I plucked Death & Other Happy Endings, by Melanie Cantor, from my TBR pile expecting it to be light-hearted and humorous. I have been struggling to connect with fiction recently and wanted a story that I could read effortlessly. The opening chapters proved somewhat slow but fine in setting the scene and introducing key characters. Then, after a rather unsettling episode in a park, I wondered if I should continue reading. I rarely DNF a book and chose to give it to page 100 before deciding. I’m glad I did. The remainder of the story offered a cheerful if unlikely tale.
The protagonist is Jennifer Cole, a forty-something single woman who works in HR. She has terrible taste in men, mostly due to her romantic, rose-coloured vision. She invents excuses for their selfishness in order to feel appreciated and loved.
Jennifer does have good friends, especially Olivia. She gets on less well with her older sister, Isabelle, who was regarded as the beauty of the family and married into wealth. None of the characters appear to lack means. They meet in expensive venues around London where they drink cocktails and champagne. Their’s is a life of comfort and privilege, shadows cast only by their own foolish decisions.
The balance shifts when Jennifer is told by her doctor that she has a rare and incurable illness. With only three months to live she decides to tell those who have caused her heartache in the past how this made her feel. In reconnecting, she brings them back into her life. Time has not changed their inherent character traits.
The writing flows nicely as the plot develops. There are, however, few surprises and little depth. What is portrayed is a world of beautiful people in comfortable cocoons dealing with the challenges of daily living. There is foolish behaviour and occasional sadness. They benefit from a rare support network of family and friends.
I was impressed by the portrayal of an over the top argument scene. The previously reticent Jennifer lets rip when her eyes are opened to a loved one’s true nature. The denouement is improbable but this is, after all, that type of story. I enjoyed the way the author wrote her happy ending.
I usually avoid romantic fiction but this tale provided enough to divert me and retain engagement. For fans of the genre this could be a popular read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Black Swan.