It's the Little Things (by Erica James)

I have slightly mixed feelings about Erica James' novels. Her early ones were a little fluffy, but I enjoyed the style and the characters. Then there were some she wrote which rank amongst my favourite novels.. and one that I didn't like at all, although perhaps I should re-read it. On the whole I do enjoy her books, so was pleased to get hold of another, although it's taken me nearly a year to get around to reading it.

'It's the little things' is basically about three people who survived the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Apparently that was the trigger for the book being written, although as a reader it feels almost irrelevant to the story-line. It's mentioned from time to time, and was instrumental in various parts of the plot... but every time it was mentioned it felt to me slightly jarring.

The story itself focuses on Chloe and Sally, who have been best friends for some years. Sally is a high-flying lawyer who loves to take risks, and Chloe is a perfectionist doctor with a lot of insight. Sally is married to Dan, a delightful, caring guy who has given up his job to take care of their small son Marcus (conceived right after the tsunami).

Chloe was in a fairly serious relationship with someone at the time of the tsunami, but he then broke up with her in a painful way, leaving her scarred in more ways than one. So she's a bit wary of men... and then she meets Seth at the gym. He's good-looking, friendly without being pushy, polite without being awkward... and they have a great deal in common. It seems like he's the ideal man... but Seth has a secret, something he hasn't told Chloe. When she discovers what it is, it's a shock to her - and it was a great surprise to me, too!

I very much liked both Seth and Dan. I liked Chloe too, although her reactions to discovering Seth's secret seemed bizarrely unrealistic. But she herself is carrying quite a burden, and part of the book sees that slowly being resolved.

Sally, on the other hand, is decidedly annoying. She has no maternal instinct at all, and starts behaving worse and worse as the novel progresses. I simply couldn't warm to her, or find any sympathy for her. She was apparently given her unpleasant, hard character because of ghastly parents and an impoverished childhood, but I'm not sure that anyone with the intelligence to be a lawyer (a very good one, too) could be as manipulative and stupid as Sally.

I also found the minor characters a little overwhelming, in particular Dan's and Chloe's parents who appear at various meals, and whom I could never tell apart. And there are a few unrealistic caricatures, such as the dictatorial woman who tries to boss Dan around.

But still, the story is good, with suspense that starts to build in several different subplots from early in the book. I found the first few chapters a bit slow-going as the main characters were established; but once it got going, it was difficult to put down. It's not a short book (a little over 400 pages) but I finished it in two days at a busy time of year.

It's women's fiction, of course; character-based, and with a satisfactory conclusion. Recommended to anyone who likes this kind of novel; not one of my top favourites by Erica James, but still one to read again in a few years.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 20th December 2010

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