October 4th, 2008

_The Corset Diaries_, Katie MacAlister

The first time I read a romance novel/chick lit involving the characters being on a reality show, it was a really cool, clever idea.

Now, it is apparently a subgenre.

In this particular outing, Our 39 Year Old Heroine (who is a size 18), gets an out-of-the-blue offer (really, a demand) to participate in a British version of 1900 House (only it's 18 something and she gets to be a duchess). The results is particularly amusing because it operates on several levels: there's the romance (duh), the reality show, the Victorian Era Comedy of Manners, a minor mystery to be solved, etc. Surprisingly, MacAlister does a pretty competent job juggling all these pieces. And did I mention it is written as a journal in the first person? No? Oh, well, that's trendy, too.

Our Heroine was widowed 3 years ago from a first husband 20 years her senior. While she loved him dearly and more or less closed up emotional shop after his death, the genre tendency to depict previous spouses as Not Particularly Great in Bed is alive and well in this outing. Our Hero has a daughter, who is also participating in the reality show so we get to see some of the how-daughter-responds-to-father's-new-love-interest interaction. Probably the weakest element of the novel is the Drama surrounding horseback riding. It's a great idea, but the execution was a little too pat.

Fun and funny. Big extra points for having a protagonist who is _not_ twenty something AND not skinny. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you'll probably get a kick out of it.