Hodder Lir, €10.99
Chick-lit books written about twenty or thirty-something women by a twenty or thirty something woman, generally speaking, don't break many rules. The chick-lit formula is tried, tested and very successful and in the right hands it can make for an entertaining read. 'The Virgo Club' breaks some of those rules but, despite the fresh approach, it disappoints.
The Club of the title is a group of four thirty-something friends - Dette, Helen, Rorie and Catriona - who all share the same star sign and meet twice a month at Angelo's Italian restaurant. When Helen walks in one August afternoon to confess her devoted husband Euan has cheated on her, a drunken discussion on fidelity sparks off a devious and shocking plan to put their lovers to the test - each woman must try to seduce one of her friend's partners in secret - but of course this has far-reaching consequences, not only for their relationships but for their friendship.
To begin with, this story is simply unbelievable - that four close friends would even consider such a plan makes no sense whatsoever. But what is more frustrating is that the reader will find it hard to identify and sympathise with these women who are knowingly and willingly putting themselves up for a fall. Another problem is that the opening chapter features one of the women as narrator, but we don't know which one, and we don't find out who it was until the very end. That makes it difficult to trust any of the four main protagonists because the reader is unsure of their true identity and this is no place for a confusing whodunit.
It's often difficult to write a book with more than two main characters as the author risks giving the reader too much information to absorb, thereby weakening the impact of the story. Unfortunately, 'The Virgo Club' falls foul of this, and also succumbs to stereotyping - why does the soccer mad female always have to be the one who doesn't wear make-up and neglects her appearance?
Power doesn't dispense with the happy-ever-after ending that is par for the course with chick-lit stories. It would have been far braver if she had done so - after all, what precedes it demands a more realistic resolution. But more significantly, it's hard to care what happens to these women, and that's the real pity. Hats off to Power for trying something a little different in this genre but sadly she didn't quite manage it.