A Hopeless Romantic


I haven’t read a nice chick lit novel in a while, and I missed just kicking back and curling up with a light, fluffy read so I decided to be a little adventurous a couple weeks ago and grabbed this fairly thick book off my TBR.

I’d never heard of the title or author before, but I got Harriet Evans’ A Hopeless Romantic (book #138 for 2009) on BookMooch because I had to mooch an additional book to help defray shipping costs. I picked this book because it was rated high on Amazon and the cover art caught my eye.

It’s funny, because when I started reading this book, and it came at a time when one of the active threads in my book club (Flips Flipping Pages) was an ongoing discussion on when to stop reading when a book doesn’t catch your attention.

Some people give it a hundred pages; some people chuck a book when they don’t like it, and some, like me, finish a book when they’ve started it, whether they like the book or not. Call me compulsive, or masochistic even, but if I deign to start a book I have to finish it. Maybe put it away for a while if it really doesn’t catch my interest, but I feel like it’s disrespectful to give up on a book, especially if I’m going to pass judgment on it.

With this book, I plod through the first one hundred pages, and surprisingly (even I didn’t think it was possible), the author was able to turn the story around, and I ended up loving the book.

hopelessA Hopeless Romantic is about Laura, your typical head-in-the-clouds chick lit heroine who always falls too fast for practically every biological male that deigns to give her the time of day — the primary school outcast, her oboe teacher, the aspiring theater director who turned out to be in the closet; the Colombian exchange student; the dentist who overcharged her for dental treatments; and the list goes on and on.

In the first part of the book, we see Laura at her absolute worst, as she hooks up with a totally unsuitable guy and gets caught up in a twisted illusion of happily-ever-after, almost causing her to lose her friends and her career as a programs coordinator linking big corporations to underprivileged schools.

This was the part that was difficult to get through, because it takes a while before Laura sees the big picture, and it comes to a point where you want to bonk her on the noggin to knock some sense into her.

I was quite ready to write the book off as another one of those dime-a-dozen, neurotic chick lit novels that grated on my nerves, when Laura gets her wake up call and decides she’s done with the whole romantic shebang. She takes what’s left of her sorry life and decides to say goodbye to love altogether. She chucks away her hopeless romantic tendencies in a grand comical gesture that involves her trashing her sizeable collection of racy Georgette Heyer romance novels and chick flick videos (including a Doris Day boxed set).

To get away from it all (and to take her mind off the holiday she was supposed to be taking with Mr. Unsuitable), Laura decides to spend the holiday with her family in the Norfolk to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday.

While on holiday, Laura finds herself carted along on her parents’ idea of fun — attending folk band concerts, the steam-train display, watching Midsomer Murders and playing Trivial Pursuit, shopping at craft fairs, and discussing the agricultural and economic history of Norfolk over dinner.

When her parents drag her off to a tour of Chartley Hall, the stately home of the Marquess of Ranelagh, Laura wanders off in boredom, until she meets the mysterious — and hunky! — Nick, who appears to be the groundskeeper of the estate.

Laura is stuck in a quandary, as she doesn’t want to get her heart broken again, although it’s apparent she’s falling for Nick.  You can probably predict what happens next, so I’ll stop the summary right there.

As I read through the novel, I understood the need for the revolting first part of the book, as it was necessary to establish Laura’s almost serial falling-in-love habits. I guess this part also strikes a nerve as it happens to the best of us (myself included, unfortunately), and it often takes a different perspective for us to realize we’re in that situation.

Harriet Evan’s wit and humor came as a pleasant surprise, not too dry (or British) for my taste, and Laura is a protagonist that’s very easy to identify with. I like Laura’s self disc0very throughout the novel, and she grows on you as a character, and I must confess that I couldn’t put the book down after she reaches Chartley Hall.

It’s a very satisfying chick lit read, one of the best I’ve read and the best I’ve read in a long time, and I put Harriet Evans up there with Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Emily Giffin. Will definitely hunt down her other novels.


My copy: trade paperback

My rating: 4.5/5 stars

8 thoughts on “A Hopeless Romantic”

  1. Hello, Blooey! Wow, what discipline! I stop reading a book if I doesn’t capture my interest within the first 20 pages or so.

    How are you liking The Hunger Games?

  2. Hi Peter, haha, I just get paranoid about not finishing a book I’ve started. Lately I learned to be poly-bookist, but I still can’t leave a book unfinished for very long.

    I’m re-starting Hunger Games tonight :)

  3. I’ve been wondering if I should get this book. The cover is pretty enough, I’m just not sure if it’s good, but thanks to your review, I think I may get it :D

  4. Like you, I rarely chuck a book in mid-stride. I have to finish it, always with the hope that maybe its saving grace is a fourth toward the finish line. Or I guess I just have strong compulsion to finish whatever I started. Waste of time or not, I just have to find out.:)

  5. @Jo – I get what you mean, I always hold out to the end in the hopes of finding something redeeming in the book I’m reading.

  6. Unlike movies, I finish all the books I’ve started to read because (1) I spent money on it and (2) I just have to know how it ends and I’m not the kind of reader who reads the last page first just to see if it has an ending they’ll like. But it’s common for me to stop reading a book and continue wit it after a month or so. Hm.. what’s a poly-bookist? :D

  7. @Patrick – polybookist = someone who reads multiple books all at the same time, a term we use at Flips Flipping Pages. I’ll have to post about that sometime.

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