Author: Sarra Manning
Publisher: Headline Review
Date: May 2009
Genre: Fiction- Romance
At 562 pages, this is perhaps the longest contemporary chick-lit novel that I have ever encountered- and I think towards the end I would have sold a quarter of my soul for 562 more.
I don’t even know where to begin talking about this book. I’m supposed to provide you with instances that I liked, giving you tiny little teasing insights into the story. But how can I when I loved every single word on every single page. Even the thes, ands and buts.
When I’m down in the dumps, or suffering from a case of the mean reds (look it up), I shop. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a pretty pair of shoes or a sparkly pair of earrings or for us book whores, a stack of glossy new covers, to put a little light into our day or help us escape from whatever baddie that has lodged itself into our heads. It’s silly, I know, but it comes with being a girl, this idea that if something can make us feel a little prettier, for even a second, it will offset the effect of whatever is bringing us down. There isn’t a woman alive that doesn’t want to feel pretty and even fleeting seconds of pretty can offset a whole day full of hurt.
Grace is a regular girl, who earns a crap wage at a thankless job. She’s consistently unlucky in love and has no new prospects on the horizon, romantically or financially so. There’s nothing quite as soul constricting as the feeling of not being able to get out, of being not just stuck in a bad situation but resigned to it. And that’s where Grace is, and she’s miserable. So when the money isn’t even enough to keep the lights on, why not spend what you don’t have on something that can give you a quick fix of feel better. Grace shops, buying outrageously expensive and beautiful things in the hopes that reveling in such luxury, even for a moment, will fill the hole that living her life leaves. When she is unceremoniously dumped by her latest fuckwit boyfriend, on her birthday, in her favorite store, it’s just about the extent of all she can handle. Not use to playing the damsel in distress, Grace is understandably suspect when a kindly gentlemen ushers her away from the embarrassing scene and plies her with champagne and chocolate cake.
Vaughn is a far cry from the valiant knight on a white horse. He’s selfish, moody, demanding and at times deliberately hurtful, making him a poor candidate for a relationship. He is, however, filthy rich and when he offers Grace a nontraditional romantic arrangement that could put an end to her financial troubles, Grace is left with a decision that could further alienate her from the life she truly wants to lead but could possibly give her the security she so desperately desires. It comes down to a matter of just what she’s willing to do and what she’s willing to give up, for money.
So yes, we have here a proposed case of negotiable affection. At a whopping $14,000 pounds a year, Grace’s job barely affords food so I didn’t blink when she accepted Vaughn’s indecent proposal. Ladies, rich good looking men do not pick up sniveling poor girls in department stores and offer to give them tons of money and buy them clothes, so your wanton soul will not be condemned to hell if you go ahead and live vicariously through Grace. It -is- OK.
I loved Grace. Loved Loved Loved her. She was so instantly relatable that the older me had to keep reminding the younger me that she is a fictional character and no we can’t go have lunch together and be friends. She’s smart, creative, unique and so deserving of a better life that I couldn’t judge her for anything she did.
And Vaughn, poor unbelievably fucked in the head, bipolar asshole that he is, I loved him too. I loved him because despite his emotional infancy, he isn’t a bad guy- at least not in terms of infidelity, rakishness or dishonesty. He maintains monogamous, honest relationships with well defined emotional and physical restraints that have a preordained shelf life. For him it’s merely a defense against heartache as he doesn’t feel he’s much of a catch either. A wise woman once told me that a woman would rather be with a bank robber than a cheater and Vaughn is a one woman man, even if he isn’t the kind that’s in it for the long haul. I really love that about him. It’s in such stark contrast to the nature of their relationship that you can’t help but get attached.
This book, THIS book. I swear, I went through so many emotions reading this and the last 75 pages resulted in an unforeseen snot feast that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I really had no idea how things were going to end and I went ahead and prepared myself for the worst- and I won’t tell you if it came to that or not. Ha ha.
This book hasn’t been published in the US and I had to adopt my copy from overseas. It came to me damaged, spine broken, cover pealing and pitiful and I’m torn between wanting a shiny new copy to keep forever and holding on to this one that has the look of a book well loved. I’m already on the prowl for more of Manning’s books as I suspect we have a long and lovely future together in store for us.
’Gran, this is Vaughn. Vaughn, this is my grandmother, Jean.’
They shook hands, because her grandmother’s generation didn’t do air kisses, and then sized each other up like two dogs warily circling each other, before one of them decided to go for the throat.
’Grace has told me a lot about you,’ Vaughn said politely, his face wearing a smiling Vaughn mask that didn’t even look like him. ‘It’s good to finally meet you.’
’Well, she’s told me very little about you,’ her grandmother replied because she’d survived a war, one stillbirth, a daughter who’d got knocked up at seventeen and ten years of a Labour government, and she didn’t take shit from anyone.
More love for Unsticky:
Angie @ Angieville
Holly @ The Book Harbinger