Guilty Feet by Kelly Harte
(Red Dress Ink, $12.95, PG) ISBN 0-373-25026-6
*****
On my way to bed I grabbed Kelly Harte’s Guilty Feet as a transition novel. You know what a transition novel is, the book you reach for when you need something to transition you from “I’m feeling so sleepy” to “Zzzz.” It was my first experience reading a book published by Harlequin’s new imprint, Red Dress Ink, and I wasn’t expecting much, just a filler until I could nod off. I finally put the book down around a quarter to four the next morning after I had finished reading the epilogue. Lucky for me, I get to sleep a little later in the morning than my husband who picked his head up in a ‘shocked awake’ manner before giving me a dirty look each time I hit one of the many laugh-out-loud parts in the novel.

So, it’s not your typical romance. That is to say, it’s not going to make you weep; make you blush; or make you wonder where on earth is your prince charming is hiding. Guilty Feet is about a twenty-six year old British woman, Jo, who has hit a rough patch in her life. If you are squirming at the idea of reading yet another British romance about a single insecure, poor, self loathing twenty-something, let me fill you with confidence… this isn’t that book.

Jo has recently moved out on her Dan, boyfriend of over two years, without giving him a reason (he made an unpardonable comment about how she is turning into her mother), and when the story opens she is just about to lose her job with a once lucrative Internet based company. If things couldn’t get worse, her mother throws her father out of the house in order to teach him a lesson and Jo ends up inviting him to live with her. Not only will he be able to help pay for her expensive flat now that she has to work at a small restaurant until she finds a new job, but she can also keep an eye on him until he gets back together with her mother. But, then her father meets her new boss and it’s love at first sight.

Now it looks as if a reconciliation between her parents is non-existent and her own relationships couldn’t be doing any worse. After a few false start dates, Jo can’t seem to forget about her ex-boyfriend. Her only contact with him is between the emails she sends him from another account and whenever her old neighbor, Libby, tells her about what is going on in his life. Will they ever just call one another so that they can set things straight? They won’t, if a certain upstairs neighbor has anything to do with it. With Jo finally out of the picture, Libby has a chance to win the man of her dreams - Dan. But Dan doesn’t seem to be quite over Jo, either, and Libby sets in motion a wild scheme full of lies and deceit to insure that neither Dan nor Jo ever want to see or hear from the other one again.

Although the price tag may seem a bit high (ouch) it is definitely worth it. Harte’s characters are not only engaging but they seem so true to life that I wondered if Harte stole the story line and people from pages of her own diary. While there isn’t an overabundance of physical descriptions, Harte shows us more about her characters than a mere mirror reflection ever could (i.e. when Jo spends two days trying to detox to check if the wrinkles on her butt cheek is from cellulite or from an impression of fabric while she slept). And, while the two main romance characters, Jo and Dan, hardly meet face to face until the end of the novel, Harte makes the reader yearn for their reconciliation.

According to Harlequin’s website, RDI is publishing books that speak to the “21st-century woman. But we're not just about leading the chick lit revolution.” A relatively new line, if Guilty Feet is any indication, they seemed to hit their goals on the head. Kelly Harte’s novel is fresh, upbeat, a quick read (well, if you can call six hours in the middle of the dead night a quick read) and it’s not the same old British sap novel that has become so popular recently. Just be sure that you don’t leave it for late night reading. Especially if you have an early wake up call.

--Nadia Cornier


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