Article first published as Book Review: 'A Girl Like That' by Mary Flinn on Blogcritics.
May 22, 2015
A Girl Like That
NC Novelist Flinn’s Bad Girl Elle McClarin Takes the Cake in New Tell-All Story
Elle McLarin, known as “Badass Barbie” to her detractors, is the kind of girl whom readers just love to hate—at least she was until now. Mary Flinn introduced Elle in the first book of her Kyle and Chelsea series, The One, where Elle made an unforgettable debut as a high school senior so infatuated with Kyle that she gave him a roofie at a party to try to loosen him up so he’d have sex with her. That plan backfired—really backfired. When the party was raided by the cops, Kyle was found unconscious with his pants down. Elle ended up serving a prison term, during which time, she gave birth to her first child—out of wedlock, of course. Since then, Elle has dwelled on the margin of the Kyle and Chelsea series, occasionally being mentioned or making cameo appearances, but never having a chance to tell her own story.
Until now—and what a story it turns out to be! In A Girl Like That, we find out about Elle’s dysfunctional childhood, what led to her mistake with Kyle, and her attempts since then to redeem herself. And who would have guessed that this bad girl would turn out to be Mary Flinn’s most loveable character?
This new book is told from Elle’s point of view and begins nineteen years after Elle’s incident with Kyle. Elle’s grandmother has just died and Elle’s now eighteen-year-old son, Joey, has joined the Army, leaving Elle on her own and free finally to escape the mountain community where she has long been the talk of the town. Elle sells her grandmother’s cabin and heads for Wilmington, North Carolina, to reinvent herself by operating her own bakery. There she starts to make new friends, become a successful businesswoman, and try to forget the past, but her bad girl side still needs to be repressed now and then.
When Elle meets her gorgeous neighbor, Nate, she knows better than to get involved with him, especially since he’s so hot he could be Kyle’s hotter twin. But a chain of events is soon unleashed that finds Elle not only involved with Nate, but enmeshed in a string of strange relationships and circumstances that will change her life forever.
Flinn is at her finest in this novel, from depicting the irony of a heroine who has never married or found true love but spends her days baking and decorating wedding cakes, to the way she uses leitmotifs throughout the novel, such as Elle’s aversion for the color orange because it reminds her of her prison clothing. The supporting cast of characters includes a loveable elderly gardener, Elle’s costume designer landlord, a winery owner and his overly talkative fiancée, a handyman with a secret, the twenty-something bakery staff, the father of Elle’s son and his hateful family, a bitchy reporter who comes to cover Elle’s bakery’s grand opening, and a young boy desperately in need of Elle’s help. Their lives all weave together into Elle’s in a way that could rival any Dickens’ plot, and each plays his or her role in helping or hindering Elle in her pursuit of happiness, which can only be achieved when she learns to forgive herself for the past.
It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard or felt so deeply for the main character when reading a novel, which shows Flinn is at the top of her form. Several years ago, this North Carolina author set out to write a romance novel. Today, with several books under her belt, she has proven herself to be one of the finest writers of realistic fiction alive today. Don’t miss A Girl Like That. I guarantee you’ll not only like it—you’ll love it!
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