Second Time Around
I like my Chick Lit on the light and funny side. If there are too many affairs or too much sadness (in other words, if it’s really more on the Women’s Fiction side of the spectrum), I’d just as soon not bother. Second Time Around is precisely the sort of Chick Lit I enjoy. It has an interesting premise and lots of laughs – and it doesn’t try to get too deep.
A group of former roommates at a small liberal arts school – all English majors – has gathered every summer since they graduated. In their most recent stay together, they all bonded over career difficulties and relationship problems, and each one speculated about what they would have done differently if they could do it over again. One of their number, Arden, is terminally ill – and also wealthy. When she dies, Arden leaves the remaining four $250,000, with the mandate that they each use the money to make a new start for themselves. Almost overnight, they all move in together and change careers.
The impetus behind the change is Brooke, who still lives in the same college town and works for the administration. Brooke decides to buy their old dorm home and turn it into a B&B. It seems like a simple enough prospect until she realizes that the wiring is completely outdated and will need to be overhauled. While she’s getting the B&B ready for the public, the other three women (who are all at personal crossroads) decide to move in with her as well. Caitlin is a professor at another small college whose former mentor/boyfriend/boss has encouraged her to take a leave of absence (mostly so he can move in on the next pretty young thing). Cait has always wanted to write a novel…but does she dare let the world know that her muse is directing her to write am historical romance? Jamie has been working as a bartender in LA. When her boss won’t give her time off for Arden’s funeral, she decides to move on. She comes to the B&B with the hope of becoming an event planner; it’s a career she feels uniquely qualified for because she did such a great job planning three weddings for herself (that never took place). Anna has always had a sideline making birthday cakes for children’s parties, but inside she is living with her own personal heartbreak: She and her husband Jonas are infertile. When Jonas travels overseas for work, they both agree on a trial separation. Anna goes to the B&B and starts a baking business, and with the help of event-planning Jamie and Brooke’s administrative connections, she sees some immediate success.
Each woman comes into her own in some way during the course of the book. For some it means facing the past (and the guilt they have carried over the years). Others blossom professionally and romantically. Brooke discovers that she actually enjoys fixing up her old home, and isn’t sure she wants to stop when the project is over. In the process, she meets a cute guy at the local hardware store. Cait has her romance-writing thing going on, but she also enjoys a hot and heavy relationship with the professor she lusted after in college. This guy has a secret or two of his own. Anna has her marital conflicts to sort out, but she has some professional issues as well. She shares commercial kitchen space with another baker, who until Anna arrived was more or less the only game in town. This woman is out for Anna’s blood – and she’s also pregnant. Jamie is perhaps the most free-spirited of the group. A bit of a wild-child in college, she had an affair with a married administrator. Her past is coming back to haunt her now that she’s been hired by his future mother-in-law to plan his wedding.
There may be death, infidelity, infertility, and professional problems in this book, but I wouldn’t say the book is about any of that. The focus is on the bonds of friendship, and the lighthearted consequences of getting that second chance. Because the cast of characters is large, it doesn’t delve too deeply into anyone’s history; it’s a “second chance” novel, but a very lighthearted one. I enjoyed all the characters – even the ones like Jamie who were harder for me to relate to personally. Although of course in some ways I can relate to anyone who has a decorative liberal arts degree (mine’s in History, and I like to say that it’s paying for itself ten cents at a time – in the form of trivia discounts at my local coffee shop). My favorite character was probably the romance-writing Caitlin; I love nearly everything about her romantic relationship (even though I guessed the professor’s secret almost immediately).
This wasn’t quite A-level material, mostly because the book just isn’t weighty enough for that. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Second Time Around, and would recommend it to anyone who likes an occasional Chick Lit fix. I think you’ll like it – even if you managed to major in something practical.