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!

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.

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.

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.

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):