Chips in a Bag (Margaret Kelleher)

Chips in a Bag: Classy Mr. Murray is a novel by Margaret Kelleher.
[I got this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away.]
Finished on: 14.11.2018

Brandon Lodge holds a special place in Clodagh’s heart, even though she hasn’t been back there for many, many years. It was there that she fell in love with James. Not that things ended well for them – ultimately, Clodagh left for London. But now Brandon Lodge is getting revived and Clodagh, a successful knitwear designer, is part of that revival. Coming back to Ireland with her daughter Beth does bring back memories good and bad. But whether it’s a fresh start or a way back to old paths remains to be seen.

Chips in a Bag does have potential, but it would have needed a lot more work to really fulfill it. I found myself often annoyed at both the writing style and some of the tropes, so the book never really got past okay for me.

I thought that the description of the book sounded really nice: I like that the protagonists here are older. It’s not their first attempt at love, although we also get the young romance bit. It’s rare to get second (or third or fourth) love romances. I’m also always a fan of people knowing each other a long time and then falling in love and this sounded as if it was headed in the same direction (only with falling in love again).

But as much potential as there is to the story, it just felt to me like the book was a couple of drafts and a good editor short of being actually publication ready. The dialogues were really wooden most of the time. The cast of narrators is quite big and the change between perspectives is often very blatant. A little more subtlety here would have gone a long way.

Plus, there were a few moments where the story works towards something – and then refuses to let the reader in on it directly. Like when Clodagh and James meet for the first time after her return. First, we get a couple of (clumsily executed) near-misses, and then they finally actually accidentally meet each other for the first time in decades – and we get to read about it not through their eyes but by other characters (who don’t really understand the significance) retelling the meeting. Or the fact that there are several “side couples” in the story (it’s one of those books where practically everybody who deserves it is happily coupled up in the end) and of course, you see them courting and you get to hear about it from their perspective as well. And then there are two of those couples who are just suddenly together and it’s not commented on any further.

Even more annoyingly, though, the book uses several misogynist tropes like the scheming (ex-)girlfriend. In fact, there are three(!) different evil exes here, all female, of course. At least one gets redeemed, but that overuse got some serious side-eye from me. One would have been too much already, but three?! Plus, there is a literal “I tricked the guy into having a child” entrapment scheme here where she doesn’t even really trick him? I mean, seriously???

If it hadn’t been for those things, I think I could have really enjoyed the story and its large cast of characters. But unfortunately as is, I was more annoyed by the book than really entertained.

Summarizing: didn’t work for me.

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