Book Review: False Start, by Barbara Valentin

Review for Chick Lit Central

Mattie Ross is probably the last person who should be doling out good counsel to anyone on anything. Still smarting after being left at the altar two years earlier, she is strapped with debt, has sworn off men, routinely buries herself in her work and despite her well-proportioned figure, remains haunted by childhood taunts of “Fatty Mattie.” But to her publisher at the Chicago Gazette, and readers, she is their latest advice columnist, “The Plate Spinner,” a self-assured working parent to adorable fake children and multi-tasking savant.

Enter Nick Derosa, the twin brother of Mattie’s cold-footed fiancé who is trying to get back on his feet after his brother steals his identity and implicates him in an illegal investment scheme. But thanks to Nick’s legendary running career, the publisher of the Chicago Gazette proposes a wager: If Nick can train an out-of-shape working parent in time to compete in the Chicago Marathon, he will contribute enough to help Nick launch his own non-profit running club for kids. Suddenly “Fatty” Mattie and Nick are thrust together as the most unlikely of pairs and under a deadline to put their trust issues aside and avoid another false start in their lives. (synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com)

Having read and reviewed Barbara Valentin’s Help Wanted and The Plate Spinner Chronicles (links go to the reviews), I couldn’t wait to throw myself into the backstory behind “The Plate Spinner,” a.k.a. Mattie Ross (she’s mentioned a bit in Help Wanted). As I expected, False Start is as entertaining and delightful as it’s sequel! Mattie is unapologetic when it comes to who she is as a person. Deep inside, she still feels as though she’s “Fattie Mattie”, and decided years ago that there would be nothing and nobody who could change that perception of her. While this novel is certainly full of romance, it’s also in many ways an inspiration to so many of us who feel as though we’re stuck in a rut, unable to change for the better.

We see Mattie put one foot in front of the other, and she’s not perfect. She’s just like the rest of us, struggling with a lot more than what’s externally seen. Her story is told with comedic genius, all while highlighting on Mattie and Nick’s struggle to trust one another. Why doesn’t he like her? Why can’t she respect him? Neither can see eye to eye, which makes training for a marathon difficult. It’s funny, yet painful to read Mattie’s narrative when she’s running for the first time ever, in her entire life. Will she ever cross that finish line?

It’s hard not to submerge yourself into a Valentin novel, and the characters. I read False Start all in one morning, because I couldn’t stop myself! I needed to see where Mattie would end up, and whether she fulfilled the goals she’d set out for herself. Although I’m a running enthusiast and felt I could identify with some of the situations she finds herself in, I really feel this novel relates to anyone looking for the motivation needed to change their own lives.

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