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):