Mixed Signals, by Diane Barnes

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Getting dumped is never easy, but there’s a special bonus sting if your ex-fiancé is a producer for a popular morning radio show. Jillian Atwood’s breakup with Nico has become the hosts’ number-one topic. They’re even running a competition to find him a new girlfriend. The entire population of Boston, it seems, is tuning in with an opinion about who Nico should date next—and what Jillian should do to get over him.

Jillian’s co-worker, Ben, has his own ideas on that score. He hates seeing Jill depressed over a guy as unworthy as her ex. While he’s providing a friendly ear, he’s also realizing how much more he’d like to offer. And if Jill could just get over the man who broke her heart, she might find the one who’s perfectly equipped to heal it… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Mixed Signals is a realistic take on one woman’s journey through a transitional period in her life. I could feel the tiny shifts and nuances that happen for Jillian, while she works hard at dealing with an ex who took years in asking her to marry him, only to break up with her when he decides he really isn’t ready for any long-term commitments.

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There were times where I wanted to reach into the pages and shake some sense into Jillian, to get her to see the light, to not lament over an obviously bad relationship. Yet her thought process, the way she yearns for the familiar and the life she’s known for so long, is how so many of us would deal if we were thrown into a similar situation. When thrust into something that is completely out of our control, it’s all we can focus on. What went wrong. What could have been done differently to salvage the relationship. Maybe given some time, some distance, he’ll come to his senses.

While reeling from the pain of the break-up, Jillian is also dealing with her life being played out for all to hear on the radio show. Strangers, and those who know her well, chime in on what they think she should or shouldn’t do, and when she retaliates against the ones in charge of the show, she finds herself in an even bigger mess. And then there’s Ben. He’s always been a good friend to her over the years, yet he’s known as a notorious player. When he’s nice to her, is it genuine, or is he looking for something more? And how can she ever get over Nico?

I enjoyed Mixed Signals, and the honesty it represents. A great example of this is a jacket Nico leaves behind at Jillian’s home, a place they both shared before he left her. She has a hard time getting rid of it. It sits where Nico left it, hanging on the back of a chair in the kitchen, convinced he’ll come back for it. He’ll come back for her. This is so symbolic of where Jillian is at in her relationship, not only with Nico but the relationship she has with herself, and we get to see her transition by way of the jacket. It’s moments like that one, and many others, that make this novel so clever, honest, and endearing.

Thanks to Lyrical Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. See Sara’s review for Diane’s previous novel, Waiting for Ethan.

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