In May 2013, I reviewed a book titled This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas. I think it must have been her first book – it certainly started a series of similar title. I wasn’t unkind about the writer but chick lit is not my thing. I confess to a degree of condescension, and I doubt the publisher or author would find a suitable promotional endorsement in my piece: except that I had acknowledged her possibilities as a ‘good’ writer which in my terms simply meant she could do better than the cliché ridden pabulum of the genre. This was, of course, incredibly snobbish, and I apologise.
Hence it was a surprise recently to be sent a copy of her latest work – Leave Me Breathless – which is her eleventh book in her role as ‘the latest queen of erotic literature’ as the Sunday Times has described her. Hers is also an international success and she is on that paper’s and the New York Times best-seller list. With all this success there is no relevance in my reviewing the novel. It features (as any good book of this sort must) A Man and A Woman. They have Pasts and Issues and Dangerous Secrets. There is a seemingly happy ending – as you would expect after 400 pages of fast-moving narrative and a modest quantity of sex.
The prose style has tightened up since This Man. It’s a tad more muscular and some of the more egregious lifestyle props have been omitted. She says fuck or fucking quite a lot. That said, she remains faithful to the tropes of gender characteristics, physical sensation and emotional response. As with This Man she alternates the first person narrative between the male and female lead. It is, I think, the male who swears.
So I doff my chapeau to Ms Malpas. The girl done good, and I must examine my own prejudice. Literary preferences aside it is the pace I find so relentless, There is the same urgency you feel in sports commentators, or news reporters at the scene of a dramatic event. It can be heard when women are interviewed – the rush to pack in as much as possible before they are interrupted. The whole experience of reading this style of prose is of being hustled along like a passenger herded by a budget airline cabin crew to board or disembark.
There is also something appealingly old-fashioned about these stories. They remind me of Jackie Collins novels and dramas like Dynasty. They do not strive to present diversity or dig deep into the decay of western civilisation. This is a relief.
In short, not for me, but highly recommendable I am sure to women who like a bit of spicy romantic escapism. And why shouldn’t they. If you are ever my way Jodi, I’d be glad to offer you a cocktail.