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!

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa DailyBook Review
Title: Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Author:  Lisa Daily
Publisher: Plume
Released: 2008
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0452289130
ISBN-13: 978-0452289130
Stars: 3.5

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by “experienced dating expert and virgin novelist” Lisa Daily is chick lit at its guilty pleasure finest. It’s the equivalent of enjoying People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue (usually the only issue I buy all year) in that it’s clearly style over substance, but it’s undeniably delicious. It won’t really stimulate your intellect but it will make you laugh and reminisce about your own dating exploits.

TV dating expert Darby Vaughn has just been dumped by her once seemingly perfect celebrity publicist husband Will Bradley, and his ex-wife, reality show actress Gigi Bissanti, who informs the media that she is getting back together with her husband and their two children so that they can be a family again. Darby is informed of this as she’s about to be interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show for her latest book about how to snag a man called The Dreamgirl Academy (based on Lisa’s real life Dreamgirl Academy classes for women) and promptly vomits into a chrysanthemum arrangement on the coffee table before fainting on national television.

So much for Darby’s marriage, family, career, or reputation! Or is it? With the help of her weasel-like husband’s ex-assistant Kendall who takes over as Darby’s publicist, her “dreamgirl” best friends, and one of Sarasota, Florida’s finest divorce attorneys: the handsome, integrity-laden Holt Gregory, Darby slowly picks up the pieces of her shattered life.

Fifteen Minutes of Shame is well-written and exceedingly funny with dating tips from the Dreamgirl Academy or advice columns by Darby Vaughn published at the end of each chapter. However, I wanted to like Darby more than I did, and I found it just a bit of a stretch to believe that she would risk everything she had ever worked for to fight for custody of Will’s children, even though she had raised them for 3 years while Will and Gigi concentrated on their respective careers. It was interesting to consider the rights of step-parents in custody cases and I can understand how a step-parent can fall in love with someone else’s children, but what I couldn’t understand was how Darby managed to have such a successful career of her own, up until she discovered Will’s infidelity, and still found time to be the primary caregiver of his children.

Darby’s career never really falls apart as she begins taping a reality dating show within weeks of her public humiliation, and while you feel sorry for her in the beginning, it doesn’t take long for your empathy to dissipate because she just doesn’t really have to struggle much to pull her life together in the aftermath.

The development of her relationship with her attorney was predictable and the whole, rather clichéd story felt like a series of segments on Entertainment Tonight – which is okay, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Even though by the end of the book we see some growth in Darby’s emotional intelligence, she’s just not the kind of woman I could realistically cheer for. I didn’t think she deserved Holt Gregory (who really was written as the perfect man) and couldn’t understand why a man like him would fall for her because she didn’t seem to be deep enough for him. But then again, what do I know? I’m still single and am probably in dire need of Lisa Daily’s dating advice!

I just don’t play games of any kind when it comes to relationships with men and I don’t think that anyone else’s list of rules about the dos and don’ts of dating can apply to women in a universal fashion. But can they make you laugh? Hell, yes!! I mean, isn’t the fact that “in 80% of marriages, at least one partner will have an affair” a side-splitter?! Call me cynical; it’s okay. I confess.