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2.5 Stars

Even though I’m generally a fan of British chick-lit, in the vein of Bridget Jones’ Diary, or the Shopaholic series (although at this point I’m sick of Becky being such an idiotic liar), this effort like many others, fell short of the mark. This was a Free Friday selection from Barnes and Noble- every Friday, they offer a free e-book. I’ve found some real winners among the freebies in the past- Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, In the Light of You by Nathan Singer, and The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond Atkins, just off the top of my head.

From Notting Hill with Love ActuallyFrequently, the selections are romances, in which case I usually give them a pass. But, if they look like they could be full of British humor, I’ll give them a try. This was one of those tries. As the title indicates, romantic comedies are heavily referenced. This should have warned me off from the start, because I generally hate Rom-Coms. I know, I should turn in my girl card right now.

Anyway, Scarlett O’Brien is 24 and obsessed with movies. Fortunately for her, she and her father own a popcorn-machine business, which puts her in contact with movie theaters daily.  She also has a rich, but boring fiance. Scarlett is obsessed with movies, particularly romantic comedies, and is convinced that life can indeed be just like those movies.

I found this premise super-lame, and was pretty sure that the author would debunk it, with some humorous misunderstandings along the way. Not really. In fact, I couldn’t figure out what the author’s point was, except that life is like a box of chocolates, and also like many movies. Sometimes. But not necessarily.

Scarlett gets a chance to house-sit in Notting Hill, and takes a month off from her dad and fiance in order to find herself. Her real motivation however, is to prove to her skeptical friends and family that her life will work out just like a movie. O-kay. Before we go any further, let me make it clear that I’ve watched hardly any of the movies referenced, so half the time I don’t even know what she’s talking about.

Upon arriving in Notting Hill, Scarlett spots the bookstore apparently used for the movie and goes in where she meets cute a cute guy. She mistakes him for a bookstore employee and he is offended. Then he turns out to be her next-door neighbor. And you already know exactly how this is going to end. At this point, I was praying for a clever twist, but it was not to be.

Of course, Scarlett has all kinds of adventures, and with the help of a new, very gay friend, manages to orchestrate a number of scenes from her favorite movies, to make her life as much like those movies as possible. Exactly how this will prove to the sane people in her life how this is a wonderful thing remains unclear throughout.

Scarlett finally finds her long-lost mother, also a huge movie buff, and in the end, is forced to choose between hunky neighbor, who might be a player, although we never find out exactly why- and her dull fiance. She almost goes with the dull fiance (Mark Darcy, from Bridget Jones’ Diary in Scarlett’s sadly addled mind), but at the last minute, hunky player-neighbor comes through with a super-romantic interlude that convinces her he must be the one. I guess I would have been more satisfied if she had chosen neither.

The whole thing made me feel kind of exasperated. I couldn’t figure out exactly what the author was trying to do here. I didn’t get the sense that she was really trying to show us the error of Scarlett’s ways, but at the same time, Scarlett never really won her point either. She got to see how living in a fantasy world ruined her mother’s life, and yet she kind of decides to follow the same path. We never really find out why.

Maybe I’m just the wrong audience for this kind of book. I think Scarlett just seems really young and immature and I just can’t relate. So, if you love romantic comedies, you’d probably enjoy this book, especially if you’ve seen a lot of movies. Otherwise, I’ll recommend giving it a pass.