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Meet the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A respectable middle-class, middle-aged, mixed-race couple, Harold and Forsythia have four eminently marriageable daughters—or so their mother believes. Forsythia named her girls after Windsor royals in the hopes that one day each would find her true prince. But princes are far from the mind of their second-born daughter, Elizabeth (AKA Bliss), who, in the aftermath of a messy divorce, has moved back home and thrown herself into ...
Meet the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A respectable middle-class, middle-aged, mixed-race couple, Harold and Forsythia have four eminently marriageable daughters—or so their mother believes. Forsythia named her girls after Windsor royals in the hopes that one day each would find her true prince. But princes are far from the mind of their second-born daughter, Elizabeth (AKA Bliss), who, in the aftermath of a messy divorce, has moved back home and thrown herself into earning her PhD.
All that changes when a Bachelorette-style reality television show called The Virgin takes Bliss’s younger sister Diana as its star. Though she fights it at first, Bliss can’t help but be drawn into the romantic drama that ensues, forcing her to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, her family, and herself.
Fresh and engaging, Imperfect Bliss is a wickedly funny take on the ways that courtship and love have changed—even as they’ve stayed the same.
"Chick lit with an intellectual streak."
“Convincingly updates Pride and Prejudice for the twenty-first century …the novel’s strength is Bliss, a complicated, thoughtful woman—a feminist raising a princess-obsessed daughter, and a very funny narrator. Issues of racial and economic prejudice add depth to the Austenesque social commentary.”
"Imperfect Bliss is the perfect summer read. Susan Fales-Hill, a magnificent storyteller, has written a poignant and piquant comedy of manners that will make Jane Austen fans swoon. Delicious!"
“Imperfect Bliss is a hoot! Featuring a heroine who becomes entangled in the nutty world of reality TV, it's a fast, fun read.”
"If Candace Bushnell and Zadie Smith had a literary love child, the result would be Imperfect Bliss."
"Imperfect Bliss's romantic heroine ultimately finds her epiphany in a journey through family discord, reality TV productions, and a candlelight dinner for two...this is reading as alluring as the best French perfume."
“A chick lit masterpiece that leaves Jackie Collins in the dust.”
“Frank and funny…A wise and wicked peek into the overstuffed closets and medicine cabinets of New York’s contemporary gilded set.”
“A sassy summer beach read.”
Bliss Harcourt stared down at her daughter who stood with cherubically plump arms tightly crossed to prevent her mother from removing her powder-blue ersatz satin princess dress. How do you tell a four-year-old you can have the right outfit and the right attitude but it doesn’t mean your prince will come? And even if he does show up, he might just ride away, permanently, mused Bliss as Bella scowled at her through baby bifocals worn beneath a spangled plastic tiara. “Bella, please take off the costume,” Bliss pleaded, not wanting to use bodily force, but aware that her stores of patience diminished with every passing minute.
“I’m not Bella, I’m Cinderella,” the bespectacled tot shot back, setting her lower lip in a defiant just try to take it off pout. Bliss took a deep breath and closed her eyes, counting to ten. When she opened them, she found Bella’s expression unchanged: she was frozen in stubborn determination to go to school a princess.
Bliss looked around the room, a wax museum of her adolescence. The four-poster bed with its flowered chintz canopy had stood unaltered since her sweet sixteen. In a corner, on the back wall of the room, hung her pantheon of youthful heroes and sheroes: Nelson Mandela, Mary McLeod Bethune, Bono, Mumbet (the first black woman to sue for liberation), and, incongruously, Queen Elizabeth II in full coronation regalia, included at her mother’s insistence. Bliss was thirty-three and a half and this is what her life had come to: moving back in with her parents while she dug herself out of postdivorce debt and having standoffs with her daughter over a princess costume made of fabric so synthetic that it crunched like a cellophane candy wrapper being opened in a darkened movie theater every time she moved. Bliss sighed in frustration at what she perceived to be a conspiracy to turn every little girl in the developed world between the ages of two and ten into an aspiring bridezilla. Surely the film companies were in cahoots with the nefarious wedding industry. They had to be or there would be films about girls founding Internet start-ups, going to medical school, joining Habitat for Humanity, not endless rehashings of the parable of the motherless virgin looking for love in all the royal places. If only little girls knew where happily ever after led.
Bliss looked from the poster of a youthful Che Guevara, a hero she and her ex-husband shared, to the Yale insignia ring he’d given her in lieu of an engagement band three years before they actually wed. Neither of them believed in diamonds since you couldn’t really be certain they hadn’t been dug out of Sierra Leonian sludge by conscripted child soldiers. In the wake of the divorce, Bliss had moved the ring to her right hand, but she couldn’t yet bring herself to remove it entirely, and consign it to a box of keepsakes tucked away on a shelf. Every morning she sprung out of bed hoping it would be the day her divorce suddenly struck her as 100 percent the right decision, in the same way that following her beloved down to Miami soon after college and marrying him had. Countless articles in glossy women’s magazines told her she should have felt at peace when she ended her marriage. To her that was like saying, “You should feel entirely at ease about your impending amputation. Did we mention, we’re all out of anesthesia?” Who were these bloodless couples who could calmly discuss unraveling their conjoined lives over a steaming cup of international coffee?
She looked down once more at Bella who absentmindedly hummed a waltz from the Cinderella movie. When Bella was of age, would Bliss join the cabal of mothers lying about the glories of matrimony in order to perpetuate the human race? No, she would find a way around that myth, while not dashing all her daughter’s romantic dreams the way life and recent events had hers. Was this the moment to disabuse Bella of her illusions given that her own father barely bothered to visit, call, or send a text message? Maybe not. She hadn’t finished preschool, and it wasn’t even 8:00 AM. Bliss decided to spare her, at least till kindergarten. Fairy tales were like candy: fine if you didn’t make a steady diet of them. Besides, she had to admit to herself that somewhere in the depths of her soul, she too was clinging to the hope that her ex would someday return. Failing that, she would happily settle for not feeling like she’d been hit by a Mack truck doing a hundred and twenty on I-95. Not feeling like road kill, yes, that would be a big improvement, she thought to herself. But there was no time to sing the “why me?” blues. She had to get Bella to school.
Kneeling down before her, she stroked her baby-bottom soft cheek and calmly said, “If you take if off now, you can wear it all afternoon.” Bella demurred, frowning. She wanted specifics, from what time till what time? Could she wear it till she went to bed? “Till bath time,” her mother answered. Bella furrowed her brow, weighing the offer, and then dropped her arms in surrender. Bliss lifted her own to indicate this is how we take it off. Bella followed suit and Bliss peeled the yards of dime-store tulle off her. As she handed her a short skirt, she looked down at Bella’s right leg, which splayed out in its ankle brace. It was probably one of the reasons Bella wanted to wear her long costume to school: to shield herself from the taunts of the other children and forget her disability. Donning the skirt, Bella lost her balance, teetered, and fell. Bliss wanted to kick herself for not catching her in time. She repressed the impulse to pick her up and hold her tight. She smiled instead. “Come on, my little toughie,” she said, her eyes beaming strength, encouragement, and heartfelt pride. Bella painstakingly pulled herself up. Bliss inwardly sighed with relief. Every such moment was a little Olympic victory in her child’s life. A challenge is an opportunity. That which does not kill me makes me stronger. . . . If it doesn’t land me in the lunatic asylum. Bliss recited the litany in her head, refusing to dwell on the unfairness of genomic roulette. She wished she could switch places and live with the diplegia on Bella’s behalf. There I go again, she mentally chided herself, doing useless wishing. It was her favorite pastime other than reading history. Really they were of a piece. She could earn her PhD and become a world-renowned expert on French and American race relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but all she would ever do was comment with the wisdom of hindsight, not change the outcomes.
From downstairs, she heard her mother scream. The last time she’d heard her mother let out such a howl had been when she’d had the misfortune of visiting during the royal engagement of Prince William to “commoner” Kate Middleton. Her mother had felt robbed, as if that “upstart” “Waity Katie” had stolen the position that rightfully belonged to one of her four beautiful, American daughters. “It should have been us!” she’d wailed at the time. Now Bliss wasn’t just visiting, she was stuck listening to these rants. Grabbing her knapsack, books, and Bella’s hand, Bliss ventured down the slightly tilted and creaking staircase of the two-and-a-half-story Tudor cottage to discover the source of her mother’s latest wrath.
Posted August 4, 2012
This was a really great, light, funny and refreshing read. Yes, the plot was very predictable, but nevertheless I enjoyed the story immensely. As I said, it was kind of a light read, but I also found myself taking some of the issues talked about in the book, and things that the characters were involved in, and thinking about them more. So even though this was a pretty light, I think there is definitely some deeper meaning behind it, and will leave you with something to think about. Especially in today's society with our fixation on reality t.v., sex etc.
The heroine (or fairy tale princess) was African American, which I really liked because it doesn't seem to be all that common in books, especially chick lit. I also like some of the issues that the character Bliss brought up, being African American. It added that deeper element to the story definitely.
I also loved the sense of humor of the writer! Like, no, really.
I thought that this book was pretty darn hilarious. The crazy mom, the easy sister, everyone. They were all perfect for the story and I immediately fell in love with them.
Overall this was a great book and I would totally recommend it to fans of funny, chick lit, and definitely satires.
No kidding folks, this book was pretty funny.
It's sure to make you smile like a fool.
7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2012
If I have to read one more time that Imperfect Bliss is "Jane Austen meets The Bachelorette," I might scream. But the reason for this ubiquitous description of Susan Fales-Hill's novel (apart from a press release) is because it follows the ups and downs of four single sisters whose mother is obsessed with British culture and the marriageability of her daughters (including Elizabeth--aka Bliss--or our Lizzie Bennett) when one of them is selected to be the star of a horrifying new TV reality show called The Virgin.
There is a rule of the internet (Poe's Law, for those in the know) that says that no matter how hard you try to parody extreme fundamentalism, there are people who will believe it is real. The idea is that when the group you're trying to parody (which varies) is already so extreme, chances are that anything you pretend they're saying (using difficult-to-pull-off internet satire) seems like something they might have actually said. I personally believe that Poe's Law also applies to people trying to satirize TV reality dating shows. Does anyone remember MILF Island from 30 Rock? As awful as that was, was it any more awful than Love in the Wild? (If you've never seen Love in the Wild, don't.) So as awful as The Virgin is, it seems plausible (horribly, horribly plausible).
Overall, the book is amusing but it's definitely the sort of thing that gets called "chick lit." I don't mean to suggest that books by, about, or for women are in any way inferior, I just mean that the "chick lit" label is usually applied to books about women desperately trying to sort out their love lives and little else. And this book is, well, little else. If you're craving a fun summer read and you're a fan of Jane Austen (and modern interpretations of her style) or you like a smart love story with lots of pop culture references, you might enjoy Imperfect Bliss.
For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 10, 2012
With the Queen's Jubilee and the 2012 Summer Olympics all over the news, it seems fitting to read a novel about the Harcourt family. Even though Forsythia, the matriarch, is of Jamaican heritage, she is in love with all things British. She and her husband, Harold (who is actually British), have four daughters, all named after a member of the royal Windsor family and it is Forsythia's wish to have them each married off to their perfect prince. Victoria, the oldest, has just ended yet another engagement. Charlotte, the youngest (and most promiscuous) has no interest in settling down. Diana, the daughter most likely to do her mother proud, has managed to capitalize on her virginity by agreeing to appear in a reality show that will end in her marriage and deflowering.
Elizabeth, also known as Bliss, has deeply disappointed her mother by, not only marrying a Cuban man, but is forced to move back home with her young daughter after a messy divorce. Her desire to get her life back together, earn her PhD, and get out of her family's home is made more complicated by the arrival of the reality show production and the different effects it has on every one's lives.
Imperfect Bliss is a smart, funny look at many things, including pop culture, academia, and love. This is a great addition to any summer reading list.
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2014
Too many plot spoilers bragging how they got their book for free for their so called honest review ruining the book by revealing every detail. Really? You do not have to rewrite the entire book. A few lines is enough to say if it is good or not. Please bn, do something to these inconsiderate plot spoilers eho persist in revealing the plot of the book.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2012
Unusual premise for the retelling of a classic novel.
Bliss Harcourt is a divorced mother of a child with special needs who has returned to live in the craziness that is her parent’s home. Bliss is working for a fellowship in History and trying to get back on her feet after her husband left her. Her life revolves around Bella, her precocious four year old daughter who wear “baby bifocals” and a brace on her leg.
The Harcourt home is headed by her professor father Harold and her Jamaica born mother Forsythia, who idolizes the British royal family and is big on social niceties (picture an African American version of Hyacinth Buckett from the British comedy series). There are three other daughters, Victoria, a serial engagement breaker; Charlotte, a flighty teenager, and Diana. Diana is picked to be the star of a new reality series called The Virgin and brings a new group of TV people into the mix. We meet Wyatt who is the charming host of the series and Dario, the hunky producer/director. There is also an interesting character called Punch who is most likely female and is a gofer for the execs.
Bliss hits it off with Wyatt from the beginning and is antagonized by Dario. The fact that Bella quickly bonds with Dario who looks like her daddy, does not endear him to Bliss. The ensuing chaos is amusing including the three would be suitors for The Virgin and the horrendous hymen phrases that run through the production. Dario is portrayed as a player by the others but seems genuinely fond of Bella and more level headed than the rest of the program staff.
I will read anything that is based on an Austen novel and this one is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice with some obvious similarities and some glaring differences. Bliss is like Elizabeth in judging Dario by his resemblance to her ex-husband and not seeing the good in him. As Elizabeth does, she goes through a process of self-examination and realizes that she has contributed to Bella’s strained relationship with her father and to the breakdown of her marriage. The rest of her family is perfectly awful in most cases and their bad behavior is alternately funny and appalling. As in the original, her sister Victoria is the only one with any sense and she is pretty messed up in her own way. All in all, it is a cute story with a ridiculous premise that works and keeps your interest until the last page.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 3, 2012
A copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review through Netgalley.
If you’re looking for just the right book to hit the beach with this summer or to relax with while lounging by the pool, Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fales-Hill, is a good choice.
It’s a quick, fun read that will have many of us reflecting fondly on our own dysfunctional family life.
Our heroine, Bliss, finds herself at life’s crossroads; trying to come to terms with her failed marriage and always on the lookout for “Mr. Right”. She is working hard to complete her higher education in hopes of gaining a means to move back out on her own; away from her parents’ home and all the dysfunctionality she and her small daughter are surrounded with there. Bliss is determined that her daughter, Bella, will not grow up believing in the “happily ever after” fantasy world that she and her sisters were lured into by their mother. Things are quickly turning into a circus on the homefront, as her sister lands the starring role in a reality tv series entitled “The Virgin”. This is nearly more than the highly intellectual Bliss can bear and goes against every principle that she believes in.
This mixed race family has all it can handle with four girls vying for their perfectionist mother’s approval; a mother who was raised in Jamaica under a dreadful cloud of prejudice and denied approval and so many other things because of the color of her skin and wants so much more for her daughters. She is striving to marry off each of her girls to someone who makes Prince Charming pale in comparison. Bliss has failed her mother in every way possible. Distanced from her mom, she has developed a special bond with her father, a quiet man from England, who tends to hide behind his paper and let his wife take center stage.
The story is well written and the characters have been brought to life for us masterfully by the author. This book stands out as one of those “summer finds” that makes a very pleasant and enjoyable read.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2014
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Posted February 2, 2014
I'd hoped it would be a fun twist on Austen's P&P, but I was wrong. Sure there were some of the main themes, but Austen would be upset with Victoria/Jane. Overall I'd call it a cheap romance novel that wasn't worth my time or money.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2014
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Posted August 30, 2012
Hilarious, quick, and endlessly entertaining. Susan touches on so many cultural nuances I found myself picturing a myriad of personalities who have crossed my path walking nearly the same road as mobility-minded Forsythia, the ever-incredulous Bliss (who I imagine squints at people alot...) and many others. This is certainly a fun fictional look at a mixed-raced family that interestingly brought to mind a few select quotes from Graham's "Our Kind of People". Thumbs up Susan from my wife and I on this engaging page-turner.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2012
The Harcourt Sisters are four very different women with four very different ideas of what it means to be a "modern woman." In a way that is very reminiscent of of Jane Austen, Susan Fales-Hill, has created a world that almost seems to be pulled right out of your television. Forsythia's over-the-top behavior actually reminds me a bit of the "Wicked Stepmother" in Cinderella, her obsession with the Royals is almost cartoonish, just look at what she did when Will married Kate! But the Sister's themselves could be loosely compared to the Khardashian's. Stunningly beautiful, with a mixed race background, they behave like any sisters would, even with the strain of The Virgin making their relationships difficult.
Overall I enjoyed Imperfect Bliss. While I wish I could say that Bliss was my favorite character, the reality of it is, she is the character I wanted to shake silly the least. Her mother was just simply atrocious, as was Diana's and Charlotte's behavior at times. In the end though, having The Virgin, come into the lives of the Harcourt women turned out to be a good thing, for by the end of the book, Diana wasn't the only Harcourt woman to have found a mate...
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Posted June 24, 2014
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