Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Seven Exes are Eight Too Many

By Jami Deise

Considering that I may be the one woman in America who has never watched a complete episode of the Bachelor or the Bachelorette (even Jennifer Weiner’s live tweeting cannot convince me to tune in), “Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many” is not a book I would ordinarily be eager to download, as it centers around a similar reality TV competition. But the price was unbeatable, and I needed something to keep me company on the treadmill. Boy, did I get my money’s worth and then some. “Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many” is a delight that kept me exercising much longer than I had planned. If you’re looking for a sharp, well-written, light romantic comedy for the stationary bike or a beach read, you can’t go wrong with Heather Wardell’s novel – even if, like me, you get your reality TV fix solely from HGTV.

Wardell has created a reality TV concept so clever, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Burnett (creator of “Survivor” and others) buys the rights to it. Heroine Madeleine-Cora (MC) Spencer believes she’s starring in the reality show “Find Your Prince,” a Bachelorette knock-off. But instead of seven dashing would-be Prince Charmings, she’ll be stuck on an island with seven ex-boyfriends. And her eighth ex – Kent, the one-time love of her life – is also on the island with seven of his ex-girlfriends. The two camps are pitted against each other in a series of challenges. It’s “The Bachelor” meets “Survivor.” The winning camp gets a million dollars; after each challenge, MC or Kent have to dismiss an ex. Naturally, none of the participants had any idea what they were really signing up for. And having signed contracts with very expensive out clauses, the exes are all stuck there with each other.

What follows is predictable in the best sense of the word. As MC and her team fight to win the physically challenging contests, they fight amongst themselves on which guy should be with MC, their reasons for the break-ups, etc. After losing a contest, MC must put her personal feelings aside and keep the ex who is the best player, regardless of how he treats her.

And then there’s Kent, her opponent and the man who broke her heart in so many pieces, she never really recovered. How far will MC go to win the million dollars? Does she want Kent back? Or will one of her other exes win her heart? And how does Kent feel about his seven ex girlfriends?

With so many characters, Wardell does an admirable job in providing each of them with unique voices and personalities. Instead of being one of seven, each of MC’s exes stand out. Since the story is written in first person from MC’s point of view, we don’t get to know Kent’s exes as well, but even in their brief appearances, these women are all individuals as well.

MC is a heroine who is easy to root for. She works hard at the challenges, questions herself about her actions and her romantic choices, and attempts to be fair toward all her exes. My only issue is that when the reason for her break-up with Kent is finally revealed, it is so minor that it makes MC seem petty. If Wardell has spent a little more time explaining exactly why this specific event was such a trigger for MC, I might have given her the benefit of the doubt. Instead, my reaction was “Grow up!”

Overall, “Seven Exes is Eight Too Many,” is a quick, highly enjoyable read. The ride it takes you on is somewhat predictable, but so is a roller coaster. Just because you know when you’ll be going downhill doesn’t mean you won’t be screaming when it happens.

Jami Deise is our newest review associate, chosen by our team at Chick Lit Central. We are excited to have her on board and hope you will enjoy reading her reviews!

More by Heather Wardell: