Are the days of chick lit numbered? That question exercises the glossies a lot these days, but on the evidence of Jill Mansell's Nadia Knows Best, there's still plenty of life in the genre--particularly if you can deliver goods as sassy, sharp and witty as this. In previous novels (such as Head Over Heels and Mixed Doubles), Mansell's subject has been the vagaries of love and friendship (with a healthy leavening of sex and revenge), and those ingredients are all well represented in the mix here.
A snowstorm has cloistered the guests at a secluded Cotswold pub. One of them is Mansell's heroine Nadia Kinsella, and she finds herself sorely tempted by beguiling fellow guest Jake Tiernan. But giving in to such alluring temptation is not that easy when Nadia has been virtually betrothed to the faithful Laurie since both were childhood sweethearts. Nadia's decision is not helped by the peculiar mix of personalities within her family: her irresponsible mother Leonie, her ruthless and uncompromising sister Clare, and her surprising grandmother Miriam, every bit as well turned out as the younger members of the family.
It doesn't matter how sharply wrought the dialogue is, or how buoyant the plotting--a novel such as Nadia Knows Best stands or falls on whether or not the reader identifies with the central characters. And it's here that Jill Mansell knows precisely what she's doing: it's impossible to resist becoming involved with the characters even when they irritate us (and Mansell knows that from Jane Austen onwards, the reader needs to heartily disagree with some of the characters' actions). This is a stylish and cuttingly funny read. --Barry Forshaw