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!

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.