It's hard to believe that Dublin author Ciara Geraghty only started writing for the first time four years ago, when she accidentally signed up to a creative writing course. (She had originally intended on studying pottery -- or so the story goes.)
The mother of three's 2008 debut, Saving Grace, was a funny, witty and, above all, real story, which catapulted Geraghty directly into the league of long-established and much-loved writers like Marian Keyes and left us anticipating her new book, Becoming Scarlett.
Scarlett O'Hara (yes, that is her real name) is a 35-year-old wedding planner who likes to make lists. She likes the detail. She sweats the small stuff. She makes lists so she can make plans and carry them out to the letter. This woman is organised.
She has a five-year-plan in the back of her diary that she regularly adjusts for accuracy.
When her equally detail-obsessed boyfriend, John, walks out on her, it throws her life into disarray and Scarlett deals with the situation with the tried and tested emergency reserve action of recently single girls everywhere: she goes out, gets drunk and sleeps with the first willing candidate she can find.
No harm done, or so she thinks until she discovers a few weeks later that she is now pregnant (you can imagine what kind of havoc this wreaks on the five-year plan).
An attempted trip across the water to deal with the problem doesn't go to plan either. When Scarlett faints at the airport, she is carted off to hospital and misses her appointment at the clinic and then, on further reflection, decides to keep the baby.
(One wonders what would happen if, just once, a female character in a book, television series or film actually went through with the abortion.)
Meanwhile, back at the office, Scarlett's nemesis Gladys is doing her best to swipe a promotion from under Scarlett's nose, and stands a good chance of doing so, not least because she is sleeping with the boss. Scarlett is trying to hold on to the prestigious account of the chip-shop heiress Sofia Marzoni, who is getting married to Daniel 'Red' Butler (yes, that is his real name).
Geraghty's first novel, Saving Grace, was an impressive debut. It's rare that a romantic fiction novel is good enough to justify its existence, let alone feel unique and individual.
Her characters are quirkier this time around and less believable for it (we can thank the popularity of Cecelia's magic realism for that), but Geraghty is a natural-born storyteller, whose fine balance of romance and comedy prevents the frivolities from taking over completely.
Becoming Scarlett is certainly more kooky and escapist than Geraghty's debut and in being so it loses something of the original realism and honesty that made her so appealing as an author of women's fiction. But there is enough sharp wit and self-awareness sprinkled throughout this 469-page novel to make this a really satisfying read for smart, modern women.