I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk.
This novel would probably not have made it off the shelf and into my hands for even a cursory glance, had it not been for the fact that I heard Lindsey Kelk interviewed on the wonderful BookD podcast. Actually, I’ll be completely honest, there is no ‘probably’ about it, it absolutely wouldn’t have. I tend to avoid like the plague anything that could remotely be considered ‘girlie’ fiction (and no, I am NOT going to use the infamous term ‘Chick Lit’ as I can entirely appreciate why certain female authors find the term derogatory and patronising. Although thinking about it, ‘girlie’ fiction is probably similarly offensive. No offense intended).
I don’t avoid it because I am in any way dismissive of the genre – I firmly believe that good fiction looks entirely different to each one of us, and also that time and mood are incredibly important to how a book is received and appreciated by an individual. As long as you can escape into it, it’s a good novel as far as I’m concerned. It is simply that as my own personal form of escapism, this kind of novel doesn’t generally do it for me. I therefore tend to avoid pink, flowery covers and storylines that revolve around men and shopping (this is despite the fact that I actually do like flowers, men, shopping and am not averse to the colour pink). I just tend to go for books that are more likely to have me in floods of tears than make me smile. Oh God, am I a masochist?
Anyway, Lindsey’s interview hooked me in a number of ways. It was interesting to hear how she went from a career in publishing to becoming a published author herself. She described the various bumps along the road that she encountered on that journey, including one delightful agent who told her that her name sounded like a cat being sick! She is without doubt one of the funniest authors I’ve heard interviewed and I was intrigued to find out if her humour came across in her writing (she is also one of the funniest people to follow on twitter by the way). I bought her first novel to try and find out (NB: there are now five I Heart novels).
The blurb says:
Fleeing her cheating boyfriend and clutching little more than a crumpled bridesmaid dress, a pair of Louboutins and her passport, Angela jumps on a plane – destination NYC.
Holed up in a cute hotel room, Angela gets a New York makeover from her NBF Jenny and a whirlwind tour of the city that never sleeps. Before she knows it, Angela is dating two sexy guys. And, best of all, she gets to write about it in her new blog (Carrie Bradshaw eat your heart out). But it’s one thing telling readers about your romantic dilemmas, it’s another figuring them out for yourself.
Angela has fallen head over heels for the big apple, but does she heart New York more than home?
As the story opens, Angela is about to walk down the aisle as bridesmaid to her best friend. Fast forward just a few pages and she discovers her own fiancé with his pants round his ankles giving another woman a good seeing-to in their car. Fast forward another few pages and instead of being consoled by her mum over a cup of tea and a biscuit as you’d expect most good English girls to do, she jumps on a plane to New York and books herself in to an incredibly expensive hotel. The rest of the story concerns the people she meets and her experiences of New York in general.
I challenge any woman to read this novel and not feel a twinge of jealousy. Or even several large twangs come to that. Not regarding the bloody awful breakup of course, but you can’t argue with the fact that after that she has a damn good time. Actually even before that she is wearing a pair of £400 Louboutin’s. And she gets to keep them! How much did the Bride’s shoes cost for God’s sake??
Her experiences post-adultery shocker are undoubtedly well-oiled by a seemingly bottomless stash of cash (something I could do with right about now). Despite describing herself as a freelance writer and not having a ‘proper job’, Angela decides early on that half of the joint ‘wedding’ savings account is hers and although specific amounts are not mentioned, there was clearly enough money in this account for her to have had a wedding of which a minor member of Royalty would be proud. The hotel she stays in for the first week costs $350 per night and there are endless trips to boutiques and beauty counters with mass purchases of perfume, make up, underwear, clothes, shoes and a particular Marc Jacobs handbag that amounts to a small fortune. Retail therapy rocks in this novel.
As the blurb mentions, Angela soon ends up dating two different men, which according to the New York guru Jenny, is perfectly acceptable behaviour as far as dating in NY goes. This seems fine, until she starts The Blog. Maybe it’s just me, but from the description I thought The Blog was just something Angela decided to start writing to record her own experiences. Not so. The Blog is something she becomes employed to do, and her editor specifically wants her to talk about the two different men. Again, this could be OK only she makes a huge deal of the fact the she is given this job to the two guys she is dating, who don’t know that she is dating someone else as well. She doesn’t ever seem to see the imminent danger of one or other of these guys reading the blog, and even seems to encourage it at one point when she is sitting around with one of them waiting for her first post to appear on a website. This just didn’t make sense to me. And actually it still doesn’t!
Aside from that aspect though, I was surprised how much I did escape into the novel and how much I enjoyed it. The character of Jenny is great fun and through her the reader is treated to some fantastic insights into the city – the author clearly knows New York intimately and even includes ‘Angela’s Guide to NYC’ at the back of the book which includes recommendations for places to stay, eat out, drink and of course, shop. I want to go. And spend bucket loads of money. First stop? The Chocolate Shop.
I couldn’t entirely identify with Angela, but I don’t think we’re supposed to. There are certainly specific aspects of her character that I could identify with but more importantly, what she does and how she deals with her heartache makes for damn good escapist fiction. I think she represents a pretty common female fantasy (albeit taken to an extreme) and who would have thought it? Reading about that is actually good fun! I loved the novel’s humour (answer to my original question = YES. Lindsey’s humour is evident on practically every page). Her style is engaging – far from being sugary and soppy, it is snappy and to the point and I did actually laugh out loud in places. It just works. Try it. And if you’re still unsure, a little taster:
“‘Angela,’ Mark stood up, he pulled his pants up high, and wriggled into his shirt. I looked past him into the car. The girl had managed to get her dress on and was rubbing under her eyes to try to get rid of the mascara. Good luck, I thought, if it’s as good a quality as your shoes you won’t get that off by rubbing. Shoes still looked great though. Bitch”.
I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk.