Jack and Jill Went Downhill

Jack and Jill Went Downhill

Another book review from me. It’s a bit of a change from the sort of book I usually write about, being by R J Gould who, according to Amazon, writes contemporary fiction about relationships or, bluntly, romances.

Jack and Jill meet on their first day at university and fall head-over-heels in love. Their love unites them despite their very different backgrounds. It is not enough, though, to keep them together faced with the pressures of working in 21st century London. He’s a City trader and she’s a teacher, both working ridiculous hours and constantly stressed. He turns to drugs and alcohol and occasional lovers. She nags a bit and eventually takes a lover of her own. There are authorial suggestions that they are both to blame, which seems a bit overly-generous to the patriarchy, but it’s still a credible portrait of a disintegrating marriage. The final straw is two very public scandals. Both make newspaper front pages, which brings out the Oscar Wilde in me: “To make one newspaper front page may be accounted a misfortune; to make two looks like a writer over-egging things.”

Jack and Jill have both screwed up and both regret it. It’s like the situation in the Jennifer Aniston movie, The Break-up. And, as with the movie, it’s a convincing story of how marriage problems escalate out of control and the distress that ensues.

How do things end? No spoilers here, as Gould is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and it is a rule of romance writing that you must have a Happy Ever After. So, implausibly, Jack and Jill bump into each other in a romantic city that they are both passing through (it’s a small world after all). Jack has given up the booze and pills and Jill is ready to forgive him. Our princess’s prince is back and they can ride off into the sunset together.

This would have been a much stronger story if Gould had stuck to his guns and had his couple (as in The Break-up) looking back on the life together that they had lost but accepting that sometimes we can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube. That, though, may be an ending that the romantic fiction market is not yet ready for. I wish it were. Gould writes well and (the odd appalling misogynistic family member apart) with layered characters who even a miserable old git like me is drawn to and cares about. It would just be better if it had ended with me shedding a reluctant tear, rather than drifting off into a sugar coma. Still, this is probably as edgy as hard-core romance readers are going to tolerate and they should enjoy the ride.

Jack and Jill Went Downhill is available on Kindle at £3.99.