and one that I finished reading very quickly because I didn’t want to do anything else but read it.  Fortunately for Porter’s readers, the next book in the trilogy, The Good Daughter (available February 5, 2013), will focus on Meg’s sister Kit.  I’m fortunate to have received an ARC copy of it, so I’ll be reading it right away.  I think that the third book will be The Good Wife, but the sister’s story that I want to read the most is Brianna’s…because I’m more of a wild child than a good woman.

Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter

Book Review
Title: Mrs. Perfect
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: 5 Spot
Released: May 5, 2008
Pages: 432
ISBN 10 – 0446699241

4.5 STARS

I didn’t think I was going to love Mrs. Perfect by Seattle author Jane Porter as much as I loved her preceding work, Odd Mom Out, but as it turns out, not only did I love it as much, I love it more! When I started reading the book, I had a preconceived notion of who the main character, Taylor Young, was. She was introduced in Mom Odd Out and appeared to be Marta Zinsser’s complete opposite, not to mention nemesis.

Taylor Young is a beautiful trophy wife with control issues who lives in a fairy-tale world with her handsome, high-earning, ex-quarterback husband, Nathan – in the dream home she decorated – with their three exquisite little girls, Jemma, Brooke and Tori in Bellevue, Washington. To anyone who looks at her from the outside, Taylor is Mrs. Perfect. However, as we read this book, we watch in amazement at how Jane Porter peels back the layers of Taylor’s character to reveal a woman that I didn’t loathe, but rather fell in love with, just like I did with Marta Zinsser in Odd Mom Out.

Taylor’s perfect life has begun to unravel when her husband takes a job in Omaha after finally admitting to her that for the past year he hasn’t been working, and because they’ve been spending way beyond their means for a very long time, they are now millions of dollars in debt and are going to lose their dream home. Taylor Young not only rises to the challenge of a very difficult situation, but she shows everyone around her what she’s truly made of. Even though she’s falling apart inside, she manages to make the most delicious lemonade out of the hairy lemons in her life. She matures on a visceral, cerebral, and spiritual level before our eyes and we love her for sharing her difficult journey with us.

“You’re bad. I silently repeat the last one as I load the dishwasher, knowing these voices are part of that horrible, hollow feeling inside of me. But I’m not hollow, and I’m not horrible. For all my mistakes, I do love my girls, and I try my best to take care of them. For all my flaws and my vanity and pride, I do love Nathan, and I love him with all my heart. The truth is, I do try. I always try.

Maybe Marta’s right about something else. Maybe trying your best, and doing your best, even if it’s not perfect, is enough.

Maybe it’s unrealistic to think I can be perfect.

Or to put it in Marta-speak, that’s why we have religion. God’s perfect. We’re human.”

Jane Porter knows how to write a meaningful, emotional story for women. She knows how to find the chord that connects us all and how to tug on it to get our attention. She reminds us that many other people in this world are in the same boat as we are and she makes us feel as if we have a cheerleading team behind us, letting us know that we’re going to be better than fine…that things are going to turn out great!

Her contemporary style is flawless and she speaks my language, fluently. She moved me to tears again with this book and in the three books of hers that I’ve read, she’s managed to climb very close to the top of my favourite authors list. Don’t let the candy-coloured book covers fool you. These books are much more substantial than a box of chocolates or a slice of cake. I can’t wait to go and buy her latest 5 Spot release, Easy on The Eyes. It’s at my local bookstore and I know exactly the shelf it’s on.

If you’re looking for a wonderful read with marvelous characterization and relevant contemporary themes, look no further than the divine Ms. Jane Porter.

Your Roots Are Showing by Elise Chidley


3 STARS

Elise Chidley’s debut novel, Your Roots Are Showing, is a fine example of the contemporary, intelligent chick/mom lit novel that I’m coming to expect from 5 Spot Publishing, who are fast becoming one of my favourite publishers. Connecticut based Elise, who is married with three children, has written a very accessible and sometimes touching, romantic story. Your Roots Are Showing is about the break-up of Lizzie Buckley’s ostensibly seamless marriage with her handsome, wealthy, architect husband, James, in Gloucestershire, England, and the subsequent journey she embarks upon to win him back.

My favourite character in this book was neither Lizzie nor James, and certainly not her annoying, brittle and exercise-obsessed best friend Tessa (whom I immediately envisioned as the Embeth Davidtz character, Amy, in the HBO series, In Treatment); it was Lizzie’s neighbour, and potential new love interest, Bruno Ardis, who seemed to have the most going on beneath the surface, and late in the novel we find out that is definitely the truth. For the record, I wouldn’t blame the guy one bit for making the choice he makes in the end.

Lizzie, still in love with her husband, but angry, frustrated and frightened to find herself moving her three-year-old twins, Ellie and Alex, out of her husband’s picturesque cottage (on the property of his rich, snobby parents’ estate) into a rental cottage in Kent that needs more than a little love to make it inhabitable, is a character that I really wanted to like. And I did, at first. However, as the story progressed, I found myself wanting to smack her and/or take her by the shoulders and shake her silly because she constantly jumped to conclusions about what her soon-to-be-ex-husband was up to and she was downright disagreeable to the affable Bruno.

Elise touches upon the subject of post partum depression in Your Roots Are Showing, but never really delves into it with any substance, which is for me, the most disappointing aspect of this novel. I think that if she had focused on that issue, which is the excuse for why Lizzie lets herself go physically and ends up inadvertently sending a scathing email about how uninterested she is in her husband – meant for her sister – to James, spurring him to walk out on their marriage, I would have had a lot more empathy for Lizzie and would have liked her more. As it was, Lizzie, who couldn’t find a reason to love herself or understand why her husband had chosen her as a partner in the first place, was constantly making statements about herself and others that left me cringing.

Lizzie finds herself binge-eating because of her depression and gaining weight (she was a ghastly size 12 at her heaviest, heaven forbid!), choosing to hide under sweat pants and old t-shirts with unwashed hair and portraying herself as a victim of an unreasonable husband who walked out on her. Through Tessa’s constant badgering to start running, Lizzie finally acquiesces and in no time finds herself addicted to the sport, her endorphins and the thrill she gets from seeing her body change. I can understand this reaction completely, but as a single, overweight, unnatural redhead, I found statements like the following rather insulting:

“She had red hair. Real red hair, not the dyed variety. In most people, this was a misfortune. If somebody had come up to Lizzie and said, “James is going out with a redhead,” Lizzie would’ve been relieved. Even a little incredulous. Chuh, she’d have thought, couldn’t he do any better than that?”

Or, at her friend Maria’s wedding:

“But she wasn’t prepared to stand in the lineup of single women waiting to catch the bride’s bouquet. She wasn’t that much of a sport. Several voices, made loud and tactless by too much wine, urged her to join the spinsters…”

I find the word “spinster” to be a harsh and outdated way of describing single women, don’t you?

Lizzie assumes that if she changes herself physically, she will finally be worthy of love. I get that she is trying to find herself as a woman (and a writer of children’s verse) and not just as a wife and mother, but it’s the way in which she gets there that bothers me because I’m not sure Chidley is sending a positive message to other women through her character.

Even though I feel this way, I did enjoy the story and the supporting characters, Ingrid the nosey neighbour, Sarah the babysitter, and James’ empathetic father, and it is certainly true that “sometimes the fairytale ending is just the beginning of the real story.” I can picture Your Roots Are Showing (a.k.a. The Wrong Sort of Wife in the UK) as a movie and wouldn’t have any trouble recommending it to other women who enjoy reading chick/mom lit. Elise Chidley is a respectable writer with potential for a bestseller and I genuinely look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

For a preview of Elise’s current project, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, a compilation to which she contributes, check out this video trailer on YouTube:

Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter

Book Review 
Title: Odd Mom Out
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: 5 Spot
Released: September 27, 2007
Pages: 432
ISBN 10 – 0446699233

4 STARS

As a single, independent woman who has trust issues with men, Seattle author Jane Porter’s Odd Mom Out struck a thundering chord with me and helped me to remember that I really do want to be loved and in order to be loved, I must open myself up to receive it. For that Jane, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Something has definitely been triggered here. I just finished reading the book and am still in tears. Any novel that has the power to move me to tears is a memorable one and Odd Mom Out is just that. It is an honest, moving, accessible and beautifully well-written story about being true to yourself, and it’s not just for Moms, it’s for every woman.

From the very first two pages of this book, I fell totally and completely in love with the main character, Marta Zinsser (even though I am not a Mom). I loved that Marta drives a Harley and loves motorcycles and can relate to her love of the freedom of the open road and seeing everything you pass more clearly. I loved that Marta decided from an early age that it was okay to be different and that the most important thing was that she was true to herself. It is also true that where men were concerned, she got lost along the way, but without giving up the plot I’ll just say that when one gets lost they shall almost always ultimately be found. It’s part of the Yin and Yang of life.

As Marta struggles to be the best mom she can be to her nine year old daughter Eva, while juggling a career, a mother slowly slipping away from Alzheimer’s, trying to fit in amongst the snobby affluent women of Seattle and Bellevue, and accepting and trusting a new love interest (Luke Flynn) who she is terrified of losing herself to, I empathized with her more and more after every page. I want to be friends with this woman and she’s only a fictional character! I didn’t want the book to end. I haven’t read a lot of Chick or Mom Lit yet, but I loved it that much! If you are a fan of the genre, this is a MUST READ!

My favourite quote from Odd Mom Out is:

“…One hundred years ago, Virginia Woolf wrote that women need a room of their own. But Virginia’s wrong. Women don’t need a room of their own. What they need to do is get out of the goddamn building.”

You got that right, Jane Porter!

If you’re looking for an easy, delightful and yet emotional read to keep you occupied with while you snuggle up indoors this winter, choose Odd Mom Out. And if you want to connect with this wonderful, open, caring and talented woman, Jane Porter, and learn more about her exceptional books, please visit her at her website at JanePorter.com or on Facebook or MySpace.

The YouTube trailer for Odd Mom Out (which really doesn’t quite do it justice):

Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter


3 STARS

Flirting With Forty
by Jane Porter is an elegantly written, thoughtful, honest novel and excellent Mom Lit reading.

I am 44, single and childless, and cannot personally relate much to the main characters who are all either married or divorced with children and live within an extremely comfortable income tax bracket not wanting for anything but love and attention. However, I can totally agree with main character Jacqueline’s statement,

“Because honestly, I’ve lived long enough to know we don’t always get what we deserve. We don’t always get the good we should.” As well as, “I am still, at forty, too romantic, too emotional, too sensitive, too intense.”

That’s very true of me and my experience. Jacqueline, of course, does get the good she should in the end and her life, and Jane Porter’s, might surprise her occasionally with challenges, but for the most part they are incredibly blessed, beautiful women who lead charmed lives. It’s hard not to be envious of them.

Perhaps the lesson here is that we can all lead charmed lives if we take risks and believe that we deserve to have what we want and to never settle for less. But how many of us really get to have the gorgeous, younger, six-pack toting, surf instructor boyfriend who makes us feel sexy? Ah ha, that’s what I thought. That being said, I’m looking forward to reading more of Jane Porter’s books.

Flirting With Forty was made into a television movie starring Heather Locklear and Robert Buckley and aired on Saturday, December 6, 2008 on the Lifetimechannel. You can learn more at www.mylifetime.com. Entertainment Weekly reviewed if very favourably too.

For all things Jane Porter (and you should get to know her because she’s a really lovely lady!), go to her official website.

Jane also has a MySpace profile and a Facebook fan page.