I received a copy of Monarch Beach from Goodreads.
I realized while reading this one that unless there is a zany main character, or a unique situation, chick lit isn’t really for me. (I really enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries, for example.) If it’s mainly just about real-life struggles women go through, I start to get antsy. Maybe because these types of books are too realistic and not enough of an escape for me.
So take this review with a grain of salt.
When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life—and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention… and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down.
This is one of those lazy Sunday afternoon books. It has the expected drama (I gasped during the first page), the hot new guy, and a few sexy scenes. It’s enjoyable the way romantic comedies are enjoyable: you go in pretty much knowing what you’re going to get. So, in that sense, I would say this book for the most part fulfills all those desired elements.
My three-star rating is mainly due to Amanda herself. She didn’t really have any flaws. When bad things happened, they happened to her. Too much of a victim, maybe. The first chapter (the chapters are long in this book–sometimes as long as 40 pages) is essentially the backstory of her relationship with sexy but lecherous Andre, her husband of ten years. The chapter is bookended by Amanda catching Andre in the act. She had my sympathy in the beginning. What woman wouldn’t side with another woman who just caught her husband cheating on her? But all the backstory actually hurt her case for me. Red flags popped up all over the place, and I found myself thinking she was an idiot for falling for someone who even admitted that the concept of monogamy was “foreign” to Frenchmen. Hello, Amanda! Run away now!
The fact that he had been cheating on her for years and that she had no idea was a little unbelievable, too. She didn’t even have her suspicions. I found it hard to feel for her the more I knew about her past. And, again, maybe this is how things really are. Maybe lots of women marry the “wrong” men and want to believe so badly that they’re happy that they’re blind to even their own suspicions. But in fiction? In fiction, I want the woman to have some inkling, to have some plan of action when the shit hits the fan, to be stronger than the rest of us out here in the real world. To give those of us in this type of situation a role model for how to stand up for ourselves and get out.
Amanda constantly asked her best friend what she should do, but she never had any plans of her own. Then her mom swoops in and offers her an all-expense paid summer vacation in Laguna Beach so Amanda and her son Max can spend some time away from Andre.
Amanda’s family is incredibly rich, so money is not even a thought for them. Amanda often tells us about the luxuries of the St. Regis, from the chauffeured Bentley that drove them all over town, to ordering exorbitant amounts of room service. Beyond having a cad of a husband, she doesn’t suffer from or struggle with… anything, really. Aside from raising Max, she doesn’t work and has never had to. And she very well could now, at this point in her life, since Max is in school all day. Her life is pretty uncomplicated and a bit decadent. A completely different world from mine.
If the first chapter had been reduced to a few key things (Andre is a pig; Amanda’s friend from prep school, Stephanie, is Andre’s silent partner in his restaurant; Amanda has an eight-year-old son), and the details of their marriage left out (to be sprinkled in periodically later), I probably could have gotten past the brand-name-dropping. With my sympathy for her already waning, her lack-of-life-struggles only made it worse.
But this might just be another example of why I’m not the target audience for this book. Shows like Sex in the City never appealed to me. But for others, the rich life style might be something they can relate to, or something they want to live vicariously through. I’m not a brand name kind of girl, so mentioning her Manolo’s or her Theory sundresses didn’t impress me.
See what I mean about the grain of salt?
All that said, I was able to read the book with relative ease. The ending was actually a bit unexpected, which I appreciated.
If you’re looking for a beach-book, with a bit of a vicarious-woman’s-fantasy vibe, you’ll probably really enjoy Monarch Beach.
Rating: 3 out of 5