Monday, May 17, 2010
Review & Giveaway: RUMOR HAS IT
RUMOR HAS IT
by Jill Mansell
Humorous Women's Fiction
Sourcebooks, 2010 In Stores Now
Premise: Newly single young Londoner starts fresh in a small town where she soon learns that practically everyone is either subject or instigator of some form of rumor, forcing her (and all others) to choose whether to believe, refute, ignore, or repeat the pseudo-information.
Cover: Title - short and snappy, captures content. Art - bright, breezy, breath of fresh air all leap to mind. Though Apprentice Writer does not recall a single butterfly in the narrative, much less a herd of them, the feeling they and the nicely shod feet represent is accurate: upbeat tale of someone generally confident and young-at-heart. Altogether, an attractive, well-done cover.
What Works: In case AW has not mentioned it before - she is a bit of an armchairAnglophile. She adores her mental picture of picturesque villages, ancient buildings, overflowing flowerboxes, shopping in quaint little shops rather than big-box department stores, and ultra dry-witted joie de vivre (all gained from books and movies) so much she is actually a little afraid of making a real-life trip to the UK in case her preconceived notion is shattered.
AW is not proud of this head in the sand mentality, but it does explain how pleased she was to find this story reinforced her fantasy. It was her first Mansell novel. AW has no clue how this came to be given the entertainment value and long string of previous novels but now that she knows she intends to do something about that backlist.
She liked how the heroine responded to discovering that her live-in boyfriend had decided to dump her by moving out without a single word of warning. Instead of moping, she spontaneously decides to take a job as 'Girl Friday' in a small town where a friend lives. She moves in with single dad Max and his tween daughter Lou, to keep the house and Lou running on time while Max tends to his interior design business. This leads to occasional contact with the hero, a contractor, who responded to the accidental death of his fiance by becoming the town's much sought after Bachelor #1. Everyone, it seems, either warns the heroine off of him or sees her as a rival for his attention, causing a long-drawn-out process of her fighting her attraction to him which forms the main plot of the story.
But it was the subplots of the story that AW found most interesting (perhaps, because it was not possible to tell how they would end up). The shopowner harrassed by the ex-wife of her new romantic interest, the father shocked to realize that even though he is comfortable with the consequences of coming out of the closet, his child may not be, the actress buffeted by bad publicity. Max was AW's favorite character, for the way he interacted with everyone, and for the most poignant scene in the story; he figures out precisely what someone in a very difficult situation most needs to hear, and says it, regardless of how someone else thinks it is inappropriate.
What Doesn't: It is not hard to figure out why the heroine is attracted to the hero: good-looking, charming, successfully running his own business, kind to his still-grieving former in-laws, and the clincher: willing to put himself out for an animal that is neither attractive nor his. What's not to like? What wasn't so clear was what drew him to the heroine. They spend little time alone together and so don't have a chance to get to know and appreciate one another in a natural or relaxed way. Due to caution at first and misunderstanding later on, the heroine is goes from being standoffish to judgemental, unappreciative, and at times downright rude. His tolerance of all this was most puzzling, given that he had next to no fond memories of good times together between them to fall back on.
The resolution of the burned-by-false-publicity actress subplot also felt AW feeling ambivalent. On the one hand, the character is a sympathetic one and so the reader is pleased when she ends on a positive note in her personal life. But since this is a contemporary story rather than a historical one, AW very much wished...
....that the decision she made regarding her professional life could somehow have felt more like a contemporary solution rather than the more traditional "I'll let my man worry about making the money" view.
Overall: The current crop of online reviews for this title contain intriguing fodder for the question 'What is chicklit, and is it dead?', with opinions ranging from RHI being a classic example of the best the subgenre has to offer, to reviewers liking RHI 'despite' it being chicklit, to referring to it as romantic comedy because calling it chicklit would be 'almost insulting'. The Gentle Reader will not be surprised that AW has an opinion. Or four.
1. 'Rumor Has It' does fall under the chicklit umbrella.
Ticks on the checklist include:
stylish shoes on cover (with all that implies),
cartoon-drawing cover (ditto),
young, single, urban, female protagonist (who we know will NOT be single by 'The End')
multiple mentions of fashion brand names,
protagonist is very tight with friend(s) and distant with family,
there is a booze-influenced plot development.
2. Falling under the chicklit umbrella is not a negative thing.
Apprentice Writer is extremely fond of well-done chicklit. It was a Brit invention, and therefore no big surprise that the Brits, in her humble opinion, still do it best. The problem is that this subgenre, perhaps more so than others, has unfortunately come to be associated not so much with the examples of the well-executed variety, but with the flood of bandwagon-jumper-oners that seemed to be all pink covers and dim, materialistic stereotypes, so that its fans (much like romance aficionados) seem compelled to offer excuses to avoid negative judgment from readers who think of themselves as somehow loftier. Having said that,
3. Classic chicklit is an increasingly rare beast in the current publishing climate.
Hence AW's description of RHI at the top of the post as 'humorous women's fiction'. Hence also AW's kudos to Sourcebooks for continuing to provide these kinds of titles for the public when, for example, behemoth Harlequin discontinued its Red Dress Ink line.
4. RHI also falls under the women's fiction umbrella.
Ticks on the checklist include:
third- rather than first-person voice,
exploration of some decidedly non-shallow topics, including serious illness and homophobia. This story is not all lipstick and cocktails.
But does it make you laugh? YES
In a wry, 'I know people just like that!' recognition kind of way.
Learn more about the author here.
Publisher Soucebooks has generously offered two copies for Apprentice Writer's readers. To win, comment on the review or answer the question:
"Have you ever been the subject of a rumor, and what did you do about it?"
The Fine Print:
1. U.S. and Canadian addresses only please, no P.O. boxes.
2. If your profile does not lead back to an active blog, please leave a non-spammable way to get in touch.
3. Bonus entry for recommending another Jill Mansell novel for AW's TBR pile and explaining why you chose that one.
4. Bonus entry for following, either here here on on Twitter (MayaWriter) and then telling me about it.
5. Contest closes 30 May 2010.
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Reality
- Debut Author
- Ensemble Cast
- Fun Stuff
- Health Promotion
- In Real Life
- Laughter Reviews
- Laughter Reviews - Keeper
- Lightning Reviews
- Literary Fiction
- Mailbox Monday
- Mea Culpa
- Minimalist Movie Review
- Non-Laughter Reviews
- Page 1
- Reading Challenge
- Twin Reviews
- Urban Fantasy
- Women's Fiction
- Word Dares
- Writer Life
- Writing Process
- Young Adult
- ► 2012 (17)
- ► 2011 (40)
- ▼ May (7)
- ► 2009 (90)
- ► 2008 (70)