Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

Finding Colin Firth by Mia MarchBook Review
Title: Finding Colin Firth
Author:  Mia March
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: July 9, 2013
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 1476710201
ISBN-13: 978-1476710204
Stars:  4.0

Okay, I admit it. I’m not original. I’m like over a million other women who think that Colin Firth is absolutely talented, dreamy, amazing and someone to gush about. When I stumbled onto a copy of Mia March’s Finding Colin Firth in Chapters recently, I couldn’t help but buy it. The title captivated me instantly. I’d heard about Mia March through Jane Porter’s blog and knew that her debut novel was called The Meryl Streep Movie Club and being a huge movie fan, I’d thought that I’d love to read that as well. I just happened to find Finding Colin Firth first. I trust Jane Porter’s taste in women’s fiction implicitly as she has yet to steer me wrong.

Finding Colin Firth is not only a story that has some of the main characters literally searching for Colin Firth when it’s rumoured that he’s going to be shooting scenes for a new movie in the small coastal town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, but it’s also a deeply moving account of three women’s issues of identity and their sense of belonging that stresses the importance of female relationships.

We first meet 22-year-old Bea Crane, a cook at Boston’s Crazy Burger who longs to become a teacher, on the day that she discovers from the deathbed letter of her mother that she was adopted. This shocking news turns Bea’s world upside down and after her bitchy boss complains about her work ethic one time too many when she’s just heard this life-changing news, she decides to quit Crazy Burger. She then travels to Maine to meet her birth mother who left her contact information with the local adoption agency.

Veronica Russo is a beautiful, single, 38-year-old waitress who works at the Best Little Diner in Boothbay. She has a small business on the side making the best pies in the area as well as teaching classes on pie making. Her “elixir” pies are particularly special because of the love, care and thought she instills in the making of every one. March’s delectable pie descriptions had me salivating, and I loved how she created special names for Veronica’s different kinds of pie: Amore Pie (chocolate caramel cream), Spirit Pie (shoofly), Feel Better Pie (blueberry), Confidence Pie (key lime) and Hope Pie (salted caramel cheesecake) to name a few.  Veronica loves Colin Firth and decides that she’s going to apply to be an extra in the movie that’s being filmed in Boothbay Harbor with the hope that she’ll get to see him in person.  We also discover that 22 years ago Veronica gave birth to a baby girl who she got to hold for all of two minutes before she was taken away from her as she’d decided to put her up for adoption. Her parents and high school boyfriend had both disowned her and she was sent to Hope Home for unwed mothers to live until she had her baby, after which she left Maine for Florida and didn’t come back for many years.

Gemma Hendricks is a 29-year-old, newly unemployed reporter from New York City who’s just discovered she’s pregnant but who is terrified that she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and that she’ll have to give up her career to become a stay-at-home mother in the suburbs, which is exactly what her lawyer husband Alexander wants her to do. She decides to take a vacation alone and go back to Boothbay Harbor where she spent her summers as a young girl, to reunite with some close girlfriends who co-own a little inn called Three Captains (who just happen to be running a Colin Firth movie month) and to try to figure out how she’s going to compromise with Alexander to find a happy medium for both of them. While in Boothbay Harbor, Gemma is given an opportunity to write a feature article about Hope Home’s 50th anniversary for the local Gazette which leads to her meeting both Bea and Veronica before they’ve even met each other. We come to care about each one of them in the meantime through discovering their histories and because they’re sweet, likeable women. I particularly enjoyed Veronica and looked forward to her appearances in the novel most of all.

This is a delightful, easy read that although predictable in its outcome, still held joy for this reader. Reading it is equivalent to watching a romantic comedy starring Colin Firth (think Bridget Jones’s Diary or Love Actually) while enjoying a bowl of popcorn with your girlfriends, which is something that the women in Finding Colin Firth, actually do. However, the issues of adoption, parenthood and what makes a good parent; reputation and judgment and how one can hurt the other; and finding a way to allow your heart to open after it’s been seriously damaged are not fluffy in any way. There are also interesting love interests for Bea and Veronica with several sub-plots to add depth to their characters and just the right amount of tension and conflict. There were, perhaps, too many questions raised by the main characters in the literal sense, as there were times when March listed the questions running through their minds about their individual predicaments, and that made me roll my eyes because they were quite simplified in my mind, but other than that, I loved the journey of watching these women not only find each other but also themselves, not to mention discovering whether they would actually find Colin Firth. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.  Go ahead, it’s worth it!

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. FischerBook 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.

Bella Summer Takes A Chance by Michele Gorman

Bella Summer Takes A Chance by Michele Gorman

BOOK PREVIEW

BELLA SUMMER TAKES A CHANCE PUBLISHED GLOBALLY ON 12TH FEBRUARY 2013

When is enough not enough?

Bella’s career and relationship are her life’s foundationwear: not glamorous and perhaps a bit binding, but supportive enough… until she realizes that they are not enough. Her life is sagging badly. She’s never been in love with her boyfriend, despite a decade together. And somehow she stopped being a musician-with-a-day-job and became a consultant-who-was-musical. So she takes a terrifying leap of faith, leaving her relationship and resolving to follow her musical dreams no matter what.

But the life you walk away from doesn’t always let you walk away. 

With a wonderfully warm and witty cast of friends, all navigating between their ideals and the realities they face, together they’ll find out what love and compromise really mean in this empowering tale about grasping life with both hands.

REVIEWS

“Witty, well-written and next to impossible to put down, Bella Summer Takes a Chance is a must-read in my opinion.” ~ The Book Chick

“The quirky characters, easy reading, and flowing storyline were all exactly what I was hoping for. I would recommend any of her books.” ~ A Novel Review

Bella Summer Takes a Chance is, for lack of a better comparison, a grown up version of “chick-lit.” The characters, especially Bella, are fun and enjoyable, but are based on a degree of reality and maturing that ensures the story stays believable and focused.” ~ Vine Voice

“I would refer to this book not simply as chick-lit, but grown-up chick-lit, something with substance.” ~ Amazon.com customer

“Romantic chick lit for grown-ups!” ~ Amazon.com customer

“This was a fun, quick read … the first book I’ve read by Michele Gorman, and I definitely plan on checking out what else she has written.” ~ Always With a Book

“I thought the characters were excellent, B really made an impression on me …the writing was also excellent. I can’t wait for Gorman’s next offering, I definitely recommend Bella Summer Takes A Chance. 4*” ~ Chick Lit Reviews and News

“You will be swept away with Bella and taken on an adventure in love and destiny!  4 stars.” ~ Mrs Mommy Book Nerd

“Filled with quirky characters and a lovely wrap up at the end, this is one for chick lit fans to read! 5 stars.” ~ Chick Lit Plus

BOOK EXCERPT

Prologue

‘Are you in love with me?’ I asked again as the appetising comfort of our usual Friday night takeaway turned sour in my mouth.

The question hung between us. He laughed, a short burst, as if diffusing dust that clouded his view. Diffusing the question.

‘I mean it, Mattias. Are you?’ I felt sick.

‘Of course I love you,’ he said from his end of the sofa. He could have reached me if he’d put his hand out. ‘Why would you even ask that?’

I hadn’t, not really. I’d only mimicked the on-screen heroine who filled our living room with romcom angst. A life-altering question, and I’d nicked it as I absentmindedly helped myself to more chicken korma.

‘I didn’t ask if you love me,’ I said. ‘I asked if you’re in love with me.’

Now that the genie had emerged from the bottle, the little bugger refused to be stuffed back in. I wondered if he could hear my heart thudding. On the TV the hero and heroine prattled on, rediscovering their true feelings for one another. Scene fade, musical crescendo. My films always had happy endings.

‘It’s a silly question, B., after ten years together. That feeling doesn’t last beyond the first flush of a relationship.’ He smiled. It was a beautiful smile, easy and open. ‘You know I love you.’

‘But were you?’ I pushed. ‘At the beginning? In love with me?’ My tummy was churning in the uncharted waters. I didn’t like the look of the horizon.

‘I don’t remember,’ he said, not smiling anymore.

The wind picked up and my boat rocked. Wouldn’t you remember a thing like being in love? I knew I would.

But I didn’t. Not once in all our years together did I remember having those feelings that people describe. Never as we sat on the sofa watching films, never when I looked at him over the table at a wedding, not once when anticipating his return from a weekend away. Not even when he said ‘I love you’. And not on that rainy October night, as I realised what the consequence of such an absence of feeling must be. ‘I’m not in love with you either,’ I said, tears forming. ‘I wasn’t ever, either.’

He finally reached over and gathered me to him. ‘Come here.’ He began stroking my hair. ‘I’m sorry. I do love you. I always have.’

‘I know. I love you too.’

He hesitated, started to say something, fell silent. Then, ‘It’s not the same thing, is it?’

He searched my face, seeing my answer there. I said it out loud anyway. ‘No.’

‘Isn’t it enough, though?’

‘I thought it was. But now I don’t know.’

‘You don’t know? Or you don’t think it is?’

I knew our future hinged on my words. ‘I don’t think it is.’

The comfortable, nice life I had with this perfectly lovely man wasn’t enough. Not for me. I struggled with the idea that this realisation had come out of the blue. Didn’t I know it before? A film cannot cause the end of a decade-long relationship. It just poured water into the cracks that, when the temperature plunged and the ice formed, split it apart. There was no going back. 

* * * * *

Bella Summer Takes a Chance
325 pages
Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit
ISBN 9781481277693 (paperback) price $12.99/£7.99/€9.99
(ebook) price $3.99/£2.49/€2.99

Michele is available for interviews and guest posts during the promotion period. Please email Press@nottinghillpress.co.uk

Michele Gorman is the best-selling author of Single in the City, Misfortune Cookie and The Twelve Days to Christmas. 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. For further information please visit her website at www.michelegorman.co.uk.

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.

Spin by Catherine McKenzie

Book Review
Title: Spin
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Publisher: Harper Weekend
Release: December 20, 2010
Pages: 480 pages
ISBN-10: 1554687594
ISBN-13: 978-1554687596
Stars: 3.5

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’
Yes I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know know know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab but I won’t go go go ~ Amy Winehouse

Celebrities in rehab…Theirs is an age-old, yet timeless tale that allows so many of us to feel better about ourselves when we witness that people who seem to have it all are every bit as screwed up as we are.  Certainly anyone who has watched Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH1 knows this.

Imagine if Bridget Jones fell into a million little pieces, flew over the cuckoo’s nest, and befriended Lindsay Lohan along the way, and you are beginning to grasp the literary roller coaster ride that is Catherine McKenzie’s Spin. Filled with brutal honesty and wry humour, Spin is a story for anyone who has ever woken up hungover and thought, ‘Do I have a problem? Yes–I need to find a greasy breakfast.’ And by that I mean everyone I know.” –Leah McLaren, Globe and Mail columnist, author of The Continuity Girl

At the beginning of the critically acclaimed chick lit novel Spin by Canadian novelist and lawyer, Catherine McKenzie, 30-year-old wannabe music journalist and party girl Kate Sanford’s life is spinning out of control.  She’s a lying alcoholic who doesn’t acknowledge her own flaws until she’s presented with the opportunity to land the job of her dreams writing about music for The Line magazine.  Only there’s one big catch.  In order to prove to its publishers that she’s got the stuff it takes to be successful in a job that so many people want but few can do well, she has to go to rehab and she can’t tell anyone about it.

Katie’s sent undercover to spy on Hollywood “It Girl”, The Girl Next Door television star, Amber Sheppard and expose the truth about her struggles with crack addiction and her toxic, on-again, off-again relationship with the Young James Bond star, a caricature of one of many handsome, insipid, dickhead Hollywood celebrities: Connor Parks.  Predictably, Katie ends up genuinely liking Amber as she gets to know her in rehab, not to mention Connor Parks’ personal assistant, the strong, attractive, ginger-haired, silent type, Henry Slattery.  As convenience would have it, Connor decides to follow Amber into rehab to f**k with her head and can’t go anywhere without Henry.  (Entourage anyone?)  Here’s where the “will they get together, or won’t they?” scenario comes into play.

McKenzie seems to have done her research where the paparazzi, rehab, and AA meetings are concerned, and there is a genuinely touching moment when another young woman in rehab tries to commit suicide.  There is also a lot of humour in this novel and it was fun to read Katie’s music playlist at the back of the book.  I smiled at the references to my favourite band, U2, in the last chapter.  However, there is nothing interesting about the supporting characters including Katie’s geeky roommate Joanne, her Scottish party pal Greer or her anorexic BFF, Rory.  And although its characters may be honest, there is nothing fresh and unique about this story which is why it makes it the perfect fodder for a formulaic romantic comedy.  If I’m honest, I’d tell you that I’d watch that movie too, particularly if it featured a perfect specimen of man beast eye candy (say a young Paul Bettany) as Henry.

Although Spin is comic and poignant, it’s not heart-breaking.  It does explore the question “How far would you go to get what you always wanted?” as well as “How afraid are you to get what you’ve always wanted? (a relevant question in my life), and although Katie has been compared in the press to a 21st century Bridget Jones, she just doesn’t have that charm and je ne sais quoi that made Bridget Jones the character responsible for the billion dollar chick lit industry that we are familiar with today.  Many writers have tried to emulate Ms. Jones, but none of them have done so with major success and Catherine McKenzie hasn’t done it either.  I will give her full kudos for trying and I do admit that I read this book quite quickly and enjoyed every fun-filled minute of it.  But it’s no work of art.  It’s simply a decent read for a weekend at the beach.

Can any chick lit novel really be a work of art?  Writers can create enjoyable, compelling reads in this genre, and I’ve enjoyed many, but ultimately chick lit is the popcorn of literature.

If you want to watch a film that explores the ridiculousness of fame and the vultures that are the paparazzi, check out Tom DiCillo’s Delirious starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt and Alison Lohman.  It won’t take you as long to watch as it will to read Spin.

She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter

Book Review
Title: She’s Gone Country
Author: Jane Porter
Publisher: 5 Spot
Released: August 23, 2010
Pages: 400
ISBN-10: 0446509418
ISBN-13: 978-0446509411
Stars: 3.5

It’s Jane Porter month for me. I’m a lucky woman because I have had the privilege of reading a galley copy of Jane’s newest contemporary fiction novel, She’s Gone Country, which won’t be released nationally until next month, and it only took me 4 days to finish it!

She’s Gone Country is the story of 39-year-old Shey Lynne Callen Darcy, best friend of Tiana Tomlinson from Easy On The Eyes and Marta Zinsser from Odd Mom Out, both being books that I liked considerably more than this one because I liked the heroines more. Shey is a former professional New York City model: tall, slim, long blond hair – a typical Texan beauty with a very atypical and decidedly un-storybook life.

Shey has just found out that her husband of 17 years and the father of her 3 sons, Hank, Bo, and Cooper, is gay, and has chosen his lover Erik and his true path over her and the boys. So she’s moved them back home to Parkfield, Texas where she sets up housekeeping in the family’s ranch and reconnects with her Southern Baptist Mama who worries constantly about her immortal soul; her oldest brother Brick and his perfect wife Charlene and their family; and her middle brother Blue and his dysfunctional, alcoholic wife Emily and their family. Her youngest brother Cody has committed suicide after years of battling a bipolar disorder and Shey is desperately trying to save her middle son Bo, who is suffering from depression, from the same tragic path. Meanwhile, Shey’s childhood sweetheart – professional bull-riding champion and rodeo all-star – Dane Kelly, is now single, although estranged from her brothers, who were once his best friends; and much to Shey’s chagrin, still cemented firmly in her affections, mind, body and soul.

As with all Jane Porter’s novels that I’ve read, this is another enjoyable chick lit (actually this one is more Mom Lit) story with a strong, beautiful, successful woman who is trying to cope with massive changes in her once perfect life and rediscover the inner strength that made her who she was in the first place. I liked Shey Darcy, but I didn’t love her. Through much of the novel she just seemed plain desperate when it came to her relationship with Dane and the way she endlessly repeated how much she loved him, needed him, wanted him, over and over and over again, just made my eyes roll. A tad bit of overkill, I’d say. He is indeed a big, handsome, rugged, golden haired, green-eyed cowboy, and he’s also a lot more complex than he appears. Dane is an interesting character and I thought he was the most real and accessible male hero that Jane has written about so far.

In She’s Gone Country, Jane Porter explores the often difficult and challenging decisions that a mother of boys has to face. Shey has her hands full with Hank (15), Bo (14), and Cooper (12), and although she loves them more than life itself, she’s almost at her wits’ end with trying to juggle her issues, their issues, and what her new life now has in store for her. Shey is not always admirable, but she is authentic, and by the predictable end of the book, I liked her more than I did at the beginning. It takes that long to get to know her and what she’s really made of. She is often described as smart, strong, and sassy, but we didn’t see that side of her for much of the story. Hold out for the character development though because it’s worth the wait.

“I nod, even as I am awash with conflicting emotions – anger, shame, guilt, frustration, regret.

I should have been on top of this. I should have been aware that he was not turning his work in. I should be paying more attention.

But even as the shoulds pile up, I feel a stab of resentment. I do pay attention to him. Every day I ask him about his work. I’m not an absent parent. I pick him up from school and am there at home when he returns from school. I’m around, available, accessible. And he’s nearly fifteen. Shouldn’t he start being responsible for himself?”

Ultimately, Shey discovers that not only are the men in her life, her heart, but that girls are where it’s at (not just country-loving girls either) because they rock! Yes we do. We really do. So when you need to be reminded of this, all you have to do is pick up a Jane Porter, from-the-heart, emotional-but-feel-good, contemporary fiction novel and you’ll find the affirmations you were looking for.

Easy On The Eyes by Jane Porter

Book Review
Title: Easy On The Eyes
Author: Jane Porter
Publisher: 5 Spot
Released: 2009
Pages: 335
ISBN-10: 044650940X
ISBN-13: 978-0446509404
Stars: 4.5

Damn you Jane Porter. You’re incredibly talented, as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside, and your contemporary fiction always makes me cry! You are brilliant in every way and I love you.

I just finished reading Easy On The Eyes by Jane Porter and I’m sitting here sniffing and wiping the tears off my face. Her books never cease to touch my heart and to make me cheer for their complex, strong and intelligent female characters. Most importantly of all, they remind me of what is truly important in life, because Jane knows…Love. Not just romantic love, with the dashing, handsome and perfect leading man (although he’s ever present), but love of family, friends, and especially of self. This is the theme of her 2009 novel, as experienced by America Tonight’s beautiful, talented but aging on-air host, Tiana Tomlinson, who on the outside would seem to have it all, and she discovers in her darkest hour that she really does. She also realizes that she doesn’t need a man to complete her, can take responsibility for her own destiny, play by her rules, and follow her true path.

Jane Porter first introduced readers to Tiana Tomlinson in Odd Mom Out and one of the things I love about her books is that she takes secondary characters from each of her preceding novels and tells their story in future books. She will do the same this August when her latest novel She’s Gone Country about Tiana’s best friend Shey Darby hits bookstores everywhere in North America. Reading Porter’s novels are like taking a road trip with your best friend. You have a fantastic time and you never want them to end!

In Easy On The Eyes, 38-year-old entertainment television reporter Tiana is faced with the realization that she’s going to be fazed out of her hit show by a younger protégé if she doesn’t succumb to plastic surgery. In Hollywood this is a very real issue that women have to deal with all the time. It’s explored here from every angle but ultimately Tiana is the kind of woman who wants to live in her own face and appreciate every line she’s earned.

This is chick lit so naturally there is a dazzling and irresistible love interest for Tiana in the form of an ironic and adversarial Hollywood plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael O’Sullivan, who isn’t quite as shallow as he first seems. However, for me, the most relatable element of this story is the significance of relationships between women.

As women our friendships with other women are just as important to us as our relationships with our partners.

“Call me greedy, but I want both. Friends and romance.”
“I get that…And we should have both in our lives. Men are great, but they’re not women. Men will love us, but they’ll never really understand us, not the way our girlfriends do. And our men see us and love us in a way our girlfriends can’t. That’s why we need both.”
“Research shows that women with close friendships live longer and healthier lives than women without. Spending time with girlfriends is supposed to be one of the best stress busters out there.”

As someone who is chronically single, but who has learned how to love herself, I couldn’t agree more.

Widowed Tiana, whose reporter husband was killed in Afghanistan seven years earlier, before their first wedding anniversary, knows in her heart that there’s more to her than her pretty face and she wants to be seen for who she really is. Knowing that she needs to make a career change in her life before it’s made for her, she accepts Dr. O’Sullivan’s offer to go to Zambia to learn about an organization that he volunteers for called Rx Smile and to report stories of substance about the plight of the African people.

While the book is formulaic chick lit, Jane Porter gives her novels more substance and genuine empathy than any of her contemporaries whom I have read. She’s the equivalent of a spiritually enlightened Dallas Cowboy cheerleader for all of us:

“I craved change,” I tell them, “but was terrified of change, clinging, ever more tightly to what was familiar, to what I knew. But clinging to fear only increases fear. There’s only one way to fight fear and that’s by fighting back. Embrace change. Grab for the unknown. And believe in hope and joy and love.
“There isn’t just one kind of love, either,” I conclude. “And there’s more than enough love to go around. So love yourself, and love your life, and even love fear, because it won’t hold you back.”

That’s when my tears really started to fall because I’m in this exact place right now and I finally understand the meaning of the phrase, “feel the fear but do it anyway.”

I was hoping that the book would end with Tiana embracing her new lease on life and walking towards her future: strong, independent, and without a man, because in real life, that’s how some of our stories are, but again, this is chick lit and people buy it because they want the happy ending in which the heroine gets to have it all. And damn it, someday I want it all too.