Book Reviews: Ideal Girl by Jenny O’Brien

Traditional hospital based romance, with the feel-good factor.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars Out of 5


There are millions of readers who want an escape from the generally disappointing reality of modern life and this book is a perfect example of how authors can deliver those fleeting moments. Since Jane Austen penned Pride & Prejudice, arguably the template for romantic fiction, the magic recipe of dashingly handsome, wealthy hero, matched with poor but feisty heroine, mixed against a backdrop of misunderstandings, has proved a winner.

O’Brien sets the mood of the piece right from the start, with our heroine being a blend of Bridget Jones, Pollyanna and Nurse Duffy from BBC’s Casualty series. She isn’t a supermodel skinny bombshell, but a `girl-next-door’ type of young woman, just finishing her student nurse training. There’s a strident ward sister, a best friend who is more confident, gorgeous and sexually experienced than the heroine, and there’s Mitch, the dashing, Morgan sports car driving, tousle-haired bit of hot stuff, wandering the corridors with a bemused look on his face, as women repeatedly swoon at his feet.

The book isn’t ground-breaking, and although it is set in the present day, it feels like something from the 1960s. There are no violent punch-ups in A&E at the weekends, no dangerously disturbed drug addicts nicking the opiates or terror threats affecting anyone’s daily routine. Ideal Girl is an antidote to modern life, not a prism reflecting it. There’s nothing wrong with that and in many ways, the book has a great deal of old fashioned charm, which makes it a comforting read for anyone who still believes in true love, that lasts a lifetime, and that virgins should wait for `Mr Right.’

There are a few typos here and there, and I’d be the first to admit that my work has them too. Nobody’s perfect. But the overall tone, pace, plot structure and character development is all well thought out, and fluently written. You can tell O’Brien loves Dublin, and more importantly, loves her characters. One mechanism that really works very well is the way O’Brien switches inner monologues from hero to heroine, immediately after various awkward conversations.

This device lets the reader get into the heads of the two main characters, feel their confusion, the surging emotions, the love blossoming. That is point of romantic fiction; love is what makes us human, and deep down, all of us want a bit of magic in our lives and the hope of a happy ending.

Ideal Girl ticks all the right boxes for readers looking for a story that captures the very best aspects of human nature, and offers an escape from the real world.



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