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Friday, September 15, 2006

**** Improper English by Katie MacAlister. Contemporary romance.


If I'm not mistaken, this is Katie's first contemporary. It's not quite as solid as her more recent ones, but she definitely already had the "voice" down and an amazing gift for humor.

Alix is a young woman at a crossroads. She's failed at marriage, failed at every job she's tried, definitely failed to win her mother's approval or respect. So now she's decided to become a novelist. Her mother has paid her rent for 2 months in an apartment in London, on the condition that she write--and finish--a book. If she does, her mother will support her for a year to get herself established. If she doesn't, well, her grandmother (grandfather? I'm fuzzy on this--it's only mentioned once) needs tending.

She's determined to make it work, but she's insecure about it, so she asks everyone--and I mean everyone--their opinion on her chapters. Most of the chapters in Improper English begin with a snippet of what she's currently writing, and it's mostly hilariously bad. The opinions she gets don't help any, either.

Complicating matters, Alix's landlady Isabella wants to set her up with "the perfect man," Karl, but Alix instead has major sparks going with her neighbor, Scotland Yard inspector Alex. (There's a cute, understated exchange regarding their similar names, then the subject is dropped.)

Alix is a combination of bravado and insecurity, and has a habit, as do many of MacAlister's heroines, of blurting out whatever pops into her mind. Alex, on the other hand, is serious and staid. They bring out the best in each other, but Alix's insecurities make her jump to conclusions and keep her from getting too close.

Humor is definitely MacAlister's strong suit, and I started laughing aloud on the first page, and chapter 3 had me laughing until I cried. There were a couple of things that didn't quite work--Isabella's habit of getting names wrong, for example: it didn't go anywhere. More could also have been made of Alix/Alex, though I did love the one time it was addressed. But... see above, re: "first contemp." I'm not going to complain too much.

Alix was a nicely complex heroine. She did grate on me once or twice, with her insistence that they had to break up, and most particularly when she was angry that Alex didn't put her ahead of his job (he had a valid reason not to at the time). However, it was realistic, and fit with her character, and I loved how her character grew and developed throughout the course of the book.

Alex wasn't quite as well developed, but then, this was Alix's story.

Another theme that pops up in MacAlister's work is the displaced heroine. I've never been to England (yeah, I know. and yeah, I've seen the Ryan Air prices.), but I've lived for 12 years in a country where I'm not a native, and Alix's situation did resonate with me quite a lot. She manages the contrasts between American and Brit with a lot of humor and honesty, and (though I'd like to hear from someone from England about this to see if it's just my impression) without insulting either side.

Bottom line: A fast, funny, feel-good read. There's a reason Katie Mac's on my must-buy list.

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Fantastic review...this sounds like it has the great potential of being a funny movie. You have inspired me to want to read the book!

I read a lot, but not as many novels as I read non-fiction. I like the idea in here of us seeing part of her novel in progress, I think thats brilliant. And I like that its not very well written HER fake novel that is...I think a lot can be done with that premise...and now I want to find out what happens.

I love book reviews and have two on-line book clubs I've participated in for ten years...so I love finding another avid reader.

Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday and reading my rather long, heavy post about the environment. I had so many awesome challenging comments that I posted a new response today. I hope maybe you might have time to drop by and read it, I'd really like to hear your perspective...


Oh, yes, it would make a fun romantic comedy movie. I can especially see her reading her manuscript to everyone around and watching their reactions.

I'll stop by. Thanks for the heads-up!
Sounds like an interesting book.
I wish I still had time to read a good book. Perhaps I just need to make it a priority.
Thanks for stopping by.
Darla - Improper English is one of Katie's book I yet to read. Not to forget I have two other books by her that I haven't read "Hard Days Knight" and "Blow Me Down".

*sigh* - I will never get to tose three books, aren't I?
LOL! Don't feel bad. Blow Me Down is still languishing in my TBR pile, too. *sigh*
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