It’s summer and with summer comes more reading. A friend gave me a book by Jenny Colgan as summer reading and I finished it the other day. I have read some things by Jenny Colgan before and I’ve liked it well enough. It’s chic lit and chic lit might not be my favorite genre but Jenny Colgan’s author notes are so charming that I can’t really help myself. I also like that her heroines are quite accomplished, they have a talent and they know it and they do something about it. I like that. I’ve started to see a pattern though. It’s sort of the same formula in many of Colgan’s books, they only thing that change is the heroine’s talent. They all even fall for the grumpy guy whom they despise in the beginning.
This book – The Little Shop of Happy Ever After – is about shy and bookish Nina who is laid off from her work at a library (they often get laid off in the beginning, often due to budget cuts or a change in management) and buys a van and fills it with books and travels around Scotland to sell these books. In the beginning she is shy but Scotland suits her (I do want to go to Scotland some day) and after a while I started noticing that there wasn’t much of a difference between Nina and the heroines from other books. I think that must be so difficult for an author, to actually change the personality from their different characters, especially if it’s a main one. They so easily become stereotypes, as in commedia dell’arte. Sure, chic lit is supposed to be an easy breezy read but some variety is needed even here.
Main characteras are interesting. I once read a book where I realized towards the end that the heroine was a horrible person. It grew gradually over the course of the book and by the end you really disliked her. I find that very clever and interesting since it’s not often that you don’t like the main character. You are kind of supposed to and most books also make you do that but not this one and I thought that was an interesting tactic from the author, since it wasn’t an immediate dislike from page one but one that grew stronger and stronger.
Nina in The Little Shop of Happy Ever After however, she is very likeable. I like the book references, I love it when I understand them which I often do, but I wonder in her taste in men. She compares them to heros in books, saying that they are neither a Mr. Darcy not a Heatcliff and sure, Mr. Darcy might sound good on paper and we do love him in Pride and Prejudice but in real life, nah, I don’t think so (that’s another chic lit by the way, Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter). Heathcliff though, he’s not boyfriend material and has never been. Not in the books and certainly in real life (I think he would actually be in prison had he been a real person). He is the reason why I feel a bit scared when I think of the British moors (and Mr. Rochester does nothing to help that sentiment) and no one, not even Emily Brontë herself, could have thought that spending the evening in the garden, shouting Cathy and banging your head against a tree could ever be romantic. There is something seriously wrong with Heathcliff (Cathy herself is not very nice either) and one should never, ever get involved with someone like that. Yes, he had a horrible childhood and Cathy is not nice to him but that is absolutely no excuse to what he does. Stay away from Heathcliff, Nina! I sure hope the guy she actually do end up with (it’s chic lit, the persection of love is its’ sole purpose so there is no spoiler here) is nothing at all like Heathcliff. (Speaking of Wuthering Heights, there you have a book with pretty much no likeable character, neither Cathy nor Heathcliff but also not Edgar nor Hindley and don’t even get me started on that wretched Nelly Dean.) I think Bridget Jones, queen of chic lit, nailed it when she meets Mark Darcy, and says that it struck her as “pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting ‘Cathy’ and banging your head against a tree”. So, by all means, pine after Mr. Darcy all you want, Nina, but I sure draw the line at Heathcliff.