Spa Girls fans who have been waiting for Poppy's story --- wait no longer! In CALM, COOL & ADJUSTED, Kristin Billerbeck writes from the first-person point of view of Poppy Clayton, the chiropractor and the only one of the three Spa Girls who has not been featured in the series. Poppy has plenty of pizzazz and sparkle, and enough unique qualities for two characters. Combine her character with the chick-lit plot staples of guy troubles and wedding plans, and it makes for lots of lighthearted reading.
Each book in the series builds on the previous one. In A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND, Billerbeck spotlighted Morgan Malliard, a poor little rich girl looking for true love. It continued the spa escapades and relationship ups and downs of three friends who readers met in the first book in the series, SHE'S ALL THAT, which focused on Lilly Jacob, a down-on-her-luck fashion designer. In CALM, COOL & ADJUSTED (chiropractic pun intended, we assume) Billerbeck lets Poppy take center stage, and she takes it by storm.
Of the three friends, the hippy chiropractor Poppy has been my favorite throughout the series. The vibrant redhead is obsessed with natural remedies, self-help and pop-spirituality --- her favorite topics of conversation might be the state of your large intestine or the toxicity of your liver. She ties it all to her Christian faith, and is as likely to be found at her mega-church's singles group as she is running her customary thigh-burning miles on the beach. Poppy is an original who eschews makeup and tends to dress in her deceased mother's ratty outdated skirts and a pair of comfortable clogs.
But what was cute in previous books has become obsessive. In CALM, COOL & ADJUSTED, Billerbeck shows Poppy's health and nutrition concerns spiraling out of control. She's running, swimming and exercising compulsively, and drops comments about her percentage of body fat without any encouragement. Morgan and Lilly are concerned for her and want to help.
With Morgan getting married in six months, they decide the best way to get Poppy on the road back to normality --- and to ensure she behaves at the wedding --- is to find her an appropriate date for the event. A parade of men ensues. The handsome plastic surgeon next door is angling for a date, but Poppy drives him off with passive-aggressive behavior. Does she really have a crush on him? Or is she more interested in her tall and teddy-bearish client Simon, who relies on Poppy to give him "an adjustment" after his golf games to bring his awkward spine into alignment? He has a proposition for Poppy that might seem difficult to refuse.
Meanwhile, the two friends have found the perfect man for Poppy --- so they think --- one who likes to run and shares her passion for health. Even more perfect, he's a Christian. But will Poppy find him attractive? Readers will have to wait until the final pages to discover which handsome man she ends up with. And because this is chick-lit, we know it's a given that singleness will not be the solution.
There are some disturbing aspects to this novel, but they are common chick-lit fare. Simon swoops in without permission from Poppy and "rescues" her from the tumble-down homeplace she's inherited, completely renovating it without her knowledge. Poppy gets the mandatory "ugly duckling turns into a swan" makeover, complete with spike heels, hairdo, makeup and new clothes, another familiar chick-lit theme. The best moments come when Poppy gains self-knowledge about her relationships with her deceased mother, her father and her stepmother, and her avoidance of commitment. The novel relies on lots of back-to-back dialogue to keep the scenes moving and the character development unfolding.
I like Poppy's character, especially when she's not busy being rescued or (disappointingly) made-over. She has a flair for individuality and a strong sense of self. Spa Girls fans looking for a lighthearted read should be satisfied with this third book in the series.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 1, 2006