Posts Tagged ‘Ann Brashares’

Hollywood calls them rom-coms, as in romantic comedies. Publishers label them chick-lit. I’ve always thought of them as beach books, even if I’m reading them in winter. They make me think of sun and porches and peaches and girl-talk. But now it really is summer, and I’ve been downing them like pink lemonade.

Jill Murray, the likeable heroine of Claire Cooke’s latest breeze of a book, Seven-Year Switch, is holding it together as a single mom, although her cottage’s porch railing is falling off. Husband Seth ran away and joined the Peace Corps seven years, leaving her with three-year-old Anastasia and no money. So she teaches around-the-world cooking classes at a community college and answers phones for a travel agency specializing in girlfriend getaways. Jill may cook exotic food and talk of faraway places, even be a culture coach for a cute guy who wants to open a bike-rental business in Japan, but she’s always there for her 10-year-old daughter. Suddenly, so is Seth. Or so he says.

Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s a Beach) covers a lot of emotional territory, plus a trip to Costa Rica, in less than 250 pages. And the ending, with a black zebra tarantula as Cupid, seems rushed. But this is pop fiction with the fizz of female empowerment. Jill is flawed and funny; that she doesn’t get her neighbor Cynthia’s sense of humor is a hoot in itself, as is her attempt to mold herself with Spanx. You’ll want her for a pal.

Also Dempsey Jo Killebrew of Mary Kay Andrews’ The Fixer-Upper, now out in paperback. That Dempsey, a young Washington lobbyist, is so clueless at book’s beginnings about her boss kicking her under the bus of a political scandal, makes you want to root for her more. The girl is in a mess. So, too, is Birdsong, the pink ancestral mansion in small-town Georgia, which her father suggests she help renovate and flip.  He provides the dilapidated house — including a cranky old cousin of a tenant — and then it’s up to Dempsey. But it’s going to take more than elbow grease, paint and power tools to fix things when a pitbull reporter and the Feds show up asking questions about Dempsey’s last job. Happily, there’s this good-looking young lawyer in town, not that Dempsey needs a guy to rescue her when she finds her inner steel magnolia.  

The Fixer-Upper is one of my favorites of Andrews’ Southern charmers, right up there with the hilarious and exhilarating Hissy Fit, and the one that jump-started it all,  Savannah Blues.

Katie Fforde is a like a British Mary Kay Andrews. Several of her light-hearted books, including Stately Pursuits and Saving Grace, involve young women and old houses. Wedding Season, the newest one published this side of the Atlantic, offers three appealing heroines: cynical wedding planning Sarah, and her two best pals, unassuming dress designer Elsa, and Bron, who can do hair and cakes with aplomb. You might think it would be their celebrity client, referred by handsome photographer Hugo, who would play the princess bride, but it’s Sarah’s sister, getting married on the same day, who keeps putting up the obstacles to true love. Not my favorite Fforde but worth a spin.

Ann Brashares, of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, reaches out to an adult audience with My Name is Memory, in which boy meets girl over and over again through time, but she doesn’t always remember him. Romance and reincarnation aren’t really my thing, but Brashares’ characters — Daniel and Sophia/Constance/Lucy — have more than their share of adventures. For a more conventional boy-meets-girl (and her sister) beach book, check out Brashares’ The Last Summer (of You and Me).  

Open Book: I’ve met Claire Cook, and she’s a Facebook friend and FOB (friend of blog). Her publisher sent me a copy of Seven-Year-Switch (voice/Hyperion). I knew Mary Kay Andrews when she was still Kathy Hogan Trocheck, and she’s a longtime friend and mentor, being Caroline Cousins’ mystery mom, as well as FOB. She sent me an advance reading copy of The Fixer-Upper (Harper) last year. I’ve never met Katie Fforde, but I’ve bought most of her books, including Wedding Season (St. Martin’s Press), over the internet in their British editions because I can get them a year earlier. Ann Brashares’ publisher sent me an ARC of My Name is Memory (Riverhead/Penguin), after I requested it in a web promotion. I bought my hardcover copy of The Last Summer (of You and Me), and would whoever I lent it to, please return.

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