Twinkle, twinkle little ONE star…

I read my first one-star review at 11.13pm this Tuesday evening.

Like every other ego crushing moment in my life, I can recall exactly where I was and precisely what I was doing. I was propped up in bed, dog on lap, iPhone in hand, stalking my book on Amazon. 

‘Ooh, another three reviews today. Excellent,’ I mumbled, excitedly scrolling down and pondering whether Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway would be best cast as Ellie when the movie version was commissioned. 

Of course, it would be important that I retain the rights to approve the screenwriting, my mind continued to wander. When suddenly, like a pin advancing on a balloon (a nasty, rusty, tetanus-riddled pin), the words ‘Bored’ and ‘Silly’ came into view, alongside a solitary (and sheepish looking) One Star, whose expression I imagined to read: ‘Don’t blame me, I just work here.’ 

Image

My eyes narrowed and my heart raced as I read on:

‘To many characters, to many drinks, to much sex talk. Hated it. No real story line..Don’t waste time on this one. Silly and boring’

‘Silly AND Boring?’ I argued, to no-one in particular. My dog raised an eyebrow. ‘How can too much sex and too many drinks be boring?’

NB my use of the word ‘too’ not ‘to’ as per fuckwit reviewer.

I was being defensive, I know. But there’s something quite aggressive about a one-star review. It’s a hate review. In my quest to provide lighthearted entertainment I had somehow inadvertently enraged a reader to such an extent, they deemed it necessary to take time out of their busy life, otherwise undoubtedly filled with the consumption of poetic literary prose, to logon to Amazon and type a warning to other potential readers. How had I done that?

I hadn’t written a pro-Nazi manifesto. It’s a chick-lit novel. 

Once I’d taken a deep breath and reminded myself that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, I began to take a more objective perspective and considered where my defensiveness was coming from. If I was fully confident that my writing was good enough, I wouldn’t look to reviews for validation, would I? And the word ‘silly’ grated on me so much because deep-down, I knew that I would rather have written something, I don’t know, a little more…intelligent. 

None of us like criticism, but unless we hide away and avoid ever having an opinion then it’s inevitable. In fact, without criticism, how could we ever hope to improve?

Besides, I just checked. I’m in good company; Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ has nine one-star reviews on Amazon…

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If you have time to waste, read more reviews (and add your own) for my ‘silly’ and ‘boring’ novel below:

US reviews

UK reviews  

R.I.P. Mark Darcy

I’m glad Mark Darcy is dead.

Given that yesterday was the long-awaited launch of Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” I felt compelled to exorcise some Darcy demons from my matchmaking days.

In order for you to fully understand how an otherwise caring and nonviolent woman might revel in the death of a well-loved and seemingly upstanding fictional character, I wanted to share with you a typical consultation with one of the thousands of Bridget Jones-a-likes I met during my six years as a matchmaker:

RIP

She unravelled her scarf and plonked down on the seat in front of me like a heavy bag of shopping. Then ruffled her dirty-blonde hair and stared at me expectantly.

I took a deep breath, leaned forward, pen poised and asked her what she was looking for.

‘I like tall men,’ she began. ‘Brown hair. Brown eyes.’

I nodded, gesturing to the waiter to bring us some Chardonnay.

‘He has to be intelligent,’ she continued. ‘And successful. I need a man with a good career. Something meaningful too.’ She looked to the ceiling then back down at me with a dreamy expression. ‘Like a Human Rights Barrister.’

I suppressed an eye-roll.

She went on. ‘He must be good-looking. Slim. But not skinny. I prefer an athletic build. I like eloquent men who can hold a conversation at a dinner party.’

I looked up at the ceiling and stared at a crack in the paint.

She continued, nonplussed. ‘He must be caring and sensitive but also assertive and masculine. Confident but not arrogant and calm and capable in a crisis.’ She paused for breath, the dreamy expression returning. ‘I like broad shoulders and muscular thighs. Are you writing this down?’

I looked back down at her, wondering if now were an appropriate time to suggest she date Steve, the 5ft7, twice divorced IT consultant from Southampton.

Two hours later after she’d concluded her future beloved’s list of attributes with an appreciation of fine wine and manly hands, I downed my wine and cursed Helen Fielding for ever introducing Mark Darcy to the female population.

It’s not that the average woman in her thirties doesn’t deserve love or happiness. We all do. What bothered me the most though, is since Bridget Jones’ Diary graced our bookshelves and our screens, the qualities of the perfect man have somehow morphed from the desired to the expected. If a ditzy, chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic can have Mark Darcy chasing her around London, professing to love her just the way she is, then that gives hope to the rest of us.

When in truth, the real-life Colin Firth chose to love his stunning size 6 Italian film-producer wife, Livia Giuggioli, just the way she is. Which let’s face it, can’t be that much of a struggle.

We all love Bridget, but if I’ve learned one thing from personally matching thousands of women like her, is that the only thing worse than no hope, is false hope.

Now what did I do with Steve’s profile?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley HIll’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’