I was lucky enough to win this (signed!) book from Liz and Lisa over at Chick Lit is Not Dead last September when I commented on their post "What's on Beth Kendrick's Bucket List?". I had read Kendrick's book Nearlyweds the summer of 2009 and absolutely loved it so I decided to try to win Second Time Around. And what do you know? I actually won it! Amazing.
Now that you know how I came across this novel, let me tell you that I loved, loved, loved it. I had a gala event that I was planning for work this past weekend and reading this book was a fantastic escape. I was incredibly stressed out so the fact that I was able to focus on the characters and the story really shows how great this novel was. It was also a particularly delicious experience to read this book while laying in my hotel room bed the morning after the gala - massive weight off my shoulders, a great book, and an incredibly squashy and comfy bed. Heaven.
Here's the synopsis from Chapters:
Every summer, four college friends hold a mini-reunion. They laugh, reminisce, and commiserate about their soul-sucking jobs. Maybe they should have listened to everyone who warned them to study something "practical."
Then an unexpected windfall arrives-one million dollars, to be exact-with the stipulation that they use it to jump-start their new careers. Almost overnight, a professor, a bartender, a copywriter, and an administrative assistant reinvent themselves as a novelist, an event planner, a pastry chef, and a bed-and-breakfast owner. But the changes in their professional roles create unexpected turbulence in their personal lives, and soon the secrets and scandals from their past start to resurface.
For anyone who has ever wondered "What if?," this engaging novel provides a sweet, funny look at friendship, romance, and second chances.
The synopsis is right...if you've ever wondered what would happened if you had done something differently (and come on, who hasn't?), you'll really enjoy this book. These four friends get the chance to change their lives and, as cliched as this sounds, find happiness. Each of the four women have a chance for a mini do over in their lives when they inherit $250,000 and each of them handles it in different ways. The four friends are the key to this novel so I want to give a little peek into how they deal with their new situations.
Brooke is the sensible one of the bunch who decided to stay in their college town and is working at the alumni office. When the money comes to her she decides to jump right in and do what she's always wanted.
Cait is working as an English professor and is hoping for tenure. She's always wanted to write a novel but even with this money, she can't quite seem to take the chance. Suddenly her situation changes at the college she's teaching at and she finally runs out of excuses.
Jamie is the wild girl who always does what she wants and everyone else be damned. Guys come and go and she seems to be content with her job as a bartender - until her boss refuses her time off and she quits. In typical Jamie fashion, she falls headlong into her dream job when she's visiting Brooke.
Then there's Anna. She's the only married one of the four but things are not all sunshine and lollipops. She and her husband have been trying for a baby for years and it has finally taken a toll on their marriage. He has to go oversees for work so she decides it's a perfect time to visit with the girls at Brooke's place and it's there she rediscovers her passion for baking.
This book has everything - laughing, crying, loving, fighting, playing, and thinking - and it's all wonderfully woven together. The characters are all well rounded and incredibly likeable. I like that none of the women are perfect because, really, who is? The great thing about having this many different characters is that there's usually one that you can really identify with. In my case it was Cait. I can't quite put my finger on why but hers was the story that I always enjoyed going back to. Not to say that I didn't like reading about the other women, because I did. I actually wanted to be friends with them. And I think that is a key thing. These women have a friendship that all other females envy. Ten years ago they met in college and have stayed in touch ever since. While they may be living in different parts of the country, they still manage to see each other at least once a year and always pick up where they left off. They're doing better than some of my friends and I and we're all (for the most part) in the same province! Hence, the envy.
I also think the setting is key. The four friends are back in their college town, which is a quaint, stereotypical upstate New York college town. For me, this was the kind of place that I always thought of when I thought about going away to university. The cover also helped convey what the setting was going to be like as well. There's nothing like seeing some Muskoka chairs, one with books on it, surrounded by green space. I think there also may be some sort of deeper meaning behind the setting. Perhaps Kendrick had all the women end up in the same town they went to college in for a reason. I think it might be because that's when things started to change and they began to make "real" decisions for the first time. I may have gone waaaay too deep for this novel, but it's an interesting thought.
I highly recommend this book because it really is everything that chick lit should be. Compelling female characters, great friendship, a little bit of romance, and a journey. Do you really need any more convincing? Find this novel in some way or another and read it. You won't regret it.