The line that divides the romance genre from that of chicklit is sometimes a very fine one and often somewhat blurred. In many cases, it's simply snobbery that leads readers to describe a book as chicklit because they'd rather not admit to reading romance.
To my way of thinking, a romance novel is very much character driven with most of the emphasis on the relationship between the two protagonists, whereas chicklit has a contemporary setting with slightly more plot but again, puts considerable emphasis upon the relationship. I guess, by that definition, Fair Game sits fairly and squarely in the chicklit arena.
Harriet Grey is so involved in the dramatic events in her friends' lives that she's somewhat neglected her own but when she encounters the most attractive man she's met in a long while, she's sorely tempted. But John Mackenzie is involved with someone else: someone Harriet knows, someone Harriet doesn't exactly like. Nina.
Harriet had been at school with Nina, though they could never have been described as best friends. Nina is ultra glamorous and always manages to makes Harriet feel slightly frumpy and unattractive but John is Nina's boyfriend and Harriet knows she should resist temptation. But one little thank you drink won't hurt, will it?
This book is now out of print and I found my copy in a local charity shop. Amazon have several new and used copies available with a starting price of 1p.
I have to be in the mood for chicklit these days, largely because I feel the market is overrun with so many quirky heroines all looking for their Mr Right that they've now all morphed into one gigantic Bridget Jones.
Most psychologists, of the Myers Briggs variety at any rate, will tell you that there is only a finite number of personality types amongst humankind. However, we all have our unique selling point and, for me, that was the problem with this book. Harriet, supposedly the heroine of this tale, was exactly like every other chicklet heroine I ever came across - middle class, middle income and very middle of the road. She has the usual gang of ex-university friends (surprisingly minus a gay one this time), body image issues (don't we all), and parents who live somewhere in the country and don't understand her at all.
After the early scene setting pages, I was expecting to dislike this book intensely, especially as it was immediately obvious that the whole premise of the novel was going to be based on a big misunderstanding (a plot device I absolutely hate), but I was agreeably surprised by this book and despite a lot of the predictability of the story, I quite enjoyed it.
Elizabeth Young has an easy and engaging writing style which immediately makes the reader warm to Harriet, despite her similarity in so many ways to Bridget Jones. She's the archetypal nice girl, hardworking and loyal to her friends. She's living a fairly ordinary life in London, sharing a house with her friends plus baby and a cat. The baby belongs to Harriet's oldest friend, Sally, who fell pregnant after a very brief fling with Steve, who failed to mention that he was married!
The others in the house are Frida, a Swedish girl who only flits in and out of the story and Jacko. Jacko is the kind of laid back male friend we'd all like to have, cast very much in the big brother mould. Generally in these sort of books, Jacko would have been the obligatory gay friend, another plot device which I feel has been done to death.
As for the hero, John, he's another "nice" character: charming, handsome, urbane, and Nina's!! However, despite being Nina's boyfriend, he doesn't seem averse to wining and dining Harriet and it soon becomes apparent he has more than mere friendship in mind.
The romance between John and Harriet is fairly predictable with the wining and dining followed by a visit to his parent's, complete with manic dog. There are some sweet moments but most of them are pretty unmemorable.
In fact, for me, the romance between two of the secondary characters was far more appealing, but I'm afraid I can't go into detail without giving away too much of the plot.
Despite my early misgivings about this book, I did enjoy it, although it does have its drawbacks. There are too many "nice" people in the book, the only "baddie" as such being Nina. Nina, is very much a stereotypical beautiful bitch of the kind we're just itching to see get her comeuppance. And there were no absolutely standout moments in the book at all, with the possible exception of the snowball fight during which our hero and heroine realise their true feelings. Frankly though, once I'd finished this book and begun reading another novel, the entire storyline faded from my mind. I've had to flick through again to refresh my memory.
This isn't a bad book by any means it's just a "nice" story but nothing more.