Jill Marshall, $4.99
Contemporary Fiction, 2013 (Reissue)
Great, now I can’t get that Prince song out of my head. Really, though, how can I resist a story with a title like that? The Most Beautiful Man in the World was previously published by Penguin, and I am reading the independently-released version of it. I’m not sure if the Penguin edition had the same mistake, but at one point, the author confused the man mentioned in the title and his most famous role, which in turn had me confused for quite a bit. Since this story is marketed as a suspense story, I wonder for a bit whether this name switch is some kind of clue planted by the author to alert me of some upcoming twist. Alas, it turns out that it’s likely a mistake and not some kind of meta-wink wink thing.
I mentioned that this one is marketed as suspense, but if you ask me, this one is more of a chick-lit story that happens to have a dead bloke connecting the lives of the women in this tale of narrating doormats. Dane Isherwood, popular soap star, is found dead, floating in his pool, and foul play may be involved. As it happens, we also have several women telling their story, central in which is a man, handsome and seductive, that ends up breaking their heart and even their spirit. Is that man the same bloke now floating in the pool? If so, is one of these women responsible for offing him? Naturally, one has to read the story to find out.
Jill Marshall is an English lady living in New Zealand, according to her biography, and what results in a story boasting a narrative that is so positively, adorably British for the want of a better description. The humor has me laughing, the deadpan caustic turns of phrases have me grinning, and I can keep on reading even if this thing clocked in at 10,000 pages. Maybe it’s the Anglophile in me, but this story is written in a style that hits all the right spots where I am concerned.
Unfortunately, the chick-lit nature of the story soon wears out its welcome with me. If you have been following my reviews long enough, you will know that I am not exactly the biggest fan of chick-lit because it’s more often than not about women acting like fools over some guy for way too much of the story. I’ve always suspected that people read romance novels to imagine a romance that is better than real life, while people read chick-lit to console themselves that real life love affairs are better than the mess presented in those stories—and this one reinforces my prejudice against that genre.
It’s not so bad at first. I feel that these women are far more enamored of the idea of being in love and, later, playing the tragic heroine in a love affair gone awry. Clare, especially, gives off the vibes of someone that wants to be the subject of a song by The Cure way too desperately. Still, I remember being young once and imagining that it will be grand to be the star of a sad romantic melodrama. I have no idea why I would ever imagine that would be a good thing, but I know I was once like that, so yes, I can cut these women some slack… for a while, that is. As the story progresses, their man ramps up the passive-aggressive acts of cruelty, sometimes to the point of being a caricature of the bad boyfriend in a daytime talk show. When this happens, I start to wonder why I should be emotionally invested in the story of stupid, stupid women. This is the present day, and there is really nothing holding these ladies back from walking away. Even when a child may be the reason for them to stay, the child isn’t close to the man anyway, so there’s really no reason why these women just can’t walk away. I can only imagine that they secretly delight in having their heart and everything else broken and trampled upon.
Of course, in the end, these women all get together to beat the asshole patriarchy, et cetera, but there is no way the author is going to convince me that the morons in her story will ever have the brainpower to pull off such a thing. That feel-good ending is tacked on solely to give the story a happy “Take that, asshole!” ending, one that doesn’t gel with the rest of the story at all.
Anyway, reading The Most Beautiful Man in the World is like meeting a cute bloke with the sexiest accent ever. Do I remember what he looks like or anything else about him? No. I don’t want to sleep with him, much less marry him, but I would love it if he would call me up every day just to talk to me. I don’t care what he has to say, just that he is spinning that sweet, sweet accent on me. That’s how I feel about this story. Plot, characters, whatever—meh. The sentence structures, the phraseology, the way alphabets and words are strung together, though—ooh baby.