‘Love is a Four Letter Word’ by Claire Calman

I have to admit to struggling with this book. It started off quite well – very much chick-lit, but snappy and smart and quite true-to-life. The heroine moved to a new area and the details of the house move were straight out of real life, with mishaps galore and boxes that gradually migrated around the house without ever being unpacked. And the heroine’s run-ins with a truly dreadful mother were priceless.

But oh dear, as soon as the love interest was introduced it turned into yet another (yawn) romance novel. The hero was a complete block and I couldn’t get the least bit worked up about the ‘will they won’t they’ nature of their relationship. Added to that, the most important thing in the heroine’s life was whether/when she would next have sex – but surely women these days think about more than that?

Some of the plot devices were decidedly old. I mean, come on, can’t the writer think of anything more original to keep hero and heroine apart, than heroine seeing nappies in hero’s shopping trolley at the supermarket? *rolls eyes* I saw through that one in about 5 seconds flat and I can’t believe everyone else won’t do the same.

As a first novel it wasn’t bad, but too often it read as though it was written by numbers, or as a response to a writing tutorial. You know – the tutor tells the author she needs conflict between heroine and her parents, so she puts in conflict. Then the tutor tells her the hero should be a new man, so she writes that in too. It’s all very well, but the characters then come across as a writing exercise rather than as real people, and all the dramatic tension is lost because you just can’t care about them.

I’m beginning to see why She Magazine was giving the book away free. Reading it straight after Patrick Gale was not a particularly happy contrast.

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