Published in 2008
by Ballantine Books
a Random House Publishing Group
At least once a summer... or once every few months I feel the need to read something light, fluffy and comically entertaining. This time I selected The Importance of Being Married by Gemma Townley.
Those who aren't familiar with Ms. Townley, she is the author of several British chic-lit novels and the sister of Sophie Kinsella (a.k.a Madeleine Wickham, author of British chic-lit novels including The Shopaholic books). As a side note I find it absolutely fascinating that these two sisters have not only succeeded as writers, but they have also both become quite popular in the genre they've chosen. Fascinating.
But back to the book... The very first thought I had when I picked up The Importance of Being Married was that it sounded like it could be a modern twist on Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest, and in a way it is. The book is crazy, it's hilarious, it's maddening and a bit unrealistic, but don't expect it to be a replacement for the original. Still, if you're looking for something new and different in the chic-lit genre then look no further.
"Jessica Wild isn’t big on commitment. But after inheriting millions from Grace, a sweet old lady she met in her grandmother’s nursing home, the situation seems to have changed. To put an end to the many questions about her nonexistent love life, Jess had led Grace to believe she had a boyfriend-turned-fiancé-turned-husband: her glamorous boss, Anthony Milton. But Jess’s fantasy to keep Grace happy has backfired–Grace has passed away and left her fortune not to Jessica Wild but to Mrs. Jessica Milton.
Having weighed all legal options, Jess comes to the realization that there’s only one thing she can do: get Anthony to fall in love with her and pop the question for real. With help from her feisty best friend, Helen, Jess reluctantly learns the art of flirting, seduction, and playing hard to get. But just when it appears that Anthony is about to ask the (literal) million-dollar question, Jess finds herself wondering if it’s right to say “I do” for all the wrong reasons." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)
Overall I enjoyed The Importance of Being Married. There were some aspects that annoyed me, particularly Jessica's perpetual lying. The story would have been so much simpler had she just told the truth, but then that wouldn't have made for much of a story. Something else that I didn't like was again fairly typical of modern British literature. There is a mild to fair amount of language, which for the most part can be glazed over, but something I feel should be noted for readers who prefer to avoid it altogether. There are also a few extramarital love scenes that are referenced, though no details are given. Although this too is typical of the genre I know it's not something that has to be present to make the book a good read and often wish it was just left out.
Another point I'd like to make is that the ending is a little predictable. But that shouldn't come as a surprise to most readers of the chic-lit genre. Nearly all chic-lit novels have the same format. Girl is introduced. Love interest is introduced. Problems complicate the story and make for both stressful page turners and hilarious laughs. But in the end the girl gets her happily-ever-after, the lose ends are tied up, and the troubles clouding her life have blown away like a passing storm. Thankfully The Importance of Being Married did have one little twist that I didn't anticipate and for that I was grateful.
I did enjoy Ms. Townley's writing style. Early on her comic wit and the "voice" of the heroine/narrator drew me into the story, like this line from the beginning of Chapter 2:
"The story started a long time ago, in the tradition of all good fairy tales. Not so long ago that goblins were roaming the earth, but long enough for it to have gotten a little bit out of hand -- two years, two months, and six days ago, to be precise." (Chpt 2, pg. 8)Although I did think The Importance of Being Married was a modern twist on Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest it also reminded me of a mix between Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic and the 1999 film, The Bachelor, starring Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellweger. If you enjoyed either or both of these you are very likely to enjoy The Importance of Being Married.
As for me, I did enjoy The Importance of Being Married enough that I think I'll add its sequel to my TBR list. I'm curious to know what happens next in Jessica Wilde's life and I'm hoping next time around she's more honest with herself and her friends.