03/11/2009

Starting Over (by Sue Moorcroft)

I thoroughly enjoyed the first novel I read by Sue Moorcroft, 'Uphill All the Way", so I was delighted when I was offered her latest book to read, by The Bookbag site.

It's an unusual coincidence that it's called 'Starting Over', the same title as the last book I read: 'Staring Over' by Marcia Willetts. Indeed, it's the third book of that title I own now; I also have (and like) 'Starting Over' by Robin Pilcher.

I was a little put off by seeing a remarkably fluffy-looking blue cover with pink flowers and brown birds, that screamed 'chick-lit' - but then again, the publisher is called Choc-Lit. Their claim is that their heroes are as irresistible as chocolate. Still, I hoped there would be some depth to it, and some great characterisation, as there was in Uphill All the Way.

It starts well. A single email is the prologue, sent to Tess by her ex-fiancé Olly, cancelling the wedding. A sharp shock that demonstrates Olly's unpleasantness, and also explains why we next meet Tess on her way to a cottage she has just bought, in a small village, to escape from her past.

When Tess is nearly at her new home, with laden car, she bumps into a breakdown truck, and meets Ratty, who is obviously (due to their instant mutual antipathy) going to be the hero of the book. Unfortunately, from my perspective, Ratty is far from irresistible. I accept that some women like tattoos and grumpiness, but Ratty is aggressive at times, he's extremely promiscuous, and he can be very manipulative. He has a few good features too, but his negative side far outweighed his good points in my view.

Nonetheless, the story proceeds as per Mills and Boon formula, with far too many bedroom scenes (or remembrances of them), albeit, thankfully, not too explicit. There are some good moments, and some enjoyable interludes with Tess's new friend Angel and her children. Unfortunately all the male characters are rather flat, and some of the plotting seems a bit forced.

Perhaps I'm being unfair because I didn't think it was nearly as good as Uphill All the Way, and was thus a bit disappointed. If I'd picked it up expecting standard chick-lit, I'd have been impressed at the good writing and the depth of characterisation in Tess and one or two others. I read it in a few days - it was a good story, if I skipped the bedroom parts, and suspended reality once or twice - and the ending was satisfying, albeit predictable.

Recommended in a low-key way if you enjoy light women's fiction.

My longer review of Starting Over can be found at the Bookbag site.

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