Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James

The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James (Rated: S, P mild, some vulgar words)
Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 978-1402253164
Published April 2011
Trade Paperback, 512 pages

Clayton Miller is a comedy script writer who has hit an all-time low when his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend and writing partner, Bazza, and the media has a field day after Clayton publicly acts impulsively and irrationally. Alice Barrett is a voiceover artist (she's the voice for audio books, TV commercials, etc.) who can impersonate others but is stuck in her own life and lives with guilt over the past. When she meets Clayton who is temporarily hiding at Cuckoo House in the English countryside where Alice grew up, they form a friendship and become involved. She opens up to him and tells him about her childhood. Her stories break through his 3-year writer's block, eventually rekindling his career. But another impulsive act on Clayton's part shatters their relationship.

This is the first time I read a novel by British author Erica James, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was pulled into the story. Although nearly 500 pages, I didn't feel it dragged and I finished it in a few days. James has a way of building complex characters such as Clayton, and sometimes quirky characters such as George (Georgina), the elderly neighbour who was a little spitfire, full of life and vigour. The characters weren't typical but they were familiar. They were likable, flawed, vulnerable, sometimes weak and sometimes strong.

The strength in this novel, however, is the dialogue. It is simply fantastic—witty, funny, honest. It divulged appropriately who the characters were. James does not burden us with too much description (it was the right amount for me to picture everything) so that it was the dialogue and action that propelled the story. There were funny moments and there were sad moments.

Having said all this, I had to roll my eyes at how quickly the characters switched from one relationship to another. There is a fair amount of adultery and backstabbing, and some mildly explicit sex scenes. At the end of the story, there is one new relationship formed between secondary characters that I did not find realistic. I didn't think the two should have gotten together. Finally, the scene where Alice finds out what Clayton has been doing without her consent was anti-climactic for me.

However, this is a fun and light read. I'm sure that fans of British chick lit will definitely like this one.

I will count this book toward the following challenges: TwentyEleven Challenge, Reading the World Challenge

Disclosure: Thanks to Beth Pehlke from Sourcebooks for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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