'Helen of Pasadena'
Author: Lian Dolan
Published: Prospect Park Books; Nov. 2010
Genre: Chick-lit; Women's fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Synopsis: Helen Fairchild is leading a privileged Pasadena existence: married to a pillar of the community; raising a water polo-playing son destined for the most select high school; volunteering her time on the most fashionable committees. It only bothers Helen a tiny bit the she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby. But the rigid rules of society in Pasadena appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon "fiber artists," even if she'll never be on the inside. And then along comes a Rose Parade float, killing her philandering husband and leaving Helen broke, out of her "forever' house and scrambling to salvage her once-rarefied existence. Enter Dr. Patrick O'Neill, noted archaeologist, excavator of Troy and wearer of nubby sweaters. A job as Dr. O'Neill's research assistant is the lifeline Helen needs to reinvent herself, both personally and professionally. Ancient mysteries to solve! Charity events to plan! School admissions advisors to charm! If Helen wasn't so distracted by her incredibly attractive boss, she might be able to pull off this new life. Helen's world widens to include a Hollywood star, a local gossip columnist, an old college nemesis, a high-powered Neutron Mom, an unforgiving school headmistress , the best Armenian real state agent in the biz, and, of course, the intriguing Patrick O'Neill. While uncovering secrets about ancient Troy alongside her archaeologist boss, Helen discovers something much more: a new sense of self and a new love. With it's keen social observations, laugh-out-loud scenes and whip-smart dialogue, Helen of Pasadena reads like a roman à clef and unfolds like a romantic comedy. Along the way, this novel delivers humor, insight and wisdom on reinventing yourself.
My Take: I love checking out a new chick-lit author and I love anything set in my home state so I was really excited when this book showed up in my mailbox! It sounded perfect for me. I little humor, a little drama, and a hot archaeologist. What's not to love? And frankly, there wasn't much to not love, the book was pretty great!
I've never been to Pasadena, CA and I'm going to be honest, after reading this book I am not sure I'm sold on the fact that I want to go there. There were times when I was really intrigued by it. I want to check out the houses! All of these really rich people! But yikes, it sounds like a place where you really have to keep up with the Jones'. Our title character, Helen, is originally from Sisters, Oregon, which believe it or not, I've been there, a lot! Some of my relatives live in central Oregon so when they kept talking about how she was from this small town that has recently boomed and people are all into fiber artists and extreme sports I had to smile. Helen wanted to escape her past. I get that, many of us no longer live where we grew up. She went to college and wanted a better life for herself. When she met a man that seemed to have it all, Merritt, she thought her life would be set, so why finish her degree?
Little did she know that some years later that same hero would become a philanderer and get killed in a tragic (if not tragically funny) accident and leave her and her son destitute. Now, Helen has to get her life in order and figure out how to pay all of her bills, get a job, and get her son through the rest of school all by himself. Helen, is totally someone you can relate to and root for and that, aside from the humor of some of these characters in the book, makes this book so easy to read. It made the pages turn themselves. She got dealt a bum deck in the middle of her life and she needed to get a grip when she could have had a meltdown and figure out where to go. So many chick-lit books are just about meeting the guy but in this book Helen is a middle aged mother so she has responsibilities. There is more meat to this story.
However, don't think for one second there isn't a hottie! Helen, swings a cool gig at the Huntington as Patrick O'Neil's assistant where she has been doing some serious volunteer work for years while he has a grant to do some research. He is sexy, older, but alas he has a past. What's great is it allows Helen to revisit her classical training. I will leave the romance up to the reader.
The only fault for me, and it eventually became a big one, was the vast amount of typos in this book. It's a finished paperback, not an advanced reader copy, and this book had typos on pretty much every single page. It made the reading stilted when it should have been smooth. I can forgive a couple, I can not forgive hundreds. Prospect Park Books, if you are looking for an copyeditor, drop me a line!
Cover Lust: I absolutely loved this cover! The color blocks are beautiful!