Talk of the Town

Sherrill Bodine
December 2008, Contemporary Romance
Forever, $6.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446618586

Grade: C-
Sensuality: Hot

When it comes to creating characters, details matter. So when Sherrill Bodine flippantly mentioned (multiple times) within the first few pages of Talk of the Town that the heroine uses Botox and has had plastic surgery, I knew the book wasn’t off to a good start. The inclusion about details of nose jobs, face lifts, and Botox in a novel when the author is building the initial character and giving readers their first impression didn’t make me think I would like her that much. Unfortunately, I was right.

Society columnist Rebecca Covington is caught off guard when a blind item she wrote about an influential politician is incorrect – and she loses her job over it. However, the libel isn’t all that causes her to get demoted: David Sumner, the new owner of the newspaper she writes for, wants to take the paper in a new direction, and that means a younger gossip columnist. Rebecca is demoted to writing the food column – even though her oven has been broken for six months. To make matters worse, the new columnist hates her, and reveals that Rebecca is actually 45 - six years older than the age she’s been telling people she is.

With the help of some friends, she manages to write the column, and make it her own. However, she is still mad at her new boss, at least when she’s not attracted to him. As she and David flirt and build a relationship, Rebecca is also trying to figure out her life, where her career is going, where her loyalties lie, why the new gossip columnist hates her, and whether she and David have a future.

While I liked David, Rebecca simply wasn’t a character I liked. It wasn’t that she did anything atrocious, and I didn’t hate her. It was the little things, like how she talked, dressed, acted, that made me feel like she was elitist, shallow, a bit vain, and dependent on others. There were good qualities about her, too, but they sometimes seemed tacked for the sole purpose of counteracting her flightiness. There was also a certain level of detachment I felt with her. When we were in Rebecca’s point of view, most emotional or sensual moments felt disconnected, and lacked emotional intensity. Another thing that bothered me is her seeming ease in becoming a successful food columnist. Despite her lack of knowledge about cooking, ridiculous mistakes, and complete dependence on a friend, somehow or other she manages to succeed every time she steps into a kitchen. In addition to the issues with Rebecca, the conclusion to the story left something to be desired. The conflicts between the various characters had abrupt or incongruous resolutions.

All of that said, there were a few good moments. The side characters added a bit of color to the book; I really enjoyed Rebecca’s friends, and their contribution to the story. David was a good man and a good hero, his somewhat ageist business decisions aside. And there were a few strong emotional moments that I connected with.

All in all, though, Talk of the Town just didn’t work for me. If I don’t like the heroine, the rest of the book pretty much goes downhill from there. And simply put, I just didn't like Rebecca.

-- Jane Granville

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