As a character, the old hard-drinking, plucky-with-a-stubborn-streak-about-a-mile-wide female musician who's getting older and washed up and needs a chance at a redemption that might just be a little closer to home than she thinks is hardly in short supply (see Gwyneth Paltrow in the upcoming Country Strong, for example). Still, if Ecclesiastes is right and there is, if fact, nothing new under the sun, then there's nothing wrong with Jennie Shortridge's Riding with the Queen taking that familiar character and giving her a capable go.
First off, an admission is in order: Bad reviews are generally more fun to write than good ones, and I picked up Riding with the Queen off the stack of books in the corner of our office that publishers send us almost entirely on the basis that the cover, all pastels and sentiment, made it look like the kind of book I'd dislike. As it turns out, you can't judge a book by its cover.
Nevertheless, the chapter did not get off to an especially promising start. Perhaps it was because chapter 13 is also the beginning of Part Two of the book (just by the way, Part Two begins by giving us a song lyric to chew on: "Pig's wallowed in the mud long enough / time to pick his self up and strut his stuff" -- not exactly Milton over here), but it starts off pretty ponderous:
Some days creep by so slowly you'd swear the clock was broken, while certian idelible moments last forever -- whether pleasant or horrifying -- but in general, time is this crazy rushing river that flows swiftly around all sides of you.
Scarcely a paragraph down from that hoary metaphor, the first person narrator's "erogenous zones prick to attention" when she's talking to a guy she likes, confirming our initial suspicions that we are deep in the realm of chick lit. A romance novel, however, this book is clearly not, and before too long after that, it becomes clear what's going on here: The Narrator, Tallie Beck, is a career musician who used to be semi-famous, but has fallen on hard times, having been fired from her last gig. She's estranged for some reason (it's not specified in the chapter) from her mother, whom she's apparently not seen in some ten years, and she now finds the only gig she can get is back in her hometown of Denver (shout out!) -- a gig she finds in this chapter was in fact set up by none other than her mother, who she's living with.
Cue the impeding redemption (but not without a few snags along the way!) and all that, but while the book is certainly slight and, sure, a bit clichéd, it's also a pretty brisk and entertaining read. Tallie the character is sassy and easy to like, and I got invested in her in spite of myself. Maybe I just have a soft spot for musicians.
In any case, you'll be unlikely to find anything groundbreaking here, but as Tallie herself is sure to find in subsequent chapters, there can be a lot of comfort in the familiar.
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