Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Review - - Monarch Beach

Monarch Beach
By Anita Hughes
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: June 19, 2012

Amanda Blick’s life may not be what she dreamed of at eighteen, but it’s one she finds fulfilling. She’s happy in Marin County, California, with her routine of ladies auxiliary lunches, committee meetings, PTA fundraisers, and after school activities for her eight-year-old son Max. She’s still in love with Andre, her sexy French husband, a chef whose restaurant specializes in fondues. Life is good—until everything changes one Tuesday when she drops in unannounced on her husband at his restaurant and finds him enjoying a close encounter of the sexual kind with his Scandinavian sous chef. As a sop to Andre’s pride, the Blicks have been living in a small house and managing on Andre’s income, but Amanda belongs to a wealthy, established San Francisco family and has inherited a fortune from her father. When her mother learns of Andre’s infidelity, she first calls a lawyer and then makes reservations for herself, Amanda, and Max to spend the summer at the upscale St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.

Andre insists that his affair was meaningless, that he loves Amanda and Max, that divorce is ridiculous. Amanda waffles a bit, but she’s almost certain she can no longer live with Andre. What better place to make up her mind than the St. Regis where childcare and surfing lessons are provided for Max, designer fashions are available in the shops, and a perfectly trained hotel staff caters to her every wish from decadent desserts to thousand-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. When she has a surfeit of working out and lying in the sun, she can spend time with Edward, an older, divorced man, also a chef, who welcomes her to his restaurant and to his bed. But when Edward, angry about Amanda’s difficulty in letting go of Andre, spends an evening with an old friend with benefits, Amanda wonders if she can trust any man.

Written in first person, Monarch Beach is chick-lit rather than romance fiction; thus, no one should be surprised that conventions of the romance genre are ignored here. Readers who consider adultery taboo may be turned off by Amanda’s affair with Edward while she is still legally the wife of Andre Blick. Frankly, I was less bothered by her unfaithfulness than by her shallowness. I quickly grew weary of the endless details of couture and cuisine, and I found nothing to admire or like in Amanda’s immaturity and passivity. Andre has made all the decisions in their marriage, and after she leaves him, her mother takes over. Amanda seems to revert to adolescence in the games she plays hiding her activities from her mother.

Even the sex is pedestrian. Although Amanda claims that Edward’s lovemaking leaves her in “a state of sexual bliss,” she hardly seems a participant but rather an object acted upon. Her passivity is not limited to sex. She never behaves like a thirty-something adult. At the end, after she is disillusioned by Edward, it is her mother who suggests Amanda can still become the fashion designer she dreamed of being. It is her mother who makes a series of phone calls to the “right people” and through the magic of money and contacts in a few days has Amanda admitted to the prestigious Parsons School of Design, secures a suite for Amanda and Max to make an unlimited stay at the St. Regis in New York, registers Max at private school with a waiting list, and persuades Andre to accept the divorce. I see little evidence that Amanda changes and grows during the course of the book.

A review is one person’s opinion, and I have never been particularly interested in the lifestyle of the privileged and cheated on. Other readers may be interested and may enjoy Monarch Beach. I didn’t, and I can’t in good faith recommend it.



  1. Thank you for the honest review, Janga. Sometimes I ignore negative reviews if I know the author. I'll read the book and make my own decision about it. However, knowing that you are the reviewer in this case makes me feel certain that your have correctly gauged the content and found it lacking. I can use my time better by looking elsewhere. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks, Marybelle and Flora. I hate writing negative reviews and rarely do so. Since I choose the books I read for review and most of those I choose are from authors whose books I've liked in the past, I am generally happy to share what I think about four and five star reads, with an occasional three stars for one that gave me problems in some area. But I do like to try debut authors. This month I've reviewed two. One I loved (Overseas by Beatriz Williams), but this one I had a hard time finishing. However, one reader's two star read will leave a different reader raving. I'm sure there are readers who will enjoy this book. It's just that I'm not one of them.

  3. Janga, thanks for this honest review. I wouldn't be able to get past the adultery aspect and am glad to know that before picking this book up.

    1. Andrea, I think adultery is a dealbreaker for many romance readers. I've seen some heated discussions on the topic.

  4. Wow Janga, thank you for an honest review.
    I would probably be able to get past the adultery aspect if there was a good reason for that behavior. However after reading this line I knew that this book wasn’t for me:
    "I found nothing to admire or like in Amanda’s immaturity and passivity."
    Nor would I find anything to admire or like, in fiction or real life. Although I suspect that there are those people who will be able to identify with Amanda. Why? Because they expect someone else to 'fix' their life for them too.


  5. Julie, if Amanda had matured and become more assertive over the course of the story, my reaction would have been different. I think that story arc is common in women's fiction, but except for her disillusionment about her marriage, she seemed unchanged to me. I couldn't get past that.

  6. Thanks for the review ...I think I will see if the library gets it before I would buy it... sorry you didn't like it but we can't like everything we read all the time, I guess. It reminds me of when I read a book bt Pat Cornwell I got to page 256 and took it back I hated it so much and my kids still laugh about it cuz I really like her as an author but that book sucked...


  7. When I pick up a book to read, I want more than just a relationship story. I want a story line worth following, characters with depth, and a certain amount of growth on the part of the characters, even if it is realizing that what they thought they wanted and have isn't tight for them. I like action and intrigue, but I also like small town stories , and historicals are a favorite. Watching someone who is basically a spoiled rich kid float through life isn't much of a plot, especially when there is no growth or self-realization. I do know people who will enjoy this type of story, but it isn't my style.
    Thanks for the review.