Practically Perfect

Katie Fforde
2008 reissue of 2006 release, Chick Lit
St. Martin's, $24.95, 373 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312378548

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Subtle

I went on a major glom of Katie Fforde's books a year ago. While I found the quality of her books to be a bit hit or miss, Practically Perfect is one of my favorites. If you think chick lit is solely made up of heroines obsessed with shopping, this book should disabuse you of that notion.

Anna is an interior designer. With her sister's financial assistance, she purchases a completely run-down cottage in a small town outside of London. She moves into the cottage with plans to rehab and sell it for a profit. The cottage is "listed," meaning all changes have to be approved by the local authorities. The previous owners began a series of renovations Anna discovers were not approved and her life becomes filled not just with renovations, but also with various local activities.

Anna meets a number of interesting local residents, chief among them her neighbor and her three young boys. Thanks to her new friend, Anna reluctantly adopts a sweet, timid greyhound. Soon enough Anna meets Rob at a village market when he rescues the dog after she bolts at a loud sound. It turns out that Rob is the officer for the local greyhound rescue center and he also works for the "listed buildings" department – or, as Anna initially thinks of him, the Bastard Dog Man and the Bastard House Man. Despite her initial misgivings, Anna soon warms to Rob.

If this were a traditional romance novel, we know that Anna and Rob would eventually end up together, however, this is chick lit and there is also another man in the heroine’s life. Anna fell in love with Max when he was a visiting instructor at her school and even though she hasn’t heard from him in years and they shared little more than one dance, her love for Max has continued. When Anna gets the chance to meet him at a school reunion, she takes advantage of it, despite her growing friendship with Rob. Soon Anna and Max are involved in a relationship, while at the same time Anna becomes increasingly fond of Rob.

Max is the complete opposite of Rob. Rob is at home with small town life, makes friends easily, and volunteers for all types of causes. In contrast, Max is a stylish, arrogant architect, comfortable only in London elite circles. With Rob, Anna can be herself. With Max, Anna must pretend to be someone she is not.

Consistent with chick lit, the book is Anna's story, told completely from her point-of-view (although not in first person, as are many chick lit books) and we know Rob and Max solely through Anna's eyes. Fortunately, I liked Anna and enjoyed all parts of her life – well, except for the snotty Max. I also enjoyed this glimpse of small-town British life, although since I’ve never having lived in a small British town, I have no idea how realistic or unrealistic it is. I also found the ending to be very satisfactory, and definitely believed in Anna's HEA.

This book won't appeal to readers looking for a traditional romance with one hero and one heroine. While I love such traditional novels, I also enjoy chick lit, and found this one to be a very enjoyable read.

LLB: LinnieGayl is correct; the only chick lit I regularly read is chick lit for teens, and I did not care for Fforde's book, which read too slowly and mundane for my liking. But then, it came to me as a romance, not chick lit, and so my expectations were different. Here's what I wrote in my notes: "Though this is a romance and Anna isn't a flighty, hard-drinking, appearance-obsessed junior editor/buyer/ad executive, Fforde's book reads like a Chick Lit novel...if Chick Lit heroines obsessed about building staircases and how to best lay a wooden floor."

-- LinnieGayl Kimmel

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