A good way to finish my 2020 listens
Karin Kallmaker is a trailblazer among lesfic writers, with more than 30 novels in her catalogue. I have read a few but I need to catch up with them all yet. Listening to the audiobook version of Simply the Best, narrated by one of my favourite narrators, was a good way to finish my 2020 listens.
Alice Cabbot is a science journalist in NYC who, after a faux pas with a prominent politician, is sent to LA to write a story about Simplythebest.com, a women’s beauty products company, for the style section of her newspaper. Pepper Addington is the newly promoted personal assistant to Helen Jolie, founder of Simply the Best. She’s been assigned to keep the NY reporter in check and she’s determined to achieve her task even though the annoying Alice Cabbot is smart and attractive in a dorky way…
This is an opposites-attract romance that goes beyond the differences between the mains: East Coast/West Coast, hard science/beauty style, grumpy/sunshine characters, butch/femme, etc. Ms. Kallmaker describes these contrasts very well, and how people can build bridges to connect them and find a middle ground. Not everything is black and white as it might appear, there are lots of grey areas in between.
I have to admit that the story felt on the long side for me. I’ve realised that it’s because Ms. Kallmaker provides a lot of details in her writing. While it’s good to have a precise picture in the reader’s mind’s eye, I’m not a fan of this. I think that in some parts of the plot, less would have been more.
Simply the Best was published in December 2020, after a hard year for writers, well… for everyone really. I applaud the authors who found the motivation and inspiration to produce a book during those trying times. Most authors avoided any references to Covid, I guess because no one wanted to be reminded of the real-world woes. Ms. Kallmaker chose to incorporate those issues in her fictional world, talking about real problems such as unemployment and how the pandemic affected life in general. These elements provided the story with a layer of reality while, at the same time, didn’t feel depressing. Kudos to Ms. Kallmaker to navigate that fine line.
Even though this isn’t a love triangle strictly speaking, there are three main characters involved in a game of seduction and power. In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, I found that this author takes a brave stance to highlight that the abuse of power isn’t exclusive to men in high places. That part of the plot gave me the creeps, which I guess was the author’s idea. I didn’t mind feeling a bit uncomfortable because I think it’s a message that needs to come across too. Regarding the romance itself, it sometimes takes the back seat to those other parts of the story that I mentioned before but it was satisfying nevertheless. I wouldn’t call this a traditional romance but it has all the elements of one.
I’m glad I listened to the audiobook because I believe that Ms. Craden’s fantastic performance improved my overall enjoyment of this story. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been so tolerant with the book’s length if it wasn’t for this narrator reading it to me. I loved the different voices chosen for each character, especially the lower sultry tone for Pepper and the affected French accent for Helena. As usual, Ms. Craden’s performance elevated the written words. Not my favourite audiobook by this author/narrator but still enjoyable. 4 stars.
Length: 11 hours, 35 minutes