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Freya North – Love Rules

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…And then you sit down to some Chick-Lit for some light relief – and find it to be anything but.

Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 422
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-00-718036-3
First Published: 2005
Date Reviewed: 26th March 2010
Rating: 3/5

Just to make it clear: the title refers to rules, policies. It isn’t a statement akin to “love’s awesome!”

Thea believes in true love conquering all, knights storming castles to rescue the princess, and also – perhaps wrongly as she later considers alternatives – sparks from the start defining which men are the ones worth going for. Alice doesn’t mind love, in fact she likes it very much but tends to get diverted by the physical and has never chosen the right man. As Thea meets a man who sweeps her off her feet Alice plans to marry her best friend, the antithesis of the men she’s dated. But as both continue their lives they find that simple choices may not be so simple in reality and that they’ll have to re-assess their ideas once more.

Love Rules appears to promise a dose of easy summer reading, just what you’d expect from a book of its genre, and for a while this is the case – in fact the book is so easy to read at times it’s dull. Admittedly it can’t be said that Chick-Lit is as riveting a genre as some, but there is generally a plot that evokes interest and the want to know what happens. The vast majority of Love Rules sadly requires you to question whether you can be bothered because it just saunters along like main characters Thea and Saul around the streets of London. However this may well be a clever device used by North to further explain the latter quarter of the book. Be sure that the book does not stay boring, it turns it’s back on the Chick-Lit genre to provide hard-hitting and oft difficult to read material. North convincingly lures us into thinking that the lives of her characters are ordinary – and then crashes down on us with the idea that it’s ordinary life that can often have the problems. We always assume that it’s busy lives, unstable families, and the like that have problems – that’s natural, right? But North shows that “ordinary” can be a cover up for darker elements. In a way she’s saying, “watch out for ordinary” and you can understand her cautions – you never expect things out of the ordinary when things are ordinary to begin with.

North confuses us adeptly – is Alice wrong in her thoughts, shouldn’t her husband be around more? This has the effect of subtly skimming over Thea – her story is nice, it doesn’t require thought. There are a few things that don’t add up, but unlike Marian Keyes’s This Charming Man you can’t even say that they’re hinted at – they are, but it’s less than a hint, it’s more a fifth of a hint. Later, once the crux of the story is in full throws North turns her attention directly to the reader, to you. She asks you, as though you’re discussing the book together, what should happen, what we should feel, who is wrong, who is right, are we really sure about that, but isn’t it…? She does this just before launching into the book’s conclusion, in a way that explains, without actually saying, that there are many conclusions to come to. Hers is just one of them. As the reader you start to question yourself, no matter what opinion you’ve come to. I would take a guess as to what the majority of readers would feel should happen and say that in that respect it is an easy read. North wants to approach the boundary but she knows not to alienate her audience and so moves carefully, giving you something to think about but not letting you get too disheartened – while yet not appeasing completely. This all sounds very confusing but in fact it’s a stroke of genius on her part.

As said, the book becomes very difficult to read near the end and although the ending is good it’s not the happy ending you’re likely expecting. Beyond the issues raised there is a lot of upset to contend with and a lot of thoughts to digest. There’s also the addition of the other side of the story, although the other side itself isn’t so represented the associations of it are brought to the fore and evaluated. The characters may not change their minds but they debate on the issues and while people may challenge this and say it’s a good step but not enough it’s enough for the book.

Writing-wise the book is average. North has employed an interchangeable style; for the most part the book is in the third person but it sometimes moves to first and every so often to present tense as a fly-on-the-wall. When a change in tense happens during a chapter, which becomes more often as the plot takes off it’s mask, a re-read of the first few sentences is necessary to adapt to that change. North obviously likes the individuality it provides but for the reader it’s an irritation. Also of an irritation is the constant use of the word “effervescent”. Indeed it’s a fine word, but it’s obvious and memorable when big words are repeated and there are plenty of synonyms available. In the case of the chapters they could have been better defined, whole chunks of the book go by without a proper break.

As someone who is supposed to supply details that will help you decide if this is a book for you I apologise for being so vague. I can’t tell you any more because it would render the book spoiled and I feel that this is alright.

Love Rules takes love and what it means and causes and dissects it. It is not a valuable read, per se, but it is a good look on morality not usually so observed in the genre (and that’s forgetting the issue itself and concentrating on time and effort given). Pick it up if you will, we decide our own boundaries.

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