Funny, sad and believable: Girl in Trouble by Rhoda Baxter is the third in her Smart Girls series and, though some of the characters have cameo appearances throughout the series, can be read alone. Which is what I did, quickly, particularly enjoying the second half of the story. I was worried that the first chapter, in which we meet Olivia at a stag night, meant the book would be too chick lit for me but as the story progresses the themes become darker and complex.
Olivia is thirty, relationship-phobic and surrounded by friends. She is quite independent, thank you very much and does not need a man to look after her. She has never been in love, never allowed herself to be in love and knows this dislike/distrust of men can be traced back to her father who left her and her mother when she was a child. She also has a health issue that makes pregnancy a big risk, though to be honest I was a little in the dark about the specifics of this. Instead she is a serial one-night girlfriend. When she falls accidentally pregnant, Olivia thinks the decision to have an abortion is straightforward and sensible. Of course life gets in the way, in two ways. Firstly her absent landlord Walter, who lives in the upstairs flat, returns home and is hot and funny and makes her feel comfortable in a cosy sexy way; a first for Olivia. And then her absent father arrives on her doorstep.
This is a fast-paced well-written novel which runs the gamut of emotions from chuckles to tears to pain. Relationships within broken families, as the years pass, are not simple and Baxter explores the unresolved tension and anger of Olivia and her mother Liz towards her father Trevor. Graham, her stepfather, has been a calm and loving influence on Olivia since her teens, but she only starts to appreciate this once Trevor returns to the scene. The father/daughter theme is echoed also in Walter’s storyline. His divorced wife Charlotte is to remarry and take their daughter, Emily, to live in America. Walter, absent because of work through many of Emily’s baby years, realises what he has missed just as he is about to lose it.
If you like your girls to be girly then Olivia does not fit that profile. She keeps her thoughts to herself and is quite complex in her behaviour. She does not want children and, in discussions with her friend Ruchi, the for/against options for abortion are explored with Ruchi, at first, unhappy at her friend’s viewpoint. So although the cover design is bright and cheerful, Girl in Trouble touches on some serious topics in a balanced and thoughtful manner. I would have liked to know more about Olivia’s work life as a solicitor though, in fact Walter’s career as a marine biologist is explained in much more detail.
Read my review of Please Release Me, also by Rhoda Baxter.
‘Girl in Trouble’ by Rhoda Baxter, Smart Girls #3 [UK: R Baxter] Buy now
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