There's something so "delicious" about a story where women have secrets. It allows the reader to eavesdrop into their lives and escape for a few hours at a time. When I found out that "Four of a Kind," by Valerie Frankel, was about four women who exchange secrets with each other, I knew I had to check it out!
Alicia, Bess, Robin and Carla are the four members of the diversity committee at their childrens' upscale private school. However, instead of planning events, they decide to play poker and make it interesting by putting their secrets on the table. Alicia's marriage is on the rocks and all she can think about is her attractive colleague. Bess is stuck in the middle of trying to please her mother and her teenage daughter. Robin knows who her daughter's real father is, but her daughter has no idea. And Carla is caught between doing what's best for her family and following her dream. These women's lives are followed throughout the year and their secrets are the glue that holds them together when everything else is falling apart around them.
This is the first time I've read a novel by Valerie Frankel, so I didn't know what to expect. I was swept up into the lives of all four women as soon as they started revealing truths about themselves. The dialogue and banter was snappy and humorous, while also staying true to a natural flow. They all had real problems and even if I couldn't relate to them, I still felt like I could be friends with them anyway. The story had a "Desperate Housewives" feel to it, minus the murder mystery. It had the same flair that has kept me watching the show since the first season. Ms. Frankel had a great use of description, which allowed me to visualize people and places throughout. I liked how realistic the interactions felt between the women, as well as those with people in their lives. I found myself hoping things would work out for them and was satisfied with how things ended up for each of them.
I did have some concerns though. The first was with the language, which got pretty vulgar at times. After a while, I didn't notice the vulgarity as much or it tapered off, but I felt like in the beginning they were just using words for male anatomy over and over again. I wasn't offended, but I could see how someone else might be. Also, I know absolutely nothing about how to play poker, especially Texas Hold 'Em. While I appreciated that Ms. Frankel included a guide and some terminology at the end, I didn't know about it until I was finished and even then it was over my head. I would have appreciated a bookmark that had pictures of each of the types of winning hands and that it would also show what pocket cards and river cards were. I also thought there were way too many play-on-words involving cards or poker moves. (Ex. "She laid all her cards out on the table and didn't fold," referring to something in one of the character's personal lives.)
Overall, this was an engaging story and I had a genuine interest in what was happening in everyone's lives. I loved how the women took a genuine interest in each others' lives, as well. If you're looking for a fun story about female friendship, juicy secrets and sex, then "Four of a Kind" is the novel for you!
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