Picket line love

By Elizabeth Kiem

I think my problem is that I’m happily married and have been for most of my relative maturity. That must be why I have trouble relating to stories about “the good guys and the bad guys and how a woman learns to tell the difference,” as Christina Bartolomeo’s newest novel purports to be.
Which isn’t to say that you have to be a woman looking for love in all the wrong places to enjoy The Side of Angels. But if you aren’t, it might help to have a keen interest in organized labor, public relations, or lapsed Catholicism. Either that or a counter-productive propensity to call your infuriatingly meddling mother even as you are running late for an important business meeting. Most importantly, you should be prepared for an improbably happy ending.
PR agent Nicky Malone (yes, she acknowledges the absurdity of her hard-boiled name) is just recovering from a nasty break-up when she finds herself dispatched to bleak New England to back the cause of a nurses’ strike. The action happens to be headed up by another of Malone’s ex-boyfriends– this one her one true love, the one that got away. Much exasperation, sarcasm, and remorse ensues, but it all works out in the end– for the nurses and the good guys, at least. The bad guys get their comeuppance as well.
Bartolomeo has a gift for the salty wit that Malone, with her urbane irony and soft spot for manly men, revels in. Her language is vibrant, if sometimes over-seasoned. For every sublime turn of phrase (“Hub had a heart like a St. Bernard on acid”) there is sure to be a wincingly trite characterization: “…Ron, whose morals were flexible on a good day and priced for quick sale on a bad day.” For every amusing generalization (men who appear to be deep in thought are probably just hearing the NBA theme song in their head), you’ll meet the sort of sweeping statements that make less fed-up feminists a tad leery:  “even the most unattractive men find mates without half trying. Not fair, really when women too often prune and tweak at even our most minor faults in order to qualify for love and acceptance.”
Maybe I’m out of touch with the rest of the 31 year old women out there. But pruning and tweaking I save for my eyebrows… and it’s not for the sake of love and acceptance.

Christina Bartolomeo is at Barnes & Noble tonight, 7pm to discuss The Side of Angels.

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