It's no surprise that I was immediately drawn to "Romantically Challenged" by Beth Orsoff (New American Library, $13.95). I could definitely relate to the title, but it was the cover that really got my attention.
On the cover, brightly colored conversation hearts, which bear sayings like "pretty boy" and "neat freak," are scattered on a white background. The title is printed on a pink stripe underneath the hearts. Not only do I love pink, but I am also quite fond of conversation hearts. Even before I read the first page of "Romantically Challenged," I automatically liked the book.
The story, which follows the dating dilemmas of Julie Burns, an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, lived up to my expectations. I found it easy to relate to Julie as she navigated the often confusing world of dating. The book was funny and entertaining.
Judge books by their covers doesn't always work well, but in this case, it turned out very nicely.
On the other hand, book titles aren't always accurate representations of a story. I expected "Madame Mirabou's School of Love" by Barbara Samuel (Ballantine, $13.95) to be at least a little risque. The cover photo, of a lady in an old-fashioned bathtub, was also somewhat suggestive. But despite its cover and title, the book was not at all racy.
Set in Colorado, the story focuses on Nicole, a recently divorced woman still adjusting to life on her own. At the beginning of the book, her furnace explores, destroying her home. Nicole has to move into an apartment complex. Madame Mirabou is the nickname of Nicole's new neighbor, Roxanne, who reads tarot cards.
"Madame Mirabou's School of Love," however, isn't about a madame or school at all, though it does address love. The Madame Mirabou nickname is hardly mentioned much in the story, which made the title seem even more strange. Despite the inappropriate title, I liked the book. Its tone and storyline reminded me of Judith Ryan Hendricks' "Bread Alone" (Harper, $13.95), another novel about a woman starting over that I liked.
In Madame Mirabou's School of Love," Nicole has a passion for making perfume. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from her perfume journal. It's really interesting to read about moments from her past, as remembered in scents.
Overall, the story is well-rounded and nicely detailed, even if the title is less than accurate. I'll just have to remember that a bad title might be hiding a perfectly good book.
If there's a book you think I really ought to read or you have information about upcoming author appearances in the Atlanta area, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.