Chick Lit for the mid-life woman? Of course! Diann Hunt's HOT FLASHES & COLD CREAM isn't about the angst of twenty-something gals over boyfriends, friendship, shopping, work, and a few extra pounds. Rather, it deals with a woman's mid-life issues such as husbands, friendship, shopping, work, and a few extra pounds.
"With one glance at my body in the bedroom mirror, my suspicions are confirmed. Everything has gone south --- and I didn't make a reservation," moans Maggie Hayden. She's on the cusp of turning 50, her daughter Heather has just tied the knot and flown the nest, her son has moved out, and Maggie is thinking about returning to work. "Who am I without the children? When did my body fall apart?" Maggie is a mess from the opening pages.
Her attorney-husband, Gordon, is looking handsome and thinner these days from his low-carb diet. After 30 years, they still SEEM to have a solid marriage ("He is the yin to my yang. The rhythm to my melody. His encouragement can lift me higher than a sale at Isabella's Boutique. Well, it's a close second, anyway.") But is their rock-solid Christian marriage on the way out? He's working long hours and late nights with a paralegal who could pass for Paris Hilton's twin, and it's not long before Maggie worries that Gordon is grazing in greener pastures.
To add insult to injury, Maggie's attractive high school classmate Debra Stiffler (who has had more nips and tucks than a wedding dress passed down three generations) returns to the little overly-cutesy-named Amish town of Charming, Indiana, and sees Maggie at the store but doesn't recognize her. Then, Debra hires Gordon as her attorney! More late nights. Could Gordon be having an affair with Debra, too?
Maggie's best friend, the natural-remedy-dispensing Lily Newgent (similar to Kristen Billerbecks SHE'S ALL THAT character Poppy Clayton, although less of a hippy), is dating a string of unacceptable guys she's meeting online. Can you say "dating disaster?" To top it all off, Maggie's toy Chihuahua, "Crusher," has bladder control issues. "I have an empty house, an old dog, and faded memories," whines Maggie.
When she's not shopping, Maggie spends a lot of time at The New Brew coffee shop, where she befriends Jade, an anorexic barista with mother issues. There's some sweet relationship building between the two of them, although it sometimes disintegrates into preachy clichés. (Jade: "You've been extra kind to me since the day we met." Maggie: "That's what Christians do.")
Women over 35 will resonate with some of Maggie's mid-life moanings --- the wrinkle rings on her neck (one for each decade), the trips to Curves to try to get back into shape, the dreaded facial hair that sprouts unexpectedly, the jealousy that comes out of nowhere. There's plenty of the usual Chick Lit chocolate, shopping, and coffee patter that you'd expect. Sometimes there's too much information (as when Mrs. Stiffler gossips about Maggie's neighbor), and Hunt sometimes succumbs to telling instead of showing ("It always amazes me how Lily and I entertain ourselves.")
Maggie's whining gets old. But since this whining carries the plot (which, like most Chick Lit plots, is wafer-thin), it's understandable. And substantial plots aren't why readers choose Chick Lit. We want to relax, escape reality for a while, and laugh a little bit. And in this, Hunt succeeds. Women in mid-life looking for this type of escape should enjoy this lighthearted novel.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011