Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Review: Hellion Arranges a Book Review

I’m going to admit right up front I arranged for this book to come to me. I got this mysterious email that I very nearly deleted, but then realized, “Wait, these are books I can request to review if I think any of them sound interesting.” And this sounded like a much more efficient plan for book reviews. I realize not all book reviews necessarily have to be “great” reviews, but I don’t want to review books negatively that simply didn’t work for me when they might work for everyone else. You know me, I can ruin a perfectly fine book fast if I didn't care for it, so for the last couple books I've gotten, I've played the "Discretion is the better part of valor" game, if you know what I mean.

However, I looked at the email and this book cover leaped out at me, as did its title. ARRANGED by Catherine McKenzie. Here is where the book sang to me. ARRANGED’s premise is a thirty-something woman who is sick of the dating game (and the obvious pattern she has for picking exactly the wrong kind of man) and decides to embark upon the very unconventional-for-Americans idea of having an arranged marriage. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat on my couch on a Friday night, irked by yet another bad date or bad situation, and wish—just wish—I could forgo dating (which always struck me as rather useless) and have someone picked for me to marry. Except that much like this character, I too am rather afraid I’d end up with someone not very attractive and it totally wouldn’t work.

I understood this character. She leapt into reality for me before I even read the first page; and her failed relationship and subsequent realization that she keeps falling for the same sort of man made me want to call her up and commiserate with her. The tipping point was her best friend calling to say she was engaged. It just brought home she was 33, single again, and destined to repeat this pattern indefinitely.

What’s humorous is that when the heroine—Anne—calls the company, she believes she’s calling a dating service. She’s thrown for a loop when she realizes it’s actually a company that creates arranged marriages. Don’t worry—the company, Blythe & Company works a lot like eHarmony, matching on all these personality profiles and professional screenings, and they even make their clients go through individual and couples counseling. Sounds all very plausible.

She meets Jack, the man they’ve picked to be her husband, and suddenly all this is very, very real. Normally, Anne tends to fall for the Pierce Brosnan types (the young version), but Jack gives me more of an impression of being a more Russell Crowe type. Not as sleek or suave, but handsome in his own way. Plus he has a bit of a temper problem where the therapist is concerned (but don’t worry—no telephones are thrown!)

They click. And then despite her reservations—because she does prefer the Pierce Brosnan type—she agrees to marry him. And what follows is this swept-away sort of romance. The company is totally against romance; the philosophy is built about basing a marriage on friendship, not love.

Of course, you know where this is going. She breaks the cardinal company rule: she falls in love with him. And what happens? The Big Bad Secret becomes the Dark Black Moment.

I was biting my nails the whole time. There is conflict on every page: with her parents, her brother, her boss, and her best friend—especially her best friend. There’s conflict with Jack. There’s conflict with herself. Page turner.

I started the book Friday at lunch and got hooked enough that I loathed returning to work to work the rest of the afternoon. I had a function that kept me out until nearly midnight, but once back, I was in bed reading, and I stayed up until 3 am reading it. In fact, if I’d had my typical Friday night, I would have had it read by midnight, not kidding. Instead I finished it Saturday morning and immediately lent the book to my friend who is always on the lookout for books.

I’ve been missing chick lit books but over the last few years have gotten tired as they seem to be the same hookups and bad behavior as many romantic comedies seem to be leaning on. I think this is the chick lit that many of us chick lit fans have been lamenting about and missing. A protagonist we can sympathize and empathize with; a hero who is normal and real and easy to fall for; and a happily ever after you wouldn't mind arranging for yourself.

Do you like “chick lit” in the romance genre? Have you ever been curious about arranged marriages and love matches? Would you do just about anything to get married so long as you could forgo dating?


Maureen said...

Wow, nice review! You obviously loved this book! I've read this sort, but not where both enter into it with open eyes. More like...a modern marriage of convenience where something else is the goal. Not marriage but an inheritence, or something like that.

This sounds much cooler! I have enjoyed chic lit, especially one that is fun.

Would I marry without dating? Uh...I'd sorta like to try dating with marriage. I mean, been so long since I dated anyone...


quantum said...

I remember dating the old fashioned way, and the fear of the embarrassing rejection!
"Hey gorgeous, fancy coffee and a frolic with me?" "I already have a boy friend thank you, and wouldn't date you if you were the last man alive!"

Modern computerised dating seems to bye pass that little problem. LOL

With a growing Muslim population here in the UK there are stories in newspapers, almost weekly, about young girls objecting strongly to marriages arranged by their families. I never notice the young men objecting. But as I understand it, these arranged marriages are more in the way of a contract to join families or for financial gain, with little concern for the happiness of the girl. And the wives can be treated more or less as slaves in the worst cases.

I think this book is dealing with a different concept ..... happiness and partnership without love.

It sounds hilarious and I might try it for a laugh on a rainy day when the next test match is rained off! Damn. Its not downloadable from kindle UK.

Another great review Hellie!

TerriOsburn said...

Just curious what qualifies this as chick lit instead of a just a contemporary romance. It sounds amazing. You know I love Russell Crowe. (You HAD to bring up the phone thing??) This one is moving up the list.

I suck at both dating and marriage, so I'll stay out of this one. LOL! But no, I wouldn't marry without dating. Then again, I dated for nearly two years, saw all the signs, and still married him. Maybe having someone else choose IS a smarter way to go.

MsHellion said...

Mo, you're a glutton for punishment. *LOL* I've tried dating without marriage and I find it tedious. BEYOND tedious. *LOL* This is where the grass is definitely greener situations. *LOL* People try to assure me that "dating is fun" but I think they're on crack. Actually I know they are. Dating is fun is the exception, not the rule, when you're a singleton. *LOL*

I did like this book a lot!

MsHellion said...

Q, is "fancy coffee and a frolic?" the equivalent of "fancy pizza and a f--k?"--and when the girl slaps you, you say: "what you don't like pizza?" because I've heard that one before. I think it takes more than pizza or coffee to agree to a frolic. A girl has to know she's appreciated for being more than a warm body for your frolic, you know? Everyone wants to be special, right?

I definitely don't want the marriage enslavement kind of marriage either. (Basically why I avoided marriage through my 20s!) This type of marriages is more of a friendship/partnership kind of attachment. Which marriage ALSO is. I think it can be all of those things, and I think this is what the book brings home.

MsHellion said...

Terri, I don't know if they term it as "chick lit" because I know that term is like the plague, but it's in the trade back book size (i.e. $14 a pop); they're not explicit with the sex; and the men are more...realistic than absolutely heroic and dreamy. (I'm reading Monica McCarty's book, The Saint, and he's absolutely heroic and dreamy...it's a romance novel. *LOL*) I don't know exactly what the difference is; I'm guessing it's the difference YOU make it as a reader.

TerriOsburn said...

I always think of chick lit as taking place in a big city and shopping and fashion and expensive shoes are involved. A story about a young career minded woman on the road to goof ups and love.

Not that I'd avoid the book because you call it chick lit, I'm just curious if the fashion and all that is involved. I'm inclined to think no because that doesn't sound like something you'd like.

MsHellion said...

She's sorta shallow in the sense I think of chick lit heroines, but not in a totally annoying way. And she works for a magazine, so she does work in a big city and I'm sure she has expensive shoes, though I don't remember a lot about them. :) *LOL* There were some definite chick lit vibes about it. It's not a small town type thing. She's in the big city, but it was never specified as New York, which helped, because I could pretend it was Boston or Chicago which I prefer to NY. *LOL* It was vague. *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

Got it. Just wanted to know what to expect heading in. LOL!

MsHellion said...

And if NY is actually mentioned, don't tell me. *LOL* I'm happy in my obliviousness.

Maureen said...

I think chick lit is one of those genres that has undergone some major rebranding. This does sound a bit like a chick lit book...wherever it is set!

irisheyes said...

That was gonna be my question - what is Chick Lit? I think you answered it. It doesn't sound like I've read Chick Lit before, but the whole Marriage of Convenience thing would be what would reel me in! I love MOC storylines and I love modern day MOC cause I think it is so much harder to pull off. I know SEP did a couple that I thought were fun.

This one sounds interesting, Hellie. You are murder on my TBR pile. I purchased the 2 from last week, but have not had a chance to read them. In fact, I haven't read anything in quite a while - summer has been busier than the school year. It always is and I always think it won't be!

My daughter goes to school with several girls who have their husband's already picked out for them - it's their custom. One is okay with it cause her sister's relationship is fine and she's okay with it. The other girl is planning on skipping town once she turns 18!

I'm all for someone else picking your perfect match, especially if you're like this heroine and always pick guys for the wrong reasons and keep ending up with losers. BUT (and that's a big BUT) the woman/girl still has to have some say-so and/or a get-to-know-you period so that you don't end up with a total creep! I think it comes down to who is doing the setting up (eg. parents doing it for not so noble reasons, or an agency trying to satisfy their paying customers).

Interesting concept!

quantum said...

Q, is "fancy coffee and a frolic?" the equivalent of "fancy pizza and a f--k?"

Sorry Helli, afraid I was a little facetious there .... pre-coffee is my only excuse!

The embarrassment felt by a young lad who is attracted to a girl and tries to open a conversation is very real though. The computer related methods where a couple get to know a little about each other through e-mail, before meeting, seem to me to be good.

The computer is used to get 'optimal matches' before making suggestions for meeting. Though there are obvious dangers.

This book seems to be exploring a variant of this approach and sounds interesting and fun.

AND a frolic is not necessarily synonymous with f-k .... at least not over here.
Shame on you! LOL

I met Mrs Q by buying her a coffee after a lecture. The frolics came later! LOL

TerriOsburn said...

For the record, I've done the "let our computer match you for compatibility" thing and it didn't work either. But I'm sure it works for some. :)

Q - There's a country song about the perils of being the guy trying to strike up a conversation with a pretty girl. Even if you're not a country fan, you should enjoy the lyrics.


quantum said...

Thanks Terri

I enjoyed the song. Paisley has a great voice and the song is very relevant!

I used to listen to a bit of folk and country music but rapidly converted to classical while a student in London. All the music halls and theaters there were just to attractive to resist!

MsHellion said...

Irish, glad to hear I'm doing my part to fix the economy. *LOL* Really, it's a good read, so I hope you enjoy it. And I think you'll love the YA reads as well!

I agree, I better get final say--and she does to a degree.

MsHellion said...

Q, if someone could write an equation for figuring out how to pick up a girl with a pick up line, that man would be a trillionaire. "Hello" really is your best bet. At least for an opening--and then try to be funny, but never mean. And if you can go for self-deprecating, that's usually the best.

The rest of it is out of your control and has to do if you look like a stalker/creep, look desperate, or a Republican. (Though the last is negotiable if the girl happens to like that sort of thing. This also assumes Republicans can have senses of humor...) Anyway, out of your control. Self-deprecating, killer smile usually works best. I'm sure you've got that down.

Clearly we're a little more frisky over here. F--k is synonymous with a lot of words that might seem innocent at first. Going for a drive can get you in trouble! Of course, in the "old" days, we thought nothing of the word "shag" and we know what you Brits thought of that!

MsHellion said...

Terri, I was going to comment about the computer doing a crap job at matching "personalities"--it's about as arbitrary as picking genes! I guess the computer figures you have as likely a chance with this guy as this one, no matter what the differences are. Pick a lotto ticket. 1 in a million is a winner! That's pretty much the odds...