Rumor Has It
by Jill Mansell
The weather has been less than lovely hereabouts, but this weekend is supposed to be filled with sunshine. In hopes that the weather really does turn out to be the kind that encourages reading out-of-doors, I decided to write about a book that just seemed to me to want to be read in a park or sprawled out on a freshly cut lawn or reclining on a chaise on the patio.
I had never read Jill Mansell until someone whose taste I trust recommended her to me. The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking to myself, "Jill Mansell is like a British Jennifer Crusie." (I also kept thinking that someone had Americanized the text, which was a shame.)
Tilly Cole gets dumped and, on an impulse, moves to the small town of Roxborough where her friend Erin lives. Tilly gets a job working as a live-in assistant for interior designer Max Dineen who has a surprisingly non-surly teenage daughter and a dog with a lot of personality. There are assorted eccentric townsfolk, Max's ex-wife, and local hunk and (alleged) ladies' man Jack Lucas. And, if you've ever read Jennifer Crusie (and if you haven't, why not?) you can predict fairly accurately how this is all going to mix together:
Tilly is a city girl adjusting poorly to small-town life. Jack is at the center of a lot of town gossip. Tilly refuses to be a notch on Jack's bedpost. Circumstances and assorted supporting characters continue to throw Tilly in Jack's path. Resistance is futile. Nearly every supporting character has some drama in his or her own life that touches on Tilly and/or Jack. Eventually, everyone finds happiness, or at least contentment.
However familiar the story may seem, though, Mansell, like Crusie, always manages to keep things fresh. There is enough actual heartbreak to keep things grounded in reality. The dialogue is often incredibly witty. And every storyline and supporting character is so well-developed that you never resent being diverted from the main story of Tilly and Jack. (Nor, as sometimes happens, wish that one of the secondary plots was the central plot because the hero and heroine are boring or unlikeable or just bland next to a sparkling supporting character.)
And, just in case the weather stays gloomy, Rumor Has It is the perfect antidote. It's like springtime between the covers of a book.