A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Special Interests by Emma Barry

on April 18, 2014

Review Copy Source: submitted to Dear Author

What tickled me: A book about politics that didn’t shut me out.

What ticked me off: The characters (briefly) treat a person with Alzheimers like furniture.

Who might like it: Readers who enjoy contemporary romance. Not too fluffy, not too dark.

In a recent Twitter conversation about Julie James, someone — as usual, probably Liz Mc2 — said something about having trouble relating to her characters and their ambitions. Despite my complete inability to remember any concrete information about the comment, this really nailed for me why James’s books don’t work well for me. The stories are always very readable, but her characters live in a world that feels completely alien to me. I don’t care about what they care about.

Special Interests is seemingly the same sort of book James writes; it’s the first authorial comparison that comes to mind. Yet despite being about the mind-boggling subject of lobbyists in Washington D.C., it worked for me. I don’t think it was even just because the main characters are both Democrats, though that undoubtedly helped. They’re overworked and troubled and leading kind of messed up lives, but they don’t feel like they’re on another place of existence.


2 responses to “Special Interests by Emma Barry

  1. Liz Mc2 says:

    Hmm, as usual? I’m always making trouble. That was me, though. I find her female characters, especially, all glossy-perfect-pencilskirt-cosmodrinking in a way I don’t identify with. But it isn’t so much that, it’s that in her 1st two books, which I originally loved but which didn’t work so well for me in a Twitter re-read, the heroines are very very good at their jobs (are there really lawyers who have never lost a case?) and very ambitious, but their ambition seems to be mostly about winning and being the best, not about loving what they do, about justice, etc. So they seemed rather shallow and uninteresting to me. Maybe it’s partly my life stage–I’m still ambitious, but my ambition now is more about doing good than about doing well/being the best (as my husband said when he hit 40, “I guess I’ll never be a rock star”).

    I just started Barry’s book (sort of–I seem to have just started 10 different things and I’m not sure what will stick as my next read) and I’m extra curious now.

    • willaful says:

      Where “making trouble” equals “has interesting things to say.” Yes, shallow and uninteresting to me as well. And that dichotomy of ambition is a big part of what Special Interests is about.

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