Book in a Minute: Mad About the Boy

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mark Darcy is no longer in the picture for Bridget, and by now, most Helen Fielding fans know why he’s not there. But no matter the reason for his absence, it’s simply a cheat to go from that happy ending so many years ago to no books at all about their married life together. To open with Mark as gone as gone can be at the outset of the new book is at first confusing, then infuriating, and finally just disappointing.

While I understand Helen Fielding’s desire to shake things up, it didn’t feel like “playing fair” with the audience. Also, it didn’t quite work. The book lurched between moods in a jarring way. To be fair, that is much how real life feels as one passes 50, but fiction, as the saying goes, needs to make more sense. Forced attempts to recall the wacky Bridget of yesteryear (upside down in a tree while wearing a thong, no less) alternate uneasily with moments of touching, heartfelt emotion about her grief over Mark’s death.

Some scenes and images really stuck with me. Bridget recalling how Mark died and how she learned about it, the scene where her mother consoles her, and the owl that flies away near the end of the book–all were beautifully written. Women of a certain age will definitely relate to many of Bridget’s funny/sad experiences–the reading glasses, the stiffening body, the truly hilarious Botox mishap. But by and large, it’s an uneven book and a disappointment.

I suppose I should only give it two stars, but I’m too fond of Bridget–and Helen Fielding–to be that hard on either of them. Here’s hoping Bridget’s allowed to keep this latest happy ending, while Helen moves on to new territory.

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A New Beginning. Or maybe just a slow fade.

As I said in the last post at my old blog, I’m making some changes this year. I’ve got the rights back to the two books I published with The Wild Rose Press and plan to republish them with new covers. This should end the whole pesky “lesbian porn” issue. It seems a number of friends and acquaintances were quite spooked by the original cover of Thirty-Nine Again, not just because the couple were undressed and in a slightly risque pose. No, the fact is, lots of folks thought that guy on top of the blonde chick wasn’t really a guy at all. He looked pretty manly to me, but clearly I wasn’t considering the effects of bad lighting, aging eyes, eyes too vain to wear their glasses, and the dreaded over-active imagination. Hence, the belief that a nifty little chick lit suspense novel was actually some sort of lesbian erotica – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still, the next cover will definitely be somewhat more tame.

But what’s to come after I re-release the first two novels?

To be honest, I have no clue. Many friends are urging me to get back to writing fiction and to self-publish my works. I like that with self-publishing, I can choose my own covers and schedule my book release dates at a time convenient to me. But I have to confess, this whole self-publishing e-book thing does take a bit of the shine off of publishing for me. I bought a Kindle, but I still have difficulty seeing e-books as “real” books. In the world of self-publishing (or indie publishing, as it’s more fashionably called now) I’ve discovered some wildly talented authors – James Everington, I’m looking at you. But I’ve discovered that an alarming number of people with no knowledge of spelling, grammar, or the most basic storytelling techniques have decided they want to be authors – or at least be able to call themselves “authors.” I worry that these hacks and self-deluded hipsters are going to give self-publishing a bad name. Oh wait – it already had a bad name in traditional print publishing.

Still, e-books and indie publishing could mark a fresh start for the entire industry, so I hope we don’t wind up awash in badly written third-rate fiction. And I definitely don’t want to contribute to the pile of third-rate stuff.

My friends who’ve jumped on the indie bandwagon are urging me to “hurry up” and get some new stories written and get them out there – as if the most critical component of a story is the speed at which it’s written. I’ve always been pretty fast at writing news stories; but fiction, not so much. I understand what my friends are saying: they fear the big names are swooping into the e-book market now and will soon be crowding out the lesser-known indie authors who launched this new wave. And they’re probably quite right. But I have to be who I am, and who I am is just not fast.

So I’m hoping to find the time to write some new fiction this year, and I’m planning to self-publish it if I do. But I’m going to take my time – something I know the Internet gods really hate. The stories will come when they come, and if they come, I’ll definitely share them with you. But I’m not going to scramble to put together some formulaic fiction I don’t enjoy just so I can follow the Pied Piper of Instant Gratification. I’m going to sit back and take my time with this thing called living, and if I find a story worth writing down, that’s cool. If not, I’m beginning to think that’s cool too. As my hairdresser says, It’s all good.