Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cougar Club by Susan McBride

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm reviewing THE COUGAR CLUB by Susan McBride (HarperCollins/Avon) as is Staci of Life in the Thumb.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that my husband, Paul, is two years and nine months younger than I am.  Does that make me a cougar?  I don't think so.  But I will admit that what feels like no big deal in our 30's felt a little more significant when we were 22 and 19.  Also, my best friend is four years older than her husband.  And my sister is a whopping five months older than hers.  So you decide: are we a Cougar Club?

McBride took some heat for the title of her new book even before it was published.  Apparently, some people find the term "cougar" to describe an older woman dating a younger man offensive.  McBride - married to a man eleven years younger than she - has a wonderful sense of humor about the whole thing.

THE COUGAR CLUB begins a new series about three best friends in their mid-40's, each of whom is making a fresh start of some kind and has a connection to a younger man.

The two best things about this book, in my opinion, are the fact that it's set in St. Louis (woo hoo!) and the characters.  They are - as always in McBride's books - so real that they outlive the pages of the novel.  I have recently realized that I'm 35.  It's not the number that's freaking me out (although, of course it's the number that's freaking me out) but also every little bump, lump, and spot I see on my skin.  I really really really want to go visit dermatologist Dr. Elise Randolph.  I think, "Oh, she's just over at MoBap. I wonder if she can fit me in this month?"  Then I remember: she's a fictional character.  Besides, I'm sure she's all booked up and it would be a little awkward anyway with all the details I know about her private life.

Last year I reviewed the first book in St. Louis author Susan McBride's last series, The Debs (Young Adult, Random House). I thought the writing good and I cared about the characters, though the style was a bit opulent and name-droppy for me.

The same is true here, to some extent.  There's far less name dropping in The Cougar Club than in The Debs, and the names the characters drop are much more my style (Krups coffee maker? Yes, please!).

I love the premise of the series.  I love the quotes from the characters between chapters.  And I love the enduring, loyal friendships between three grown women.

Also, I am really excited for a local author made good; Random House was so invested in this new series that they promoted the book, gave it a great cover, and even printed the trade paperback with spot gloss.  But enough industry talk.

On to the criticism.  I had a hard time loving one of the main characters in the novel (Carla Moss, news anchor).  And and hearing all the characters' ongoing concerns about aging, I found myself panicking about my own slow demise.  (This latter might be a good thing. I've worn sunscreen every day since completing the book. Oh how I wish I hadn't spent my college summers lifeguarding and getting so tan.)

The plot didn't move along quite the way I wanted it to.  This book felt like an introduction to the characters we'll learn more about in the next installment.  Here they are, here's what's going on in their lives, now hang on for book two.

I like McBride's writing and while The Cougar Club wasn't perfect, it drew me in.  I'll be sipping cocktails at Brio, waiting for the next novel in the series.

Here's a blog post from the author discussing reactions to her book. Definitely check it out, because there are two cute videos of the author.

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