I love reading books by authors new to the Chick Lit scene. This doesn’t mean I do not enjoy books by the established authors of the genre, like Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Jill Mansell and Paige Toon who are all master story-tellers, but it is always exciting to see a new name enter the field of woman’s fiction. Courtney Hamilton is one such name.
Almost Royalty by Courtney Hamilton is a tight, fast-paced, witty and at places, a laugh out loud funny novel. It deals with the dating scene of Los Angeles and more importantly, the class divide between the haves, have-somes and the have-nots. On a more serious level, this book is a light-hearted look at the hypocrisy that still exists in our society even today and on a non-serious level it is a ‘fly on the wall’ look at Los Angeles and Hollywood’s celebrity and looks obsessed culture, where appearances are everything and if you don’t live in the correct neighbourhood, don’t attend the correct school/college/university, drive the right car and don’t ensure that your children attend the correct school, then you are an ‘outcast’.
This novel is all about Courtney, a ‘Velveeta-loving’, group therapy-attending, entertainment attorney’s struggles through the L.A. world of dating and the trials and tribulations she faces. (Velveeta, for us Brits who don’t know what it is, is as per Wikipedia: ‘The brand name of a processed cheese product having a taste that is identified as a type of American cheese, but with a softer and smoother texture than cheese.’)
Her friends Marcie (aka Marcee) and Bettina think she is definitely ‘on the shelf’ and doing something wrong, as she should by now have ditched her career and gotten married to L.A royalty. Her friend Marcee has coined her own ‘L.A. Eco Chain of Dating’ where you should only be dating and eventually marrying a ‘mate’ who is on your level, in terms of ancestry, education, family background, etc. etc.
The reader follows Courtney as she dates a string of no-hopers, starting with her ex-fiance Frank, the free-loading commitment-phobe with a tendency to attend group therapy sessions to the mildly successful but wholly repulsive Dr. Ted who has alarming stalker-like tendencies. Add to the mix a Courtney’s dysfunctional relationship with her ‘mutton who thinks she is lamb’ mother and you have a humorous tale, where our opinionated and feisty heroine rebels against her friend’s expectations of who she should be.
I found this novel to be an entertaining read, with a very interesting and colourful list of characters. Courtney’s observations of the L.A lifestyle are extremely astute and show the reader the other side of the Hollywood lifestyle as well as providing a telling picture of how superficial and artificial individuals who subscribe to that particular lifestyle are. You find yourself rooting for the heroine when she refuses to be mistreated by her friends and ex-boyfriends and cheer for her when she finally says goodbye to the expensive and counter-productive group-therapy sessions and unapologetically embraces who she is as an individual and finally realises the one perfect man for her was closer to her than she thought.
My only criticism is that this novel at times felt like a mixture of commentary and observations by the author and I felt at times that the storyline could have been more defined.
However, this is a great first novel by Courtney and I look forward to reading more written by her in the future. Almost Royalty is out on 29th of May 2014 and if I were you, I would pre-order my copy now!