HelenKay: Bad break-ups are nothing new in romance and chick lit novels. Loser males dump these strong, smart and vibrant women all the time. Just as often (if not more so) these strong, smart and vibrant women dump their loser male mates after finding them naked and horizontal with the Maid of Honor/woman’s best friend/woman’s younger sister. The action then picks up at the dump or post-dump and follows the woman as she struggles to find a new life and new love in a world seemingly filled with male losers.
A book titled Your Big Break suggests the ultimate in dumping books. In some ways, it is. It follows the life and career of Dani Myers as she navigates through a world of unwanted relationships. The difference here is that Dani plays the role of professional dumper, not dumpee.
Dani is an attractive and successful twenty-something. She lives in Boston, holds down a job and takes care of herself. She also takes care of everyone else – their problems, that is. Dani works at Your Big Break, a company that helps people dump other people. For a price, Dani will end your relationship, deliver bad news, write a nasty letter or perform any number of unpleasant grown-up tasks you want to avoid. And, she’s good at it. She does so well, at least in part, because she frequently breaks her company’s Number One business rule: Do Not Get Personally Involved. Not only does Dani take care of the dumping, she also engages in some informal matchmaking.
Life begins to unravel for Dani when her personal life and business life collide. Uncomfortable and a bit embarrassed about her career, Dani keeps her occupation a secret from her family. That task becomes impossible when her latest potential client walks in wanting to break-up with her married boyfriend – “Big Jackass” – who happens to be Dani’s father. What ensues is a funny and poignant glimpse into that horrifying moment when a child discovers her parents are sexual (ewwww) and flawed (in different ways than ever imagined) and very human (who knew?) creatures. As Dani and her brother engage in a covert investigation into the truth about their father’s private life and their parents’ marriage, they wrestle with the confusion and disappointment that go along with finding out life is not quite as it seemed.
One of the strengths here is the juxtaposition of Dani’s lying with that of her family. She struggles with feelings of betrayal while trying to excuse her own behavior. The resulting push and pull raises the question of whether or not some lies are forgivable or even understandable. Whether or not lies about a job are harmless when compared to lies about a family’s foundation.
Edwards handles what could be a silly or distasteful plot regarding Dani’s father with dignified humor and a fresh voice. The lighter tone begins with Dani’s list of The Ten Biggest Break-up Excuses, Redefined. The list includes favorites like:
Excuse: We’re better off as friends.
Translation: The thought of having sex with you turns my stomach.
Excuse: I think we should date other people.
Translation: I’m already dating other people.
Excuse: I don’t deserve you.
Translation: I actually deserve someone much better than you.
Excuse: I used to you think you were The One; now I’m not so sure.
Translation: You weren’t this fat when we started dating.
Excuse: This hurts me as much as it hurts you.
Translation: My pain ends after this conversation; your pain lives on forever.
Excuse: I’m getting back together with my ex.
Translation: I no longer even speak to my ex, but I’d rather die alone than spend another second with you.
Mixing in and adding depth to the issues of job dissatisfaction and family discord are Dani’s eclectic group of clients. Some are walking stereotypes. Others are less shallow. All add to the growing disconnect between who Dani is in terms of values and needs, and what she does for a living.
While Your Big Break qualifies as smart and witty chick lit, there are a few downturns here. One of the ways in which Dani’s worklife goes off course is when she falls for the dumpee in one of her cases. Brady Simms is a recovering lawyer turned teacher. He’s handsome and good and everything his girlfriend – Dani’s client – is not. Dani falls for him in an instant. The plotline as to Dani’s love live, while handled with the same talented touch that works so well for the rest of the book, is predictable and a bit too perfect. The relationship follows exactly the path you expect, leading to an ending you know is coming at a speed that feels familiar. If the remainder of the book were less engaging, this shortcoming might not be so obvious. This stumble is noticeable but does not detract from the overall effectiveness and enjoyment of the read.
Final Thought: Charming and warm chick lit tale with a less-than-satisfying romance.
You can visits Johanna Edwards here and buy this book here or here.