Monday, May 17, 2010

Review & Giveaway: 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...

MILD SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

....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.

END SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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,
ensemble cast,
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.

Good luck!


Rachel said...

I don't know how I always end up being the first comment. :) I swear I'm not a stalker; we must have some online overlap in our schedule. hehe... anyway...

Great review as always! I have been the subject of a rumor (many years ago) but since I don't have the good sense to be embarrassed (even when the situation calls for it:) I seem to recall laughing it off and it eventually lost steam. In a small town there's always another rumor waiting in the wings.

On another note; I've always hated the terms chicklit and women's fiction. I really don't get them. I feel like these types of books already have categories that work for them and it's just a another way of marking them as "other." Actually this might be too long a topic for a comment so I will leave it at this for now and just ask you if you are ever bothered by the "other" status. Usually this is vs. the "default" white, male but there are many instances where the "other" crops up.

M. said...

Rachel - The classification game is a perplexing one, which I haven't yet mastered. I never had a problem with the term chicklit until I realized that more often than not it's accompanied by an eyeroll, and until I realized how often I read something classified as such and thought it shouldn't have been. But that's not what you're talking about, I think. Worth a blogpost, maybe?

Bethie said...

When I was in HS I was a cheerleader and the rumors were all over the place. I just laughed it off. The rumor mill had me having way more fun than I really was.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Marian said...

I love the mention of old buildings and overflowing flowerboxes. Even though I wouldn't want to live anywhere except in a big city, the rustic charm is so appealing.


mdperera at hotmail dot com

lv2scpbk said...

Sounds like a good book. My email is Craft it Wednesday at yahoo dot com.

I have a active blog here at

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, darling. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you. (and if this is a duplicate, it's been a long day and I apologize)

Gwendolyn B. said...

I think the term "Chick Lit" is overused, misused, and abused. Kind of reminds me of what happened to music category "New Wave." OOOPS! Showing my age! All I know is that this old hen can still be tickled by good Chick Lit. I enjoyed Mansell's PERFECT TIMING. It wasn't a perfect book, but it was fun, and I'd like to read more by Mansell. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this one.

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'm a Follower.

geebee.reads AT gmail Dot Com

Colleen Turner said...

I was never the subject of a rumor (that I know of) but I remember quite well all the rumors I heard about other people at my school. I have never been one to listen to or spread rumors, but I was always amazed at the horrid things people would say about someone else.
candc320 at gmail dot com

JHS. said...

Oh, I've been the subject of more than one rumor over the years. The one that immediately comes to mind involves the numerous stories told by people who had no idea what they were yapping about in response to my leaving the congregation of which I was a member for many years. I heard some whopper stories were going around, none of which bore any resemblance to reality. What did I do about it? Nothing. If someone asked me, I told them the truth. Otherwise, I didn't give it a second thought. I know the truth. And so does the pastor whose dishonesty and manipulations were the reason I left. And there is karma. I'm a big believer in karma. :-)


admin at jhsiess dot com

JHS. said...

Following you on Twitter (jhsiess).

donnas said...

Great review. Sounds like a very good book.

Im sure I have but I honestly cant think of one.

Im a follower of the blog.

Rachel said...

Hey M, that could be worth a blog post. If I were to do it (not sure if you meant for you or for me:) I'd definitely have to spend some time thinking about it. It's something I feel strongly about and something that gets my ire up and when that is the case my ability for rational thought quickly degenerates. :) I'll have to keep it in the back of my mind so that maybe something coherent will eventually come to light.

baileythebookworm said...

I have actually been the subject of a very malicious rumor spread by some people who was jealous that a friend of theirs who was spending more time with his girlfriend (a friend of mine) than them. It was awful, embarrassing and led to a lot of bad feelings among out entire group of friends. My response to it was to answer all of my friend's girlfriend's questions honestly (no, he and I had not hooked up) and then stay out of it. It resolved itself when the guys finally came clean and admitted they were lying -but it destroyed a lot of friendships. Rumors are crappy things to get involved with.

This definitely looks like an interesting read, though -hopefully with a more positive twist than my own story! ;)

Julia Smith said...

'a booze-influenced plot development' - LOL! I'm having a Victoria Day Weekend version of one of those...and loving it.

'The Gentle Reader will not be surprised that AW has an opinion. Or four.'

And that's why this Gentle Reader loves your reviews so much.

scottsgal said...

Not that I can recall have I ever been the heart of a juicy rumor
msboatgal at

Jo said...

I have, but since it wasn't true, I just laughed it off and ignored it. I've got great friends that supported me :)


Marilu said...

I have been the subject of many rumors. Of course they were all quite stupid so I don't even know which one to share. Ok here is one.....a few years ago someone in the neighborhood decided to tell my husband and some other neighbors that I was "sleeping" with her boyfriend, behind my husbands back. She even claimed that she had babysat for me while I did it! At first I was shocked, and angry!! Why would someone say that? Especially someone that I thought was a decent person. So much so that I babysat for her EVERY weekend! Her daughter spent EVERY weekend at my house! And then I found it kind of funny, because had I heard that rumor about someone else I would have thought A) she slept with your boyfriend?? you mean EX boyfriend?? No you mean you didn't break up with him? B) What kind of moron babysits for someone so that she can sleep with YOUR man!!
I kind of laughed it off, but it did bother me because at first it did cause an argument between my husband and I, since HE was the first person she went to with the rumor!

Please enter me! thanks

lovemykidsandbooks AT gmail DOT com

Marilu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marilu said...

I think you should check out Good at Games by Jill Mansell. I chose to re commend this title for two reasons.
1. The synopsis on the back cover made me laugh.
2. I plan to read this and would love to read a review of it by you, to help me decide whether I should buy it or borrow it form the library!

lovemykidsandbooks AT gmail DOT com

Marilu said...

I tried to sign up to follow your blog but I can't seem to find the spot to do so! I know a friend of mine was having issues with her blog recently, so I thought I would mention it!

lovemykidsandbooks AT gmail DOT com

karenk said...

i'm sure i've been the topic of a rumor once or twice...i just let it ride...

a great review of this novel...thanks for the chance to read it :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

misskallie2000 said...

After I graduated from High School my parents sent to to Business School out of state (to separate me from my then boyfriend). When I got back home I found out a so call friend had started a rumor that I had gone off to have a baby. A I was so shocked I just ignored it. Most of my friends also ignored the rumor since this girl was know to make up stories. Couple yrs later I had a blind date, the girl who started the rumor got us together, and he tried to make out and I had a hissy fit. He told me she had told him about me..I was so mad I made him take me home, but we had to go through town and when he stopped for red light I jumped out and ran to the building where I worked and to the garage where I parked and called my Dad who came to get me. This guy worked on where my Dad did and my Dad found him and had a long talk with him. That was the one time I really got mad at the girl and stopped being a friend. I don't hate her, or anyone, but I just did not want to be around her any longer.
Hope this is not to long.

Great review and I would love to win this book.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

misskallie2000 said...

follow via twitter(@misskallie2000


less than 5 seconds ago via web

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

purplg8r said...

The latest rumor about me I just ignored...the thing was, it was true but it was about me and my ex and it wasn't my place to confirm or deny the rumor!

My fav book that I have read by Jill Mansell is Miranda's Big Mistake...I loved the revenge plan :)


Debbie F said...

I have been made fun of but I just ignore it. No point in engaging. Thanks for the giveaway!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Anonymous said...

生活是鍛鍊靈魂的妙方~~^^ ....................................................

Deedles said...

There was a rumor going around about me in junior high school. I just ignored it and soon enough they found someone else to spreads rumors about.

Aik said...

People always spread false rumors about me when I was in primary school. One of my teachers was one of the "big-mouths". I really can't believe an educator would become such a serious gossip barrel like her.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Debi said...

Over the years I have heard of several rumors going around about me. Most I ignored and some I asked where they got their information from. I pretty much spend time with my grandkids and family these days so I don't think there are any rumors out there now. But who know maybe there are!

debraldufek AT hotmail DOT com

Debi said...

I am going to go subscribe to your blog on Google Reader right now! Thanks.

debraldufek AT hotmail DOT com

Cindy W. said...

When I was in seventh grade, because I was so very shy and made good grades, people use to tease me about not only being the teachers pet but also paired me up with the smartest boy. I loved math but I hated that class and could hardly wait for it to be over with each day. My fellow students made it miserable for me.

Enjoyed the review and would love to win Rumor Has It.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


M. said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories and book recommendations - I enjoyed them all. Winners chosen and posted.