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REVIEW: This is How It Happened by Jo Barrett

Dear Ms Barrett,

thisishow_cover_small.jpgA notation on the cover of “This is How It Happened” states it’s “Not a Love Story” and that’s the truth. Even for a Chick Lit book this novel has almost no romance in it. Most of the story is Maddy and her endless need for revenge against the man who done her wrong.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but Maddy has to take some responsibility for acting like a moron. Sure I can understand that initially she’s dazzled by Carlton, his great looks, his romantic gestures and the envy of other women that he’s dating her. But since you set her up as being so smart I began to wonder at her gullibility. She’s so intelligent yet she keeps making dumb moves over and over. Love must be blind because how else would she continue to trust and believe Carlton as he screws her again and again.

And it’s not just in their private life. She makes dumb business moves like not working out a business contract before living and breathing the company they start. She accepts her reduced role in the company and the fact that she has to earn her shares. She believes that her business portfolios were lost. She let’s Carlton kick her out of a business she thought up and got going. She still sleeps with him after he didn’t tell her about his STD. She tries to keep him even after he cheats on her. And then his reaction to the pregnancy… It’s hard to feel sorry for Maddy after a while. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, or in Maddy’s case, fifteen times, and shame should be dumped on her head.

At this point, I could understand that it takes her months to, as her friend Heather urged her, get over it. The enormity of what Carlton has done to her, personally and professionally, finally sinks in and she needs to wallow a bit before dragging herself out for her revenge. At first that was kind of funny even though I kept thinking that Maddy shouldn’t be researching methods of killing on her home computer. Hasn’t she watched any A&E or Court TV shows in which the police use a criminal’s searches recorded on his/her hard drive as evidence for an arrest warrant?

Then there’s the bit about Dick the hit man and how he brings out Maddy’s inner marketing skills. I’m guessing that this is supposed to be funny to balance out the seriousness of what Maddy’s doing. Unfortunately that whole part overshot farce. Then there’s Heather’s inability to master being Jewish. Was this supposed to be a joke? All it did was make Heather look like a blonde idiot. The slightly silly tacked on subplot with Nick, and the even briefer romance – all of 2 pages – wasn’t fleshed out enough for me. Maddy goes from having to be bashed over the head to see how bad Carlton is to easily accepting the fact that Nick thought what he did about her then dating him anyway.

I liked the interaction between Maddy and her brother Ronnie. These are two siblings who really seem to care for each other and be there for each other when the going gets tough. I breezed through reading it in record time and wanted to know what would happen next. I like your writing style even if maybe I don’t like how you make your heroine act most of the time. In the end, Maddy’s revenge was inspired, tailored to fit the villain and intelligently done. So…did she really need the hit man? Was he the deus ex machina who got her creative juices flowing?

I know that one of the standard elements of Chick Lit is a heroine who does some dumb things and gets done over by a villain guy. And that she doesn’t recognize the good guy hero, who’s often not prominently featured, for a lot of the book. But this book takes these to extremes. I just got tired of watching her make stupid moves, get snowed by Carlton, and come up short over and over for most of the length of the book. Despite some things I liked, overall I’d have to give it a C-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

15 Comments

  1. carolyn Jean
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 15:14:55

    I love your definition of chick lit:
    “a heroine who does some dumb things and gets done over by a villain guy. And that she doesn't recognize the good guy hero, who's often not prominently featured, for a lot of the book.”

  2. jmc
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 16:13:02

    I really wanted to like this book. Ms. Barrett’s voice and style worked for me. As long as I didn’t concentrate on the content, this book flowed fairly well for me. But once I stopped and thought about all the events of the book? It became a wall-banger. As you put it:

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, or in Maddy's case, fifteen times, and shame should be dumped on her head.

    Eventually I lost all respect for Maddy, finding it hard to believe in her brilliance and business acumen when she was so very spineless and unseeing about Carlton and “their” business.

  3. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:02:59

    Thanks Carolyn Jean. But at this point, I’m getting tired of the cliches of standard chick lit and looking for something different from the subgenre. I’m not as willing to wait though the whole book for a heroine to stop being silly and stop putting up with nonsense in the name of humor.

    Has anyone got any recs for Chick Lit that is different from what we’ve all read before?

  4. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:04:32

    I’m still willing to try Barrett’s next book as I liked her first one. And the book did flow. And I read it quickly. But no more doormats please.

  5. Kerry
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:26:21

    I need to write a review on it myself, but Alison Pace’s first book If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend was great because the heroine’s journey had almost nothing to do with a guy. Jane has to get away from her insano boss and develop her backbone. She’s a little drippy, but not stupid.

  6. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:29:09

    Oh I loved that one. Her third book didn’t work quite so well for me but she sent me a copy of “Pug Hill” that I need to try someday.

  7. Kerry
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:40:16

    Neither Pug Hill nor Through Thick and Thin were up to her first.

  8. Ann Bruce
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 20:01:26

    Jayne, I just reviewed Linda Francis Lee’s The Ex-Debutante. It’s very predictable, but the narrator didn’t fall into TSTL territory.

  9. Harry~DayDream
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 06:33:11

    You gotta admit that there oughta be more characters like Maddy, since we all need a bit of a laugh now and then and watching a woman in scorn do all the mistakes that she can make and a bag of chips to that, is hilarious. Although you can get tired really fast watching her make that many wrong moves.

  10. Jayne
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 06:33:53

    I tried the Linda Francis Lee book and didn’t make it past chapter 9. Didn’t care for the snobby heroine, most of her family, the debutante setup and hadn’t seen enough of the hero to care about him.

  11. Jayne
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 06:35:14

    I laughed when she made the brownies but as you say, got tired of watching her fall on her face again and again.

  12. carolyn Jean
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 09:21:00

    I get tired of heroines wackily screwing up over and over, too, in chick lit as well as other genres. In my own mind, I always relate it to Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island – he always just messed everything up and I’d get so mad, and I guess I never got over it.

    I agree, there’s no reason chick lit has to exclusively feature that sort of action. I just read Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, which to me is chick lit vampire, and I was impressed by the savviness and intelligence of that character.

  13. Kristen
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 10:08:11

    Has anyone got any recs for Chick Lit that is different from what we've all read before?

    Oh, dear (author) reader, have I got a book for you. HIT REPLY by Rocki St. Claire (yes, the same wickedly awesome author of the Bullet Catcher series). This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read or my name isn’t Orville – wait, that isn’t my name. You get the idea. It’s smart, funny, touching and impossible to put down. It’s written entirely in emails and IM’s and at first, you might think that wouldn’t make for an engaging read, but baby, does it ever! It even made me a little teary in some spots, and I do NOT cry over books. You really must read this. In fact, I dare you. That’s right. I went there.

    This book is everything great chick lit should be without any of the bad aftertaste.

  14. Jennifer McKenzie
    Apr 25, 2008 @ 07:34:56

    “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie is my favorite probably because it DOESN’T fit that “chick lit” definition. “Bridget Jones Diary” is painful to me. A woman stumbling and falling all over the place through most of the story and a short resolution at the end isn’t my cup of tea.
    This book sounds like one I wouldn’t have made it through.

  15. Jayne
    Apr 25, 2008 @ 07:54:10

    I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve not read “Bet Me” since I’ve loved Crusie’s category novels. Yet another book languishing on my TBR piles and heaps and mountains.

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