Bad Heir Day
Wendy Holden’s comedy Bad Heir Day is a frothy romp guaranteed to keep a smile on your face and a chuckle never far away. My idea of a near perfect day on the beach would likely contain lots of sunshine and a book like this. For absolute perfection, I’d also need an ice cream and a better-developed hero, but hey, nothing is ever absolutely perfect.
Anna is a wannabe writer whose match with the gorgeous Seb turns out not to be made in heaven after all when he dumps her. She decides to give up men and focus on her career. Though she seeks work as an author’s assistant, hoping to pick up some hints, she lands a job as a nanny with Cassandra. Cassandra is a bestselling novelist with snobbish tendencies, a massive writer’s block and a talent for making everyone’s life hell. So when Anna meets Jamie, a charming Scottish heir who wants to marry her, it seems too good to be true. And you know what they say, if something seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Add a quirky creative writing group with lots of purple prose proficiency and a leader who studies other people’s garbage, a bimbo friend and a middle aged, fading rock star. Above all other things, Holden makes fun of social climbing and conceit, and there’s certainly enough subject material in her glamorous characters. Most notably, Cassandra is so pathetic trying to be a literary superstar and so extremely imperceptive about her own weaknesses that I couldn’t help but love her. She’s not very likable but oh, what a wonderful satire. Her husband Jett is the Lord of Philander. And not surprisingly, these two individuals have produced a child who is the worst nightmare to – well, practically everyone but his mother.
Starting from the title, Bad Heir Day is a veritable feast of witty one-liners, puns and trendy metaphors. Perhaps the feast is a bit overdone, as there’s no time to recover from the previous joke before the next one attacks. Holden could have edited out some of the clumsier wisecracks and there would still have been plenty of brilliant ones to spice up the lines.
The ending was problematic for me, even though getting there was a lot of fun. Bad Heir Day is not a complete success as a romantic story. There is a happy ending but it comes across as an extra surprise since the focus is more on the conflicts between other characters than the relationship of the hero and the heroine. OK, so Holden didn’t intend to write a genre romance. That’s quite all right. But since falling in love with this guy was apparently supposed to be the highlight of Anna’s life I was disappointed that this aspect of the plot was not developed with more attention. The problem is that the man involved in the happy ending (I hesitate to call him the hero because he has such a minor role in the most part of the novel) is introduced so late in the book that his character remains easily one of the thinnest. The secondary characters are so important that at times the heroine is more of an observer than an active participant which leaves her personality slightly vague too. Or maybe they just seem thinly characterized because everyone else in the book has got plenty of faults to define them except this couple.
Also, the couple move from no relationship to a consummated relationship in between chapters. This was a major ‘huh?’ moment which got me backtracking and checking for missing pages in my copy. Their getting together was anticipated but skipping over any relevant conversations and hopping straight into bed seemed too rushed for me, as if the author were in a hurry to finish to meet a page limit or a deadline. I could easily have endured a few more pages of Holden’s entertaining writing in order to get to know the hero better and to find out what really happened in this massive gap. All things considered, this was a worthwhile, recommendable read, even if the romantic denouement lacked something for me. If you like the twentysomething singles genre and enjoy British humor you shouldn’t miss Bad Heir Day. It’s heavy on humor, light on angst and undemanding to read. There’s no deep emotion and few life-altering insights but it’s a suitable book to unwind with. And sometimes I need just that.