Wednesday, March 23, 2016

CBR 8 Review 4: The Best of Enemies by Jen Lancaster

I went into this book knowing I love Jen Lancaster. I have read several of her books, but this was the first one that was fiction. Jen formerly wrote memoirs - brilliant books of humor based on her own life. When I saw she had made the jump to fiction, I decided that was a thing that I needed to check out. For the most part< I was satisfied.

The Best of Enemies is a frenemy story, although the way that relationship originated is different than expected. Jacqueline Jordan and Kitty Carricoe are our protagonists, with the story being told from a mixture of their viewpoints, some blog posts of Kitty's, and a series of complaints from hotel management regarded events in honor of their mutual best friend, Sarabeth Chandler. The book wastes no time in setting up the disparities between our two leads. Jack is a journalist who focuses on areas of conflict, warzones, and the like, bunking down with soldiers, writing books that could get you a guest appearance on an evening talkshow, while avoiding being home as much as possible. Kitty is the perfect Stepford wife and mother, the type of health nut who calls her children "Littles" and who, if you are me, you immediately want to run over with your car. Harsh? Maybe, but that makes her evolution sweeter because she absolutely grows on you. Jack and Kitty, it would appear, have nothing in common other than Sarabeth (whom Jack calls Sars and Kitty calls Betsy, because it's not enough for them to *be* different, we have to inform that in the nicknames they give the same person).

Our story opens with the two women living their separate lives, giving us some insight into their characters in present day. Jack is disconnected from personal ties that aren't Sars or her brothers (well, two of them at any rate). Kitty is battling to remain on top at the PTO, to hide her dwindling finances, and to keep her marriage going (if you don't see the adultery there coming, you maybe need to pay more attention to the world). The two are thrown together, and set to reminiscing in separate chapters, by the alleged death of Sarabeth's husband. At this point the story bounces between the present (exploring the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death) and past, filling in how both girls knew Sarabeth, and, more importantly, how they knew each other, which is far more interesting and significant that the opening quarter of the book would suggest. Can two such different women with so much bad blood between them reconcile their differences long enough to find out the truth and protect their friend?

Honestly, Sarabeth is a means to an end, and I gave no shits at all about her or her life. But I really don't think you're supposed to. Jack and Kitty, while often fairly broadly drawn stereotypes, were really interesting characters by the end. Their influence on each other was really fun to watch. I also liked hopping back into the past to see how things fell out between the two of them. I don't want to spoil it, but their relationship was not at all what I expected at the start.

This isn't a book that is trying to do much, but as a piece of fluffy fun literature, it absolutely succeeds. I didn't have the good fortune to be lying on a beach while I read it, but it feels like the perfect beach read. There are times it tries a little too hard, but you can't really get angry about it. Fluffy and fun, female centric, embracing both the good and bad things about relationships between female friends, I'd definitely recommend this as some light vacation/escape reading!

Check out more great reviews at Cannonball Read!

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