Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter

Flap copy from paperback:
"He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and staring down her upcoming birthday- alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and the wild, passionate fling they have becomes the biggest surprise of Jackie's life.

Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood...and memories of Kai. He hasn't forgotten her. Yet thousands of miles of ocean- not to mention an age difference that feels even wider- separate them. And, of course, her friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?"

I won a set of Jane Porter books from a fellow book blogger, and was excited to have some lighter fare to offset some of the heavier novels I've read lately. I confess I saw part of the Lifetime movie based in this book which peaked my interest- I figured the mediocre movie had probably cherry-picked the melodramatic bits of the novel leaving the meat behind for readers. Ultimately though, I was disappointed to discover the book was as mediocre as the movie though perhaps for different reasons.

The premise of the novel is decent, and I definitely appreciated the strong opening where Jackie and her children must wrestle with the seemingly mundane problem of selecting and decorating the family Christmas tree. Porter does an excellent job of highlighting how hard even this simple task is as a single parent; hoisting and lashing a 10 foot tree onto the roof of a car is really a two-adult job.

Unfortunately, the strong opening that made me truly think about the day to day problems of raising two kids alone soon gave way to the stereotypical quest to find a man to resolve these life problems. Though I do agree that many parents focus more on the happiness of their children than on their own, I did get tired of hearing Jackie hammer that point home repeatedly during the narrative.

Jackie and her friends seemed shallow- focused on money and looks and status rather than on anything even vaguely meaningful. Jackie's inner monologue ran on an endless loop; she never really seemed to grow or develop during the course of the novel. I give Porter props for not wrapping up everything neatly at the end (one of my pet peeves with the movie) but still think she missed an opportunity to create multi-dimensional characters that would have given this novel the depth to stand with other works of literary fiction.

I give this one three stars- it would be a decent vacation read.

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