Grade : A-

I don’t know when the British term “bonkbuster” was coined, but as far as I’m concerned it was invented for Jilly Cooper. Her novels regularly run over 700 pages - that’s the “buster”. And the “bonk“ - goes without saying. At their worst, Ms. Cooper’s novels are cornucopiae of orgies and shagfests without a shred of genuine humor. At their best, they are 700-plus pages of fun and shenanigans galore.

Rivals is the second book in the Rutshire Chronicles (yeah, you read that right) and probably the only one I will ever reread. The plot? I’m going to copy and paste from the back of the original paperback: “…[the book] explores the cut-throat world of television and lets loose the insatiable libido of the devastatingly attractive hero of Riders - Rupert Campbell-Black!” And that’s about it.

Details? Oh okay, fine. So there’s a sexually degenerate TV franchise owner Lord Tony Baddingham in the fictional English county of Rutshire who, besides being immoral and abusive, is curtailing the creativity (gasp!) of Irish TV personality Declan O’Hara, who’s the new neighbor of Rupert Campbell-Black, who’s shagging (whoops, bonking) Baddingham’s American producer and mistress Cameron Cook, who’s hooked on Declan’s son Patrick, whose sister Taggie is in love with Rupert, who along with a lot of other people is trying to steal the TV franchise from Lord Baddingham.

Of course, none of this matters, because the sheer exuberance of the writing, the absolute conviction that the author does not for one moment take herself seriously, and some awesome one-liners (oh, and the most shamelessly soppy ending I’ve ever read that works) - all of this make one hell of a roller coaster, and it’s the ride that counts. I did learn a lot about how private British television networking worked in the late 80s, but the plot details pale compared to the spectacularific antics and cock-ups of our cast of sixty gazillion. In other words, it’s plain fun.

But what makes Rivals different from Ms. Cooper’s other books is that bottom line, it’s a happy book. The plot admittedly appeals to me – good guys pull one over on the bad guy, who’s reeeeally bad – but it’s also optimistic, uplifting, and has believable HEAs. Although half the characters are still egotistical drama queens, I like them. They are so not of this planet, but they’re a hoot.

Just in case it hasn’t been made clear: By no stretch of the imagination is there an ounce of reality in this book. It’s fantasy deluxe; it’s so escapist it’s on the moon. It’s an elephantine soap opera with lots of adultery and naked tennis and some under-the-table dealing and The Merry Widow and Yeats and a surprisingly romantic ending (I’m almost ashamed of myself). It’s over the top, it’s excessive, sometimes it’s hugely politically incorrect, and I always finish with a grin on my face. I think that’s a very reasonable exchange.


Reviewed by Enya Young
Grade : A-
Book Type: Fiction

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 5, 2010

Publication Date: 1989

Review Tags: film/tv making funny

Recent Comments …

Enya Young

I live in Seattle, Washington and work as a legal assistant. I remember learning to read (comic strips) at a young age and nowadays try to read about 5-6 books a week. I love to travel, especially to Europe, and enjoy exploring smaller towns off the tourist track though London is my favorite city in the world.
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