At my first book signing in April, I got to meet some fantastic fellow independent authors! I only had the budget at the time to buy two books... I'm reading the second now, and this is my review of the first. As always, I would like to start out by saying that this is an unsolicited review, and I am not being paid for it in any manner. My tablemate on the left, the lovely Catherine Dougherty, is just as quirky and wonderful as the characters she creates.
The book is told from the point of view of Jean, the main character, who is just celebrating her fiftieth birthday with her two sons and husband when the novel opens. It took me a few chapters to get used to "listening" to Jean, because she is rather, er, how do I put this gently? "Salty" is a half decent word. A number of events in her life have left her bitter, not just toward those who wronged her, but the world in general. Rosie, a new realtor at the agency Jean works for, is the lovely, herb-infused oil to her straight white vinegar. The two are absolute extremes, and Rosie is not only positive to a fault, but occasionally hints to Jean that the secret to her happiness comes from her faith in God. I'm not usually the type for narratives that tend toward preaching, but I gave Rosie and her plan to put Jean's attitude back on track a chance.
When Jean's potential buyer of a house Rosie is selling turns out to be an unwelcome visitor from Rosie's past, things take a turn I was not expecting from the book copy. I don't want to give it away, but weathering what happens over the course of the house sale brings Jean and Rosie a little closer to each other, and a pivotal slumber party full of oldies, wine, take-out, and gaudy titular pajamas leads them to realize each has found the sister they always wanted, but never had. As an only child, I could relate to that (hi, Sis, I know you're reading this), and found myself finally softening to Jean by the time the party was over. I was surprised to find that at that point, I was only halfway through the book, and Jean had a few more hurdles to overcome .... big hurdles.
Over the second half of the book, Jean does her best to patch up family troubles: a sick relative, a divorce in progress, and her rocky relationship with her sons. She also begins to realize that a man can be a friend, and not just an object of desire ... something which she struggles with, having married her high-school sweetheart after she became pregnant. Jean returns home from a family trip with equal amounts of joy and pain in tow, and the novel ends neatly with an opportunity for her and Rosie to each have another shot at the lives they always wanted for themselves, but never quite found a way to have... providing a neat and tidy ending and simultaneously leaving things open for the next book, "In Woolen Bikinis".
By the end, I have to say quite honestly that this is not the sort of book I usually pick up and read for myself. It is a perfect example of chick-lit, so I know several people who would enjoy Jean and Rosie's escapades, especially their heart-to-heart talks about life as they approach old age. Catherine Dougherty's writing shines the most in these scenes: Jean and Rosie become people I could easily know outside the page.
As an author, Catherine's weakness may very well be Jean's, and not her own: Jean likes to ramble, quite a lot. Since the book is told in first person, reading it is like sitting down with Jean for a pot of coffee - or bottle of wine, if she had the choice - and listening to her fill you in after having been away for a while. In this, her voice is very real ... but in writing, it can become awkward at times, and almost too conversational. Since this is Catherine's first novel, and there are now two more in the series, I would imagine she has had enough feedback in that regard, though.
Simply put: this was a fast read which I finished over the course of a lazy weekend afternoon, and it was not time I regretted spending once I had settled in. I would compare Catherine's grasp of her female character to Nora Roberts ... so if you enjoy her, give Catherine a try! You can find Jean and Rosie in their three escapades to date at CatherineDougherty.com. .. along with some doodles, as Catherine's trying her hand at cartooning, too!
Now. if you'll excuse me, dear readers, I have a novel of my own to finish, and another book to read for review! If you have any suggestions for indie authors you'd like to see me review here, please drop a line in the comments!
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
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