The Dating Detox was an impulse buy on Bookcloseouts (OK self, get real, what’s not an impulse buy from you at that website?). I’ve really enjoyed the British chick lit/ contemporary romances I’ve read this year, and I want to read more. This looked like a good candidate, and a quick search said that my go-to-girl on this topic, (Sabrina of About Happy Books), liked it, so in the cart it went!
The Premise: Sass is a twenty-something girl, living in London and struggling with her love life. After getting dumped six times in a row, the latest the most humiliating (walking in on her boyfriend Rick and some other woman going at it at a Halloween party), she decides that she’s not going to date at all – why go through all the trouble, only to be severely disappointed in the end? The solution is to cut herself off dating for a little while. Go on a sabbatical, if you will. Sass and her friend draw up some rules to live by (“3. Obvious flirting is not allowed”) that Sass decides to follow for three months. Suddenly her life is looking up. Men are interested. Work is going great. Sass is more confident and happy than she has been in a long time. Three months begins to look too short. Maybe she should extend the Sabbatical to six months. Or indefinitely. The problem is, Sass keeps running into A New Guy, who seems like a great guy. Is he too good to be true and not worth breaking the sabbatical over, or is Sass cutting herself off from a good thing?
My Thoughts: This is a story narrated by Sass herself, and she has a very casual voice that is fun and full of the pop culture references you’d expect of someone who grew up in the eighties and nineties. Sass is also a girl who doesn’t lack for friends. She has a tightknit relationship with her girlfriends Bloomie and Kate (calling and emailing them to keep in touch throughout the work day), and then there’s a gaggle of other friends that she’s known since university, and satellite friends-of-friends that she sees at parties and nights on the town. For someone as social as Sass is, she is a girl surprisingly loathe to rock the boat. As a result, while she has a great relationship with her friends, when it comes to work and love, Sass has let others take the reins. This has led to disastrous relationships, a bully at work, and a salary that forces her to be extremely strict with her finances.
The premise of a dating sabbatical is very simple, but Sass’ active life provides plenty of meat. She’s someone who more social than anyone I personally know, but it’s fun to read about someone who goes out and sees her friends a lot. And there are plenty of amusing anecdotes, from the disasters that were her past six relationships, to the mental adjustment Sass has to go through to keep herself from going back to old habits. I found Sass to be a regular kind of girl – one who is a little creative (every morning she dresses in an outfit, which she names), a little dorky (she likes to get a little silly with her humor sometimes), and one who goes out A LOT (doesn’t she get tired?), but otherwise, she has a good head on her shoulders. I liked her. When the sabbatical gives her the excuse to say no and stay firm to her convictions, I cheered at the positive effect it had on her life, from learning how to be firm while still being polite, to getting to know the men she meets before becoming involved with them.
So when new men entered the story, knowing that Sass is on a dating sabbatical was kind of delicious. I knew that I would get a romance that was a slower moving one. The new contenders could make her laugh or seemed nice, but with Sass’s new rules, she actually gets to know the guys before moving forward. She meets a few of the same men over again on different occasions and It was nice that by the time Sass was ready, her choice was clear, not because the only man standing, but because he is the best fit for her. And because Sass had her rules and had to abide by them, the romance was about an emotional connection, and is pretty cute. I adored the banter involved in this story with the guy she ends up with. Particularly adorable was a shared sense of humor, to the point where they were the only two laughing at their own jokes, while everyone else stared at them.
The only thing I would warn readers about ( I personally liked it but I could see others finding it draggy), is that the narrative goes into a lot of detail about things like Sass’s clothes and blow-by-blow accounts of the parties and nights out Sass enjoys. There is one section where a weekend party probably takes about 100 pages of the book. I LOVED that through dialogue and significant looks, I learned a lot about Sass’s friends and their relationships with each other. I’d say there was something like 15 people to keep track of at this party, and the book manages to make their personalities and general reputation within the group very clear. There are secondary and tertiary (and quaternary, quinary, senary?) relationships as Sass’s friends fall in and out of love around her, and the weekend party is a turning point in a lot of these. It was refreshing that it wasn’t all about Sass. And I laughed a lot.
Overall: This was a British chick lit that falls on the fun side of things, but at the same time is a dense story with plenty of characters. Sass’s social lifestyle is pretty removed from mine, but I loved the glimpse I got. It was a nice change to laugh at (and with) Sass and her friends: a mostly single group unfettered by life’s responsibilities, who spend their free time out drinking and having fun, but are for the most part, very likable. Sass fits right in as a working girl with a string of bad relationships under her belt and trying to break the cycle of disappointment. Her trials and tribulations are fun to follow, but I cheered for her as she overcame her ‘pleaser’ tendencies. I liked that she became stronger and happier (and got the guy), because she stuck to her guns.
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About Happy Books – positive
This is one of the best book trailers I’ve seen in a while – it feels like I’m watching a RomCom movie clip: