I’m not going to lie. My ideal summer reading is part trashy romance, part travelogue (cue the reel for Vicky Christina Barcelona). If that’s also your literary cocktail of choice for beachside reading, “Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham is a perfectly satisfying bet.
Disclaimer: If you don’t know, Madeleine Wickham is the real name of Sophie Kinsella of “Shopaholic“ fame. How does this stand-alone novel compare to her iconic Shopaholic series? Pretty decently, actually.
In fact, this author by any other name still writes solid chick lit. From the first page of “Sleeping Arrangements” you are drawn in by the strong-but-delicate heroine Chloe and her fab job as a wedding dress designer. Stellar supporting characters arrive in the form of the inscrutable Ice Queen Amanda, the wily villa owner Gerard, and the brilliantly cheeky nanny Jenna. As with Kinsella/Wickham’s other novels, the strength and complexity of the characters, as well as a delicious finale ending, are what transcend her books from the confines of an otherwise predictable chick lit plot.
And predictable it is. Romantic tension? Check. Makeover? Check. Discovery of hidden cosmopolitan city while out for random walk? Check.
But as long as it’s what you are in the mood for, Wickham does it better than anyone else. Despite a few inevitable nods to the genre in the plot, the book continues layering on the relationship complexity so that by the end, the tension is at a total crescendo and the reader’s loyalties are switching back and forth with every sentence read. Basically, it gets really good, and just when you are totally stir-crazy and think there is no possible resolution, (and can’t even figure out what you would want to happen) Wickham wows with a shocking, quirky, and perfect ending (just like she manages in her classic “Shopaholic Ties the Knot“.)
Add in the gorgeous descriptions of Spain (picturesque villa, lemon trees, oh yes), and the semi-predictable plot can be forgiven by a book that begins playfully and ends perfectly. Whatever you call her, the reigning goddess of Chick Lit has done it again!