Tag Archives: novel

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

If you asked me a week ago why I added The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson  to my to-read list, I would say it recently took my Goodreads friends by a storm and someone or other recommended it to me. 

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But I just checked and, in fact, only one of my friends has read The Accidental Beauty Queen. The rest simply marked it to read. So who knows why I picked it up. 

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The plot centers on Charlotte, a librarian whose identical twin sister competes in beauty pageants. The beauty pageant twin gets a chance to compete in Miss America  Miss American Treasure and invites Charlotte to come along. Of course you know what happens next. The beauty pageant twin has an allergic reaction and it is up to her Harry Potter-quoting, “nerdy” sister to carry the day and win the crown. 

Final rating: 3/5 stars.

Admittedly I kind of want to hate this book, but it was so fluffy I can’t.

The story represents sheer wish fulfillment. It is the idea that YOU (meek little bookworm) are one spray tan and hair extension away from being Miss America. And who doesn’t want to feel that way?

Further, you don’t even need the spray tan to gain the love of a Super Hawt Billionaire (who adores books and dogs and children) because he will take one look at you and fall for your makeup-less face and Quirky Nerd Girl T-Shirt.

Because Harry Potter is, like, so niche. It takes an English degree to get it.

But actually, Harry Potter references I can forgive. I mean, I cannot name all the dogs in the series at the drop of a hat which the male lead just randomly does. So, good for your super hot billionaire Mr. Gray. (Ugh, but his name is Gray. I don’t think I can forgive that. If your book makes fun of someone for calling 50 Shades of Gray her favorite novel, DON’T NAME YOUR HERO GRAY AND MAKE HIM A BILLIONAIRE.)

I also don’t think I can forgive Charlotte’s description of herself. You see, woe is her, she is the Lizzie to her identical twin sister’s Jane. The Jo to her sister’s Meg.

Such a failure.

But come on. We all know Lizzie is the one to be and Meg is an utter bore. So, you’re telling me this well read, articulate librarian ACTUALLY feels bummed that she is a Lizzie and not Jane? I think not. But then she wouldn’t be this totally down-to-earth, quirky, nerd girl if she ALSO had self-esteem, would she?

(Side note: can we talk about this girl’s genes because she eats however she wants and still can fit into her model sister’s swimsuit and evening gowns for this pageant. If I was the beauty pageant twin and never ate carbs, I’d be super salty.)

But all that aside, this IS wish fulfillment and not even the morally superior tone of our nerd girl, the in-your-face message about how beauty queens are great people too, and the rushed nature of the plot can ruin it. It is sheer fluff and fun. A fast, easy, light-hearted read…basically an adult Disney Channel original movie but as a novel. And for once, actually it is kind of nice to have a 29-year-old heroine take the stage and not another angsty teen or incompetent Sophie Kinsella heroine. 


Sweethearts Unmet by Berta Ruck

It continually boggles my mind that Berta Ruck’s books aren’t better known. She wrote before, during, and after WW1 and her novels give stunning glimpses into the social outlook of women during that period, particularly within the context of war. When she writes about ‘our boys in khaki!’ she writes it in 1914 with no knowledge of whether England will win the war or not. She captures the desperation of war and a suddenly changed society and she does it from the front lines. 

Written in 1919, Sweethearts Unmet tells a sweet story about two sweethearts…who never meet. At least, not for the first 3/4ths of the book. The plot flips back and forth from ‘The Girl’s Story’ to ‘The Boy’s Story’ and so the reader gets a front row seat to how often they almost meet. They’re two adorable, sweet characters with old-fashion values and pure hearts. They’re perfect for one another. And they both manage to get engaged to perfectly wrong people. 

Spoiler alert: sweethearts eventually meet.

In fact, by the end it is almost too sickeningly sweet. Not only do the characters harp on ‘what if we hadn’t met?’ (i.e. sweethearts unmet) but the author has an entire chapter at the end devoted to ‘what shall happen to all the nice young people who don’t meet? We must find ways to bring soulmates together!’ 

It that sounds vaguely over the top, I agree. But it is so much better when set within the historical context. Berta Ruck is not just telling some sugary little love story and declaring that young men and women should socialize more. She’s recognizing the change the war has wrought on traditional courtships. 

Because pre-war: Boy sees Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy has someone introduce them. Or, if no introduction can be found, has his family approach her family. In no way must Boy talk to Girl without an introduction. And for the Girl, not only would she not talk to Boy, but she would not give Boy the time of day if he did talk to her. A Nice Young Lady does not do such things.

But then came War.

And now Boy sees Girl. Boy likes Girl. But Boy’s family is dead. All Boy’s chums died fighting. Boy has no way to introduce himself. Girl sees Boy. Girl likes Boy. But when Boy tries to talk to her, Girl freezes up because a Nice Young Lady does not allow perfect strangers to talk to her. Even if she knows no one else in London. 

The two young people would be perfectly happy if properly introduced. But they no longer live in a world where the old rules work. So they are left at a standstill. (Hence sweethearts…unmet!) And hence Berta Ruck’s strong push for breaking some of the social constraints around ‘young people finding happiness.’ 

Not my favorite Berta Ruck but one I think I will return to as it combines both the interesting historical context with some strong, female side-characters.