Friday, January 15, 2010

Perfecting Kate by Tamara Leigh

book cover

Perfecting Kate
by Tamara Leigh

Trade Paperback: 405 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Publishers
First Released: 2007

Source: Bought through

Back Cover Description:
Kate’s Creed: Thou shalt embrace singledom and be unbelievably, inconceivably happy.


Kate Meadows is a successful San Francisco artist looking for a nice, solid Christian man. So when not one, but two handsome bachelors enter her orbit in rapid succession, her head is spinning just a bit. Michael Palmier is a hunky and famous makeup artist who actually seems to be flirting with her–rather than her physically flawless housemate, Maia. Trouble is, he keeps handing her business cards from various beauty professionals and plastic surgeons. Is he trying to stamp out every last bit of self-esteem she has?

Then there’s Dr. Clive Alexander, good-looking enough to be mistaken for Brad Pitt, who sends Kate’s pulse skittering every time he comes near. Too bad he’s only interested in her work–and doesn’t think she’s much to look at. It’s enough to send a girl running for her paint-splattered, relaxed-fit jeans and swearing off men altogether! But after undergoing a makeover from Michael’s staff, Kate can’t be oblivious to the admiring glances men throw her way. Maybe she should try contacts…consider some fancy dental work…and you know, that mole really could stand to go. The question now is, what kind of work will Kate do on herself…and who exactly is she trying to please?

If you think a person who's 5'3" tall and weighs 134 pounds is fat and that anything less than fitted or form-hugging clothing is frumpy, then this is the book for you. Everyone else is likely to want to shake some sense into Kate (or feel bad about themselves) since she's (medically) the ideal weight and apparently wore non-baggy but comfortable, modest clothing before she started thinking it made her look ugly. One of the unique bits about this novel, though, is that rather than handling her dissatisfaction by unhealthy eating habits, Kate got into a spin of temptation to have operations to fix the perceived problems.

Kate was an unreliable narrator in that she often lied, even to herself. Her actions spoke truer than her words and thoughts. I did like her and the other characters, and they mostly came across as realistic. However, I felt it unrealistic that all but one male in this novel criticized her as being fat, for wearing glasses, etc., while only her female landlord commented negatively about her appearance. In my experience, men are generally happy with women who are comfortable with how they look whereas women are the ones constantly talking about their weight, what they wear, how they look, etc. I also couldn't understand why she called these men friends when all they did was tear her down.

Anyway. The novel was well-written: it had good pacing, good world-building, and was interesting. I'm just not the target audience. I did like that Kate was also struggling with being barren and knowing she couldn't have biological children. This made it believable that she would be willing to consider changing her appearance to keep a guy who said he didn't care about having biological children.

This was a Christian book for Christian readers, and I liked the overall issues being dealt with. However, for much of the book, Kate did have a tendency to think badly of others for not sticking to the Christian moral standard (whether they were Christian or not) when she hardly was a picture of perfection in similar areas. Like she spoke judgmentally toward one fellow for not trusting God yet she often realized she wasn't acting like she trusted God, either. This was one of the issues subtly dealt with in the novel, but if you can't stand Christian hypocrites, then this might not be the book for you.

The novel was written in present tense ("I see" vs "I saw"), but I rarely noticed. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written, clean novel to Christians who aren't happy with their appearance. This book wasn't so much about "feeling happy with how you look" as "just who are you trying to please?"

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Oh, my. Is it my imagination, or did a tuxedoed Brad Pitt just walk through the doors of one of San Francisco’s most exclusive children’s clothing stores?

I blink behind my rectangular specs to bring his profile into sharper focus. But as it’s been ages since I’ve seen a pic of Brad sporting anything other than bed-tousled hair, I can’t be certain if this clean-cut male specimen is him. Definitely calls for a closer look.

As I step forward, a voice at my back murmurs, “GQ. Very GQ.”

I look around and up into the boyishly handsome face of Beau, co-owner of Belle and Beau’s Boutique. From his hiked eyebrow, the peak of which disappears into the dark brown hair playing across his brow, it’s obvious he’s also taking in the Bradish guy.

Giving my best don’t-even-think-about-it glower, I cuff his shoulder. “I’ll tell Belle.”

He grins. “You know I’m kidding.”

Of course I do, as he’s never given me cause to think he might revert to the days before he wandered into our church. However, just as he never misses an opportunity to rib me, I never miss the opportunity to return the favor–even though we sometimes push it too far.

He lifts the hand that bears a gold band and wiggles his fingers. “I’m a reformed man. Belle’s the only one for me.”

Ah… Momentarily forgetting my on-again, off-again “thou shalt embrace singledom and be unbelievably, inconceivably happy” creed, I wish someone felt about Katherine Mae Meadows the way Beau feels about Belle.

“I know,” I say on a breathy note, which snaps me out of “here comes the bride/happily ever after” mode. Thankfully. Despite marriage’s supporters, it’s not for everyone. Not that I rule it out completely. Rather, singledom is simply the conclusion I reach each time something promising dissolves into something…not so promising. As an added benefit, the dry spells inherent in selective dating are a little easier to bear.

Selective? As in must have credentials, and topping that list is that “The One” be a Christian. Not that I haven’t fudged a time or two…make that three (“I know I can change him”), but without fail I’ve regretted lifting the ban on what others call a “discriminatory” practice. Of course, some of my Christian dates haven’t gone much better, but at least those losses don’t seem to cut as deep.

Read more of chapter one.

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