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Guests of Chance

by Colleen Curran

Guests of Chance begins on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean as heroine Lenore contemplates her life. She’s recently been to the Oscars, she’s a walking pop-culture lexicon, and in the latest in the trilogy of lady lit novels from Colleen Curran, the usually unlucky-in-love character is travelling to the U.K. to reunite her best friend Heidi with a long-distance love.

For the first quarter of the book, Curran leaves Lenore ingesting airplane food and watching The Temp as she plays catch up with a bloated cast of characters. From here, Lenore and Heidi disembark and take their trip through England, happening upon a community theatre rendition of Noddy and discovering that Heidi’s soulmate wasn’t worth the airfare. Despite a fortuitous change of scenery, the narrative struggles to build pace, as Curran frequently interrupts it with extensive travel trivia or bogs it down with backstory.

After their British jaunt, the friends head back to Montreal, where they adopt two children from errant parents and probe the mysteries of missing exes and new beaux. Curran hits her stride here, and the remainder of the book quickens in pace, propelled by several rich and interesting characters – Benoît, the gallant cop, and Frieda and Andy, the witty and worldly abandoned children, are particularly endearing.

These characters are given shape by quick and clever dialogue, while French phrases give the writing a bilingual feeling. Yet this focus on banter also takes away from a sense of place, as Curran’s chatty narrative rarely takes a rest to fully describe a scene, instead using copious cultural shorthand (pop culture flotsam from Reba McEntire to My Cousin Vinny to Coronation Street make an appearance).

In the final pages, Lenore, again reflective, contemplates the importance of family – for her, it’s a patchwork of friends that has miraculously fallen into place after years of bad dates and bad luck. Despite the sometimes random and consistently madcap feel to Curran’s novel, this is a satisfyingly sweet conclusion to a book about looking for love, and knowing when you’ve happened upon the real thing.