Tag Archives: romantic comedy

Review: Save the Date, by Jenny B. Jones

Save the Date, by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson, 2011)

Lucy Wiltshire runs a Saving Grace, a non-profit home for 18- and 19-year-old young women who’ve aged out of the foster care system and might otherwise be on the streets. The daughter of a cleaning lady, she feels more in common with these girls than with the affluent Charleston society members on whom she depends for donations.

Her desperate attempt to reverse a major funding cut ends in disaster—and with only one option to keep a roof over her girls’ heads: pose as wealthy Alex Sinclair’s love interest. Alex is a former football star who’s running for Congress, and dating a hometown girl like Lucy is just what he needs to improve his image.

The fake-engagement plot is nothing new, but author Jenny B. Jones keeps it fresh and adds other layers of story. Alex and Lucy sign a five-month agreement and plan to quietly “break up” after the election. She thinks he’s shallow and arrogant. He doesn’t want a long-term commitment this early in his career.

But Lucy begins to discover the good in Alex, and the approaching breakup adds to her stress. And stress there is. The girls’ home is saved, thanks to Alex’s money, but the girls still need care and Lucy’s on a crash course to learn enough about politics and high society to stand by “her” man in his campaign. Her mentor’s trying to re-make her, the paparazzi haunt her, and worst of all is the truth she learns about her father.

In the middle of high-society Charleston and US congressional politics (neither of which are big draws for this middle-class Canadian) Lucy is a delightful character. Spunky, quirky, and with a tendency to break something when she’s embarrassed, she’s unpretentious and fun. And she’s into Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. A bonus, for me.

She’s also a Christian, and her friends don’t think lying about a relationship with Alex is God’s way of providing for Saving Grace. But they stand by her, and she makes some surprising new friends along the way.

Save the Date is a heart-warming read complete with witty verbal sparring between Lucy and Alex. These two feel like real people and I genuinely cared about what would happen to them. There are some colourful support characters that add to the fun.

It’s also a novel that takes a serious look at insecurity and poor self-image. Jenny B. Jones is too good a writer to turn the novel into anything heavy-handed, but what Lucy and Alex learn, we can learn right along with them.

These deep insights are part of what I appreciate in her adult novels. Her previous one, Just Between You and Me, deals with fear, and I count it among the handful of life-changing fictional stories I’ve read. Based on that, as soon as I heard this new novel was in the works, I “saved the date,” and this book is every bit as good as the first.

Jenny B. Jones is best known for her young adults’ “Charmed Life” series, which are good fun for adults as well. She has a new young adult novel, There You’ll Find Me, coming out in October 2011. You can find Jenny at her website and her blog. (You may also want to see my review of Just Between You and Me.)

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Swinging on a Star, by Janice Thompson

Swinging on a Star, by Janice Thompson (Revell, 2010)

One of the rules of fiction is “craft a strong opening,” and Janice Thompson nails it in Swinging on a Star:

“If Aunt Rosa hadn’t landed that gig on the Food Network, I probably wouldn’t have ended up on the national news. And if their pesky camera crew hadn’t shown up at our house on one of the most important days of my life, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been hauled off to the Galveston County jail. Unlike my brother Armando, I’d never aspired to get arrested or have my face plastered across the television screen on the evening news.”

I couldn’t stop there!

Bella Rossi manages a wedding facility on Galveston Island, Texas, and her current project is a medieval event complete with castle and costumes. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a TV crew coming to film her aunt’s famous cooking, and the handsome movie star staying at the house until the wedding has her cowboy boyfriend, D.J., on high alert.

Bella lives with her large and boisterous Italian family, and just meeting them made this introvert want to go take a rest. The Rossis are a wealthy family, and Bella’s mother and sister are highly conscious of fashion and makeup.

I didn’t connect immediately. They’re all real, though, and genuinely nice people who are worth getting to know. Add in D.J.’s family and larger-than-life friends, and you have a cast worth spending a novel with.

I don’t read a lot of romantic comedy or chick lit, and it took some time to adjust: no danger, no bodies, mysteries or aliens. By page 43 I was laughing out loud and thinking maybe I usually read the wrong kinds of books.

The book cover is attractive, but not entirely accurate. Bella loves to wear boots—even when maybe she shouldn’t. On the cover she’s wearing shoes and holding what looks suspiciously like a bag of popcorn. Growing up an a household that thrives on made-from-scratch Italian cuisine, would she even have tasted popcorn?

Swinging on a Star is the second title in the Weddings by Bella series. (Book one was Fools Rush In… notice a musical theme?) It’s refreshing, funny, and still gives that sense of hope that readers want in Christian fiction. American author Janice Thompson has published over 50 books and is still going strong. You can find her online at her website.

Read an excerpt of Swinging on a Star here.  Or if you’ve already read the novel, find discussion questions here.

Swinging on a Star is available now at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Review copy provided by Graf-Martin Communications Inc.