Posts Tagged ‘jill mansell’

thinking of you

Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“You know, I think it’s a pretty good job I’m here,” she told Ginny.  “Because, basically, you’re pretty hopeless.  You’ve been wrong about everyone so far.”

(from Thinking of You)

Thinking of You is another lighthearted British chick lit novel by Jill Mansell, whose books never fail to bring a smile to my face.  The heroine of Mansell’s latest U.S. release is Ginny Holland, a woman struggling with a newly empty nest and the fact that her daughter, Jem, is doing just fine without her at university.  After mistakenly thinking a roommate would liven up the house and supply her with a new best friend, Ginny takes a waitressing job, only to learn that the owner of the restaurant/antiques shop, the irresistibly handsome Finn, is the same man who nearly had her arrested for shoplifting.

While Ginny struggles to get back in the dating game, her ex-husband, Gavin, continues chasing 20-somethings in miniskirts; her daughter, Jem, learns that the freedom to make your own decisions often is accompanied by huge mistakes; her best friend, Carla, lets her down big time; and her roommate, Laurel, can’t move past a failed relationship.  As always, Mansell gives her secondary characters plenty of time in the spotlight, and they are always just as interesting as the main characters.

Thinking of You is a great escapist read.  I found myself cringing with every mistake and misunderstanding and laughing at every embarrassment.  I wasn’t fully convinced by the main love story, mostly because I don’t think it was as developed as it could have been, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.  Mansell is my go-to author for comfort reads that let me just go with the flow, and Thinking of You didn’t disappoint, even if it isn’t my favorite of her books.

I love how Mansell’s heroines are endearingly flawed women to whom I can relate in some way, and I love how she manages to balance weightier issues with humor so her books never feel too heavy.  In Thinking of You, she has created a sweet tale about the bonds between mothers and daughters and the power of female friendships.

Disclosure: I received Thinking of You from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Or we could live in it!”

Lara’s heart went thuddity-thud.  “You mean here in Bath?”

“I was thinking we could maybe attach it to five million multicolored helium balloons and float it to wherever takes our fancy.”  Gigi rolled her eyes.  “Yes, Mum, of course here in Bath.”

(from A Walk in the Park, page 17 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)

I think I say this every time I read one of her books, but Jill Mansell is the master of British romantic comedies, and she’s the only contemporary author I read who time after time creates secondary characters that are just as captivating as the main characters.  Although it’s not my favorite Mansell novel, A Walk in the Park was the perfect book for me following a busy week of cooking for Thanksgiving and decorating the house for Christmas.  It was a charming story and a quick read.

When her father dies, Lara Carson returns to Bath for the first time after leaving suddenly 18 years prior at the tender age of 16.  She takes up residence in the family home and realizes there’s so much she doesn’t know about the mother she lost when she was 13.  Lara falls easily back into her friendship with Evie, who needs a shoulder to cry on when her wedding doesn’t go as planned, and she reconnects with Flynn, the boyfriend she’d left behind all those years ago.  While Flynn deals with a shocking revelation, Lara does her best to deny her feelings for him.

At the same time, Mansell introduces still more secondary characters, including Gigi, a spunky teenage girl wise beyond her years; Harry, an old-fashioned, kindhearted shop owner who is catapulted into the spotlight by American hip-hop artist and womanizer EnjaySeven; Nettie, Lara’s feisty aunt; and Don, a jewelry store owner with a big (but bad) heart.  Harry and Enjay are complete opposites, and their banter was the highlight of the book for me.  Just picture a superstar rapper who gets everything he wants standing next to a straitlaced British man who brings a book to a nightclub.  Hilarious!

A Walk in the Park seemed to have more secondary characters than other Mansell novels.  I think she does a great job juggling so many unique personalities, and while their stories were resolved satisfactorily by the end, it felt like some of them were rushed.  I also had a hard time feeling the passion between Lara and Flynn, maybe because the only glimpse we get of them together as teenagers is during a fight.  However, neither of these issues prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the book.

Mansell amazes me with the unique and embarrassing situations she puts her characters in, and she never fails to make me laugh.  She also does a great job weaving in more serious storylines that threaten to bring a tear to your eye.  A Walk in the Park is a lighthearted novel about reclaiming your life, figuring out who you are, and never settling for less than what you deserve.  It’s a pure escapist read, with plenty of drama and romance to make you forget your own troubles for a little while.

Disclosure: I received A Walk in the Park from Sourcebooks for review. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Jill Mansell’s Perfect Timing was the perfect book for me during these sluggish days of summer.  Once again, Mansell dazzled me with strong characters, plenty of cringe-worthy moments, a story that was both serious and lighthearted, and of course, enough humor to keep a smile on my face throughout.  It’s no wonder Mansell is one of my go-to authors when I’m in need of a feel-good comfort read.

Perfect Timing opens with our heroine, Poppy Dunbar, on the night before her wedding at her bachelorette party, where she meets the man of her dreams.  Even though she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see Tom again and never even found out his last name, Poppy realizes that her uncertainty about marrying Rob and the fact that she hit it off so easily with another man mean she has to call off the wedding.

In a single moment, Poppy disappoints everyone she knows and learns the truth about her cold and distant father.  Poppy sets off to make her future in London, where she gets a job in an antiques stall with the handsome but geeky Jake and rooms with the popular and sexy artist Caspar French and the arrogant and insecure Claudia.  Caspar likes Poppy’s nerve and offers her the room right away, but Claudia’s long-time, unrequited crush on Caspar means she has no plans of befriending Poppy and is irritated by her presence.  However, the trio grows close as Caspar tries to navigate his numerous casual relationships, Claudia seeks to get Jake’s attention despite their being complete opposites, and Poppy hopes to find Tom and the truth about her past.

Perfect Timing is a quick-moving story fueled by so many interesting secondary characters, from Dina, Poppy’s best friend who is desperate to rid herself of the responsibilities of being a wife and new mother, to Angie Slade-Welch, Claudia’s attractive and predatory mother who flirts with anyone in pants and even steals men away from her daughter.  These two characters liven up the story, though at times they are pretty pathetic.  I didn’t like them at all, but I could understand where they were coming from, with Dina having to put her partying days behind her and envying Poppy’s freedom, and Angie not wanting to get old.  Mansell is an expert at creating well-developed characters, and I always look forward to discovering which unique personalities I’ll meet the next time around.

Even though I ended up really enjoying Perfect Timing, I must admit that it took me awhile to get really invested in the story.  I loved Poppy from the beginning because of her spunk and her fearlessness.  She’s dealt a hard blow in the course of the story, one that would be too much for many people to handle because of the unfairness of it all, but Poppy counts her blessings and moves on.  She’s someone I wouldn’t mind having for a friend.  However, Claudia was a tough pill to swallow, but I couldn’t fault her too much considering that she was raised by Angie.  And I had a hard time at first figuring out what was so great about Caspar.  I get that he’s the hot, carefree artist type, but at my age, I don’t want my heroes being sloppy, inconsiderate roommates.  Yet both of them grew on me by the end and illustrate Mansell’s ability to create characters with big faults and big strengths, just like real people.

Perfect Timing is a fun romantic comedy by a master of the genre.  It was just what I needed at a time when life is really busy and I need time to calm down and get lost in other people’s problems for awhile.  If you’re a fan of Jill Mansell or chick lit in general, you’ll enjoy this one, and if you haven’t read Mansell’s books yet, what are you waiting for??

Disclosure: I borrowed Perfect Timing from a friend. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Out in the garden, chiefly for Tilly’s sake, everyone was behaving in a civilized fashion and acting as if Leonie was an invited guest.

Well, fairly civilized.

“What would you like on your steak, Leonie?  Tomato sauce?  Mustard?  Herbicide?”

(from Nadia Knows Best, page 170)

What I love most about Jill Mansell’s novels are her humor and her characters, and her latest U.S. release, Nadia Knows Best, doesn’t disappoint.  The book centers on Nadia Kinsella, who is in a long-term relationship with stock broker-turned-model Laurie when real estate investor Jay Tiernan rescues her from her car in a snowstorm.  The two are forced to room together overnight, and although she finds Jay attractive and is tempted to do more than just share a bed, she is committed to Laurie.  Besides, they’ll never see each other again, right?

Months later, when she unexpectedly bumps into Jay, there’s no denying the attraction between them, and Nadia readily accepts his offer of a job designing gardens for the properties he flips.  However, there’s still Laurie to worry about, not to mention Jay’s abrupt change in attitude, which has Nadia wondering if he really is the boss from hell.

Meanwhile, the entire Kinsella clan is embroiled in some sort of drama.  Nadia’s artist sister Clare is used to having the upper hand in relationships, but the more obvious it becomes that Piers is playing games with her, the more irresistible he becomes.  Their father, James, who hasn’t had a real relationship since his wife walked out on him and his daughters years ago, gets a little help in the romance department from their 13-year-old sister, Tilly, who struggles to fit in at school and really wants to build a relationship with Leonie, the free-spirited, irresponsible mother who abandoned them all as children.  There’s also Miriam, their spunky grandmother, who is busy trying to suppress a secret from her past that could mean jail time if brought to light.

Once again, Mansell has crafted a fun novel that’s the perfect mix of endearingly flawed characters, humorous misunderstandings, sexual tension, and family drama.  Mansell is one of a few authors whose books I know I’ll enjoy even before I begin to read them.  Her heroines are women we can relate to, her heroes are simply charming, and her novels are my go-to comfort reads.  I loved Nadia from the start, so I could overlook the fact that she was too wishy-washy when it came to the men in her life.  Clare was so rude and selfish that it was hard for me to like her, though she did liven things up a bit, but Mansell more than made up for it with sweet little Tilly and Annie, the friendly store clerk she befriends.

Nadia Knows Best is a lighthearted book about giving in to love and not settling for anything less than the real deal.  More than that, it’s about unconventional families and how the people who love you most may not be blood relatives, but more importantly, they accept you for who you are and give you the space you need to make your own decisions.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Nadia Knows Best from Sourcebooks for review. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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At school, her teachers had forever been telling her that she had a vivid imagination.  Well, they’d been right.  And now she was putting it to good use.  Because imagining that Jamie was still around, she had discovered, was actually a really comforting thing to do.  Like thumb-sucking or clutching a manky old security blanket, it just made her feel…better

(from To the Moon and Back, page 18 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

To the Moon and Back might be more serious than Jill Mansell’s other romantic comedies, but I knew right away when I met her latest heroine, Ellie Kendall, that it was going to be my favorite of her novels I’ve read so far.  Mansell has a way of making me laugh and cry at the same time, wish her characters were my BFFs, and almost believe I was meant to drop everything and move to England.

Ellie is enjoying being young and in love when her husband, Jamie, is killed in a car accident.  Mansell introduces readers to the living Jaime, who is cute and fun and irons for his wife, so it is heartbreaking when Ellie loses him.  The book fast-forwards to a little more than a year after Jamie’s death, when Ellie is on the brink of being able to move on with her life, but she still conjures his image and has conversations with him…conversations in which she has him talk to her in that playful way she enjoyed when he was alive.  It’s so very sad, understandably, and Ellie is just so sweet that you can’t help but love her.  So when the gorgeous Zack McLaren offers her a job as his personal assistant and she moves to a new neighborhood and makes new friends, you can’t help but hope that Ellie will open herself up to the prospect of enjoying life and loving again.

As always, Mansell creates a cast of secondary characters that makes it impossible to put the book down.  There’s Tony, Ellie’s famous actor father-in-law who falls in love at first sight with an artist who can’t be his.  There’s Roo, a whirlwind of excitement and chaos who’s in love with a married man.  There’s Todd, Jamie’s best friend who still grapples with the guilt of surviving the accident that took Jaime’s life.  And you can’t forget Geraldine, the feisty lady who lives next door to Zack, and Elmo, the rambunctious dog the two share.

To the Moon and Back is a lighthearted novel that takes on the heavy themes of unconditional and undying love, grief, adultery, and redemption.  Mansell does justice to these without making the book too depressing, and there is still plenty of humorous banter to lighten the mood.   This is the perfect example of “chick lit” with substance, a feel-good book that kept me turning the pages long into the night.

Check out my reviews of other books by Jill Mansell:

An Offer You Can’t Refuse
Miranda’s Big Mistake
Millie’s Fling
Rumor Has It
Take a Chance on Me
Staying at Daisy’s

Disclosure: I received a copy of To the Moon and Back from Sourcebooks for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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‘…Your friend is a tart and you’re trying to excuse her,’ Dev shot back.  ‘You’re blaming everyone else–‘

‘Not everyone else.’

‘Oh yes you are.  You’re even trying to blame me, and I can’t for the life of me understand why.’

Daisy’s eyes blazed.  She longed to punch him.  It wasn’t fair, trying to argue with someone when you were drunk and they were stone-cold sober.  And when they were disturbingly attractive and you had your wellies on the wrong feet.

(from Staying at Daisy’s, page 324 in the ARC)

Staying at Daisy’s is the latest novel by British author Jill Mansell to be republished in the U.S. by Sourcebooks.  I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book, but it was worth it.  Whenever I need a light read to help me recover from all those war novels I gobble up like candy, I know Mansell won’t let me down.

Like her previous novels, Staying at Daisy’s is both fun and serious with a cast of mostly loveable characters whose connections to one another provide much tension and entertainment.  Daisy MacLean runs a high-end hotel owned by her father in the village of Colworth, England.  Her best friend, Tara, one of the hotel’s chambermaids, stirs things up when her ex-boyfriend arrives at the hotel for his wedding, and the two are found in a compromising position.  Tara insists she did nothing wrong, and Daisy’s willingness to back her up causes her to butt heads with the best man, Dev Tyzack, a former professional rugby player who is incredibly handsome and finds Daisy amusing.  However, Daisy thinks she sees right through him, and after all the hurt caused by her late husband, she’s not about to get involved with a womanizer.

Mansell’s secondary characters are just as interesting as the main characters.  Tara is so desperate to find true love that she tries too hard to get men to like her and believes everything they tell her.  I love that she wants to be more like her homebody, no-need-for-men aunt, not realizing that Maggie is desperately in love with someone who views their relationship as an arrangement of convenience.   There’s also Josh, Daisy’s fun-loving ex-boyfriend from college; Hector, Daisy’s father, who loves to hold embarrassingly awful sing-a-longs with his guests; Barney, an organ transplant recipient who moves to the village in search of a quieter life; and Mel, a single mom who harbors a secret that could squash her second chance at love.

Mansell has a way of making her characters’ flaws endearing, and I always find myself so involved in the tales she weaves that I laugh out loud at their bumbling antics.  Mansell always manages to add a serious side to her novels that give them some depth, but she never goes overboard on the drama or the romance.  Staying at Daisy’s is perfect for reading outdoors on those warm spring days that are just around the corner (at least in my neck of the woods).

Check out my reviews of other books by Jill Mansell:

An Offer You Can’t Refuse
Miranda’s Big Mistake
Millie’s Fling
Rumor Has It
Take a Chance on Me

Disclosure: I received a copy of Staying at Daisy’s from Sourcebooks for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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‘Fine, then.  If it’ll shut you up, that’s what we’ll do.  In five years, if we’re both still unattached, we’ll get married.  To each other.’

‘Good.’  Cleo gave a nod of satisfaction; OK, now at least she had a safety net to fall back on.  It might not be romantic but it was practical.

‘And if that’s not an incentive for me to hurry up and find myself a girlfriend,’ Ash said, ‘I don’t know what is.’

(from Take a Chance on Me, page 102 in the ARC)

Jill Mansell knows how to write a romantic comedy, and her books never fail to make me laugh out loud.  Her latest novel, Take a Chance on Me, is no exception.  Set in England in the small town of Channings Hill, Take a Chance on Me is the story of Cleo, a girl unlucky in love and forced to interact constantly with her childhood tormentor, Johnny LaVenture, now a famous sculptor.  As a chauffeur, Cleo bumps into Johnny numerous times, and she begins to wonder whether he’s changed over the years.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Ash, falls in love.  He’s a well known radio personality who oozes confidence on the air, but when the object of his affection is in close range, he can barely speak a coherent sentence.  Cleo’s sister, Abbie, is having marital problems in which the past, namely her desperation to have children, comes back to haunt her — and in the midst of hysterics, she makes a big mistake.  Then there’s Fia, who moves to Channings Hill to find herself after her marriage falls apart, and Georgia, a fiesty 18-year-old who barrels into town and upends some lives in the process.

Once again, Mansell has shown that secondary characters can be just as and even more captivating than the main characters.  I don’t think Cleo is a strong enough character to hold up the book on her own, but she gets plenty of help from the quirky friends, old and new, in her life.

Take a Chance on Me is hilarious much of the time and serious some of the time, tackling such topics as bullying, adultery, and infertility, but Mansell never lets the story get too heavy.  It’s predictable in a good way, and though I thought the ending was a bit rushed, I enjoyed it so much that it took me just two days to read more than 400 pages.  Mansell has become my go-to author when I need a feel-good, humorous book with well-developed, entertaining characters.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Take a Chance on Me from Sourcebooks for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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