Romance and chick lit are not art forms that succeed or fail on originality. Readers and authors alike might chafe at the notion that every romance is the same, save for the hair color of the hero and heroine, and one chick lit novel is only distinguishable from another by the shade of pink on the cover, but those sentiments hold a lot of truth, even if the verbiage is meant to demean. And that truth — that plotlines like Cinderella’s maid to princess tale are told over and over again — is really OK. Really. There is a certain comfort in knowing what a book holds before the first page is read. What isn’t known, and where romance and chick lit have the opportunity to succeed or fail, is with what each author will bring to well used constructs. It’s the reworking of the familiar and injection of freshness into the staid that makes a twice (or more) told tale something that stands out. Without those elements, romance and chick lit become caricatures of themselves.
Alesia Holliday’s Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover is intended as a lighthearted romp through the minefield of personals relationships. Its goal isn’t any loftier than to entertain. The end result is decidedly mixed, as it’s too easy to see the well worn elements and not easy enough to see the freshness.
Shane Madison is a young woman living in the city (New York), working in a boutique (Sensuality), with a love life full of so many pitfalls she could (and does) advise others on how to exit dead-end relationships with such grace, the other party will think it’s their idea. It’s that last thing, what comes to be known as The Breakup Artist, that causes Shane, and her story, so much trouble. When Mrs. P., the owner of Sensuality, offers Shane $500 to help her niece Lizzie break up with “Awful” Ben, The Breakup Artist becomes a sideline business for Shane and Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover becomes a 100th generation copy of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. That is not to says that Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover becomes a saga of dueling bets, with a relationship built on half truths and lies, but it does employ the same how-to-get-rid-of-an-unwanted-Him-just-by-being-an-annoying-chick philosophy, which eventually leads to a relationship built on half truths and lies.
With one ad placed in a newspaper, The Breakup Artist, finds a lot of clients clamoring for someone to help them end their relationships. But why? At the crux of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days there was an article about how women unintentionally chase away men when they want those men to hang around. It’s a relatable, understandable dilemma, one the article hopes to answer. Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover doesn’t offer that same grounding. The clients that approach Shane lack believable reasons as to why they would seek outside help in breaking up with their significant other or, in fact, need help at all. Shane’s first client Lizzie is a socialite reminiscent of Paris Hilton (minus the international fame), who is selfish and self centered, rather miserable in fact, but who seeks out Shane’s help to end a relationship, all to spare the feelings of an old friend. It doesn’t add up. Another client, Brenda, attempts to lose a lover who slept with her sister. Again, help is needed here?
None of the characters, from meddling Shane to her roommate Annie, who doesn’t know The Guy when he falls for her, to the down-the-hall neighbors Michel and Farren, who lack a rather basic level of trust in their relationship, are smart about themselves. Nor are they smart about the people around them. Another of Shane’s clients, Melissa, wants to lose her marriage-and-family-seeking boyfriend Tony. Tony is gorgeous and head over heals in love with Melissa, so discarding him like smelly fish is a natural. Shane and Melissa attempt to trick Tony into breaking up with Melissa by first turning Melissa into a sexy temptress and then buying a baby basinet. When neither plan works, both women are surprised that the in-love-and-ready-to-settle-down Tony isn’t driven off by these ruses. There are lots of dumb, or not-so-bright, or down-a-brain-cell-or-two people in the world, but this cast of characters is large enough that at least one of them should be smarter than the dog, Lulu, who is unfailingly accurate in her character judgment.
The first recipient of Shane’s breakup skills, Lizzie’s “dumpee”, is Ben Cameron, who quickly learns that he was set up by The Breakup Artist and even more quickly vows revenge. His desire for retribution cools when he meets Shane and his desire for her heats up. They begin a relationship that is full of stops and starts, with Shane (not knowing her Ben and Lizzie’s “Awful” Ben are the same man) embarrassed to admit her sideline business, and Ben not really caring that he was setup or that Shane played a role in it. Even still Ben’s conscience (?) – his memory (?); reason of being with Shane in the first place (?) – rises up at convenient times to briefly separate the would be couple. There is little weight attached to the revelation of Ben’s secret, and how could there be? Getting the truth out works so well for everyone: being rid of the odious Lizzie isn’t something either Ben or Shane need to lose sleep about, Ben’s revenge plans were over pretty much the moment he laid eyes on Shane, so no harm, no foul there, and these two have no internal or external conflict to otherwise keep them apart or threaten their happily ever after.
Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover begins with promise of a familiar, yet engaging, construct: to lose a lover that doesn’t want to be lost. The voice is feather lite, the scenarios reigned by absurdity, the plot a marriage of romance and chick lit. Unfortunately, the end product doesn’t cover new ground. It feels a little too familiar for freshness and retread instead of reworked.
You can visit Alesia here and purchase this book here and here.