14th Feb 2011
My Three Favourite…90s Chick-Lit Heroes
This was definitely the decade of Chick Lit; novels aimed at women, often reading for pleasure for the first time. Unlike the 80s bonk-busters by the likes of Jilly Cooper, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Danielle Steel, 90s chick-lit was real, identifiable women and men with real, identifiable problems.
As a genre, 90s chick-lit may get pissed on fairly regularly by the more snobbish readers out there. However, for many women in their twenties and thirties, these were the first books that they read for pleasure, and that should be celebrated.
So here, for Valentine’s Day, are my three favourite 90s chick-lit heroes. I’ve had crushes on them since my teens, and am not ashamed to admit it.
Like most of my forays into chick-lit, I first read this book as a teenager, picking it mostly because the protagonist is a writer in her 30s called Jessica. She, along with a load of other characters, buys a house from a new barn conversion somewhere Southern and Posh in the Country, in order to be nearer her old mum.
One of her neighbours in the absolutely gorgeous Josh, who has recently found out that he has steadily worsening MS. Josh, as an active man in his 30s, takes the news of his illness very badly, pushing away all thoughts of love and friendship. At first he is incredibly rude to Jessica, but in the end, of course, everything works out as it should.
What I love about Josh is his obstinacy, and how heartbreaking it is for him to no longer be able to lead his life the same way. His desperate attempts to hide his illness from Jessica whilst trying to seduce her (including inventing excuses for not being able to speak or use cutlery) are so sad, but also so touching. They also share some wonderful love scenes together, important in romantic fiction.
Whilst the rest of the book meanders along, Jessica and Josh remain in my affections years afterwards. If you want classic late 90s chick-lit of the slightly mumsy variety, you can’t do better than Erica James.
Joe is the new advertising creative working at the office where Katherine, our heroine, works as an accountant. Katherine is known as the Ice Queen around the office for her apparent lack of interest in men, and all that goes with them.
Of course, we know this is because of her massive insecurities and obsession with order, but when Joe falls head over heels for her, it takes a last request from a dying friend for Katherine to even accept that she is attracted to him.
Joe is a bit of a smart alec, and he doesn’t stand up to the casual office sexism in the way a true hero would. He does, however, take her on The Best First Date In Literature and is half of the slowest, sexiest sex scene in chick-lit. He also sounds like a proper ride.
Marian Keyes might be scorned by “readers” but I love her. So all you haters can, frankly, do one.
Saving the best till last. I am unashamedly in love with Ralph. He is, come on, perfect. A tortured artist, he lives in squalor with his rich city-boy housemate Smith (the boom period hero is not complete without a rich city-boy housemate).
When Smith decides that they can’t just spend the entire time getting caned and watching telly Jem moves in, who both men instantly fall in love with.
I hate Jem. Hate her. She is exactly the sort of girl who every single man I’ve ever loved has fancied more than me. Small, pretty, huge knockers, nice hair, likes curry, GSOH.
Ralph is a slob. A gorgeous, skinny, messy, stoner slob. Together him and Jem have some of the best nights “as friends” that I’ve ever read. When she finally figures out that, duh, she loves him back, she gives this long list of reasons why.
I’ll admit it; I base almost my entire credentials of what to look for in a partner on a paragraph on page 252 of this book. I have been known to go through the list after dates, ticking them off. Don’t tell anyone, will you?
The ultimate of my guilty pleasures, I could read this book over and over. Again, incredibly silly in parts but so full of 90s ridiculousness I have to recommend it.
Which 90s chick-lit heroes did you have crushes on?