Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Jilly Cooper

I discovered Jilly Cooper on a trip to the UK just after college.  In either W.H.Smith or Waterstones, I picked up a copy of her book RIDERS and was completely hooked. This was back in the late 1980's when glitz and glamour novels were in.  It was the heyday of DYNASY and DALLAS where everone had big hair and big shoulder pads. RIDERS was a big fat juicy book, something like 600 pages set in the competitive world of riding competitions which you wouldn't think was sexy but in Cooper's hands totally was.  Think about it, what does riding a horse mimic? Now I understand why Princess Anne and her daughter Zara Philips love the sport so much!

For an ardent Anglophile like me, this book was manna from heaven.  I was used to reading historical fiction about the UK and the occasional Harlequin Presents but Jilly Cooper opened up a whole new world for me.  It was glamorous, this world of the horsey set.  When she moved onto the sport of Kings, POLO, I was hooked. It's not that I ever wanted to ride a horse, but I did want to go to Ascot or to Windsor to watch the Polo matches with Princess Diana. Sipping champagne while watching the men ride.

The hero of RIDERS is Jake Lovell who is part gypsy, think of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights but not quite so brooding, who has to claw his way up to make to the British Olympic team. but the real star of the book was bad boy Rupert Campbell-Black.  Campbell-Black was such an appealing character that he's made appearances in every single Jilly Cooper book since then.  Rupert is the quintessential bad boy, rich and privileged, he shags pretty much anything that moves in RIDERS, ruining his relationship with his American wife Helen.  Despite being a bad boy, there was something appealing about Rupert, he was so charming about his vices that you couldn't help but adore him.  He was finally tamed as it were in Cooper's book RIVALS (also known as PLAYERS),  one of the few books of hers that was actually released in the States. 

RIVALS deals with the machinations in English TV which doesn't sound sexy but their system is so different from ours. Companies compete to get the TV license to broadcast.  They don't really have networks the way we do in the States. For a long time it was just the government controlled BBC.  I cherish my Bantam trade paperback of RIVALS, it's one of my comfort reads.  In RIVALS, Rupert falls deeply in love with Taggie, a dyslexic teenager.  He knows that she's too good for him besides being half his age, but he adores her and despite his good intentions of staying away from her, they eventually end up getting married. The bad boy has been tamed by the love of a good woman.

I've read all of Cooper's books, and what I love besides the continuing characters from one book to the next, is that the books are huge.  Not many authors can get away with writing the doorstops that she writes.  She's just so damn entertaining! Several of her books have been adapted for TV including RIDERS and THE MAN WHO MADE HUSBANDS JEALOUS.  Her new book JUMP returns to the world that she first showcased in RIDERS.  I'm going to wait until it comes out in mass market because if I drop it on my foot I might break it! Unless of course I somehow get an IPad than I can download and not worry about injuring myself.

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