Did-not-finish mini reviews: ‘Staying At Daisy’s’ and ‘You Were Wrong’

Jill Mansell’s Staying At Daisy’s
Where I stopped reading: Page 52

So I’m a huge Jill Mansell fan. Her wit always shines through in her fiction, which is decidedly (and gloriously) British chick lit. But Staying At Daisy’s, originally published in 2002 and now reprinted by the lovely folks at Sourcebooks, just wasn’t working for me.

Here we have Daisy, a young divorcee running the hotel owned by her father. Still smarting from the demise of her relationship, she’s thrown herself into her work and friendships — and that brings her to some steady hours at the hotel.

I guess that, with so many books lining my shelves, I was probably too quick to give up on this one in favor of another — especially considering how much I loved Mansell’s Millie’s Fling and Rumor Has It. Still, I found the opening pages to be a struggle and the length was daunting. Once I realized I hadn’t become invested and had the vast majority of the book to go, I threw in the towel. But I still love you, Jill — and will try again with one of her others.

If you’re  new to Mansell, I highly recommend Millie’s Fling — nothing has dethroned it as one of my favorite chick lit novels of all time.

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Matthew Sharpe’s You Were Wrong
Where I stopped reading: Page 40

From the opening paragraph informing me that Karl Floor “had had a hard life,” I had a sinking suspicion that the two of us wouldn’t be getting along well. Sharpe’s quirky novel is about a stifled, boring teacher and the beautiful “robber” who enters his home, informs him that she’s taking stuff — but can’t leave without chatting with him first.

I got about 40 pages into this one before flipping to the end, slightly annoyed by the pretentious writing style and seeming lack of plot. As I originally worried, Karl wasn’t a guy I liked, felt for or cheered on — and Sylvia, Karl’s robber, wasn’t any better.

I didn’t really know what to make of this one. It’s short, yes, and would probably be one read quickly. But I made nothing of it, putting it down in favor of something else. Didn’t work for me.

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Book review: ‘Rumor Has It’ by Jill Mansell

It’s official: I have a literary crush on Jill Mansell.

Her writing is quick-witted, fast-paced and entertaining. She’s quirky. She’s irreverent. Each of her characters is infused with personality and charisma, fully fleshed-out and, often, hilarious. And Rumor Has It is awesome.

Londoner Tilly Cole walks into her home one day to discover her live-in boyfriend of many years has “done a runner.” Startled by just how heartbroken she doesn’t feel, Tilly gets away to visit her friend Erin in Roxborough, out in the Cotswolds, for a little fresh air and time to regroup. It’s there that she meets Max Dineen, a local single dad, and his daughter Lou — as well as Jack Lucas, the “tragic widower” whose gorgeous physique competes with his wit and friendly manner in terms of grabbing Tilly’s attention.

Knowing she has little left for her in London and eager to begin a new phase of her life, Tilly takes a job working as Max and Lou’s “Girl Friday,” helping out with Max’s interior decorating business and generally being a pal and helper for teenage Lou. When Kaye, Lou’s mom and Max’s ex-wife, is caught up in a Hollywood scandal and returns to England, Tilly immediately worries her easy relationship with the Dineens will be threatened — and her services no longer required. But it’s not as simple as all that.

In fact, nothing in Rumor Has It is simple — or an easy out, as far as Mansell’s concerned. Bring into the fold the burgeoning love between Erin and Fergus, a man still plagued by his drama queen ex-wife Stella, and a complete cast of extra quirky characters and then just try not to be bewitched by Roxborough. I certainly was.

We all know of my notorious obsession with England, so I gobbled up the British idioms and vocab like a fresh package of Peeps. In all of my far-ranging experience with chick lit, it doesn’t get much more “chick lit-y” than Mansell — and, for that matter, no British chick lit author surpasses her in my eyes. Her writing is so fresh and fun and the male leads so charismatic, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the men in her books.

In Rumor Has It, I was thoroughly charmed by Jack and further entranced by him as more of his story comes out. Tilly is warned off him from the start, told that he’s a womanizer and a heartbreaker — but Jack’s easygoing manner don’t seem to match the image she’s presented. And as she worked to set aside her insecurities and get to know him, I did, too.

What I love about Mansell’s novels are the realistic, fun and funky heroines — ordinary women who aren’t models, aren’t wildly successful, aren’t supernaturally beautiful: just regular people capable of great feeling. Tilly thinks like I do, acts like I do — has ridiculous things happen to her, just like we all do. (Think reeking of garlic breath just as the man of your dreams finally comes in for a romantic kiss. Yeah.) It’s the tiny details that set this and other novels, like Millie’s Fling, apart for me. And I adore them.


4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402237324 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher

Book review: ‘Millie’s Fling’ by Jill Mansell

millies_flingBritish novelist Orla Hart has a problem — and Millie Brady is the solution. After her latest work of fiction is absolutely trashed by the media for its formulaic quality, Orla decides she needs to come up with an “authentic” storyline about “real” people, and after Millie pulls her from the edge of a cliff — literally — the plan seems to fall in her lap.

With check in hand, the recently unemployed Millie agrees to share all the details about her quiet life in Cornwall, England to become fodder for Orla’s new creation. All seems well until Orla decides Millie’s “real” life isn’t nearly interesting enough and, as Millie has no other romantic prospects, begins to plan parties and other set-ups where she might meet an eligible bachelor. Dismayed but willing to concede that she might need some help with her love life, Millie goes along with some of the plans . . . until things begin to heat up with Hugh Emerson, an unlikely prospect who swiftly steals her heart.

Jill Mansell has such an easy, breezy and fun style, reading Millie’s Fling was a pleasure; the plot got more and more interesting as time went on. After leaving her job at a travel agency, Millie takes a job as a singing gorilla — literally — and at that point, I decided I had definitely never read anything quite like this book! Millie’s best friend and housemate Hester is charming for all her indecision and trouble, and I loved the friends’ interactions. And, of course, I adored Hugh — a likeable character despite how he tugs on Millie’s heart strings.

Though Millie is definitely our main character, Mansell writes in third person — we get to spend time in the heads of everyone at some point. Typically, I’m bothered by this — I love having a narrator skewing my perspective on everything unfolding before me! But I actually thought it was fabulous how easily we could slip in and out of the minds of all our characters and see life through their eyes. Each of the many characters in the book felt real and fleshed-out — not a mere sketch of a person with no back-story. Orla herself was larger-than-life and fun, and I found myself rooting for she and Millie both.

The only drawback to the story was, to me, the heft of it — at almost 500 pages, I occasionally found myself wondering where this all was going and, yes, becoming a tad bored in the middle. Still, it ended perfectly — and my obsession with British culture was satisfied by the many English references and slang! If you’re not a fan — or not comfortable — with the Britspeak, it might get a little confusing and/or frustrating . . . and that is my only caution.

Mansell is a very talented writer who definitely tapped into the issues of love, work, friendship and moving on. I actually laughed out loud at several points in the book and closed it with a grin on my face. Millie’s Fling didn’t change my life, but it was a totally delightful way to spend a weekend! Mansell will be my new go-to girl for fun, light women’s fiction with an English twist.


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402218346 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website