This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
Bella is watching a film with her boyfriend Mattias when the heroine says something that makes her realise that, while she loves him, she isn’t in love with him. After an unexpected, awkward conversation, they decide to break up. Suddenly Bella is on her own for the first time in ten years, with a faltering music career supplemented by an uninspiring consultancy job, a clutch of close friends who all have a different opinion about her break up, and facing the inevitable, daunting plunge back into the world of dating.
Bella – or B as she is known throughout the book – is a fun, determined character. She is supported by precise, Austrian Kat with her loving husband and solid family life; grounded by straight-talking, romance-o-phobe Clare; and encouraged by feisty, serial-dater Faith. There’s also Mattias, a presence in her life even after they’ve split up, and her new flatmate Fred. One voice of reason, romance and endless inspiration is ninety-year-old Marjorie, who Bella has befriended while volunteering at a care home. With her friends pulling her in different directions, Bella has to make up her mind about love, about whether it’s enough to be comfortable and secure, or if she should chase the passion and desire of being hopelessly in-love with someone.
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While Bella is trying to work this out, she’s meeting other men, trying to resurrect her flailing music career and supporting Kat, Clare and Faith, who are experiencing their own changes of heart. Kat’s solid marriage might not be as blissful as she thinks, Clare is suddenly forced to make a decision about her on/off friends-with-benefits relationship, and Faith’s man-eating attitude is dealt a serious blow.
Bella’s search for the perfect man provides lots of funny moments. Among others she encounters The Musician, The Actor and The Dad, each of them with their own strengths and flaws. Written from the first person, her inner monologue is amusing and frank about the less-glamorous side of finding a partner. Bella’s group of friends are delightful and infuriating in equal measure, and I particularly warmed to Claire, brash on the outside but with a warm, kind heart that comes out more as the story progresses. I also loved Marjorie, with a long, colourful and often tragic past, who helps to put Bella’s quandaries into perspective.
I did find some aspects of this book difficult. Bella’s potential suitors are never given real names, just referred to by a description – ‘The Actor’ or ‘The Dad’. While this was amusing to begin with, I found that it got in the way of me fully imagining them, and made me realise how important names are for characters. I also felt that, while I was rooting for Bella to find happiness, I wasn’t fully caught up in the search, possibly because she’s so pragmatic. Bella’s initial dilemma is about the meaning of, and need for, true love; for that wonderful, all-consuming feeling, and I felt this could have been brought into the story a bit more.
Overall I thought Bella Summer Takes A Chance was a funny, entertaining and believable story, but it didn’t capture my heart or imagination enough for me to get truly swept away.