Cook’s fifth (Life’s a Beach, 2007, etc.), about a family of beauticians, falls as flat as a badly layered mullet.
The formulaic chick-lit elements are duly provided: family craziness, brand-name-dropping, egregious infidelity. Lucky Larry Shaughnessy gave Italian names to his five children and to the chain of beauty salons he runs in the Boston area. Why? Well, he’s been an “Italiophile” ever since he spent his first honeymoon in Tuscany, and “how much money could you really charge at Salon de Seamus?” Daughter (and narrator) Bella recently lost her husband Craig to her half-sister Sophia. This makes work awkward, since all of Lucky’s offspring, along with two of his ex-wives, are employed in the salons. Makeup artist and lipstick addict Bella cute-meets rich, handsome Sean Ryan at a college admission fair where she’s providing makeovers and he’s test-marketing a “college application survival kit.” They exchange wisecracks and snappy comebacks, but not, just yet, bodily fluids. Burned by bad relationships, both have commitment issues. Among the other developments: Bella, assigned to prettify a bridal party, dognaps the bride’s neglected tiny terrier, dyes and crops the dog’s fur and renames her Cannoli. There are a few funny bits, as when the Shaughnessys, including gay stylist Mario and his spouse Todd, perform a hair intervention to force Lucky to give up his Donald Trump coiffure. But the climactic ensemble scene in Atlanta, where the family congregates for a nephew’s wedding, is not the madcap laugh-fest it labors to be. Nor is eminently self-satisfied Bella the sort of wryly self-deprecating protagonist the genre requires.
Intense beauty-product placement may be this novel’s only selling point.