I’m just going to say this right now: I know Jennifer Spiegel. I have known her for 20 something years having met in college, losing touch and reconnecting a couple of years ago via Facebook. She asked me to read her book, but she’s asking everyone. She should. If a writer can’t or won’t promote his or her own work, who will? It’s her first published novel and this is a pretty super freaking big deal if you ask… well, anyone. What she didn’t ask me to do, however, was review it. But as I read it for this month’s book club pick and talked it over with The Book Babes, I knew I would. It’s really so very good.

Semi-Spoiler Alert: Early on Love Slave’s heroine, Sybil Weatherfield, declares: I can write the pants off any man. Guess what? Jennifer Spiegel can, too.

Love Slave follows Sybil Weatherfield a writer in her early 30s as she navigates life and love in the Big Apple, circa 1995. A writer for New York Shock, Sybil heads up Abscess a column of rants and raves that generate quite a chatty and engaged readership but not enough money to keep her from temping during the day to make the ends barely meet. She’s in a relationship with financial analyst and pretty boy Jeff Simon who loves that Sybil’s life is artsy, bohemian and struggling. Sybil loves that he’s kind, smart, well put together and nice to look at. They love what they think the other represents, without actually loving each other. She celebrates her triumphs and disasters and romantic woes with gal pal Madeline, a perfect go getter to Sybil’s comfortable stay putter. And then there’s Rob, sexy, edgy, lead-singer-of-a-band Rob who’s still in love with his dead wife.

Can you see it coming? A love triangle. Every good love story has one and Love Slave is a good one for someone like Sybil, temping her way through work and life, struggling with who she wants to be versus who she actually is. Bring on the drama! Bring on the angst! Bring on a book that feels like it was written for me! And really for my generation, Generation X.

And that’s what I did. I brought Love Slave to my book club, The Book Babes, who actually read and discuss books each month and not just drink wine. But there is wine, trust me. And talked and talked we did, just like any smart women reading a smartly written book would do. The result was a lively convo that didn’t always end up in agreement—the best kind if you ask me. Here are some of the highlights.

On Sybil
We loved Sybil’s authenticity even though some of us found her insecurity irritating. “I wanted Sybil to have her life together by this point in her life,” lamented one. But so many people don’t, which was an endearment for me.

On Female Friendship
We love good female friendship in books and thought Madeline’s take-on-the-world attitude was a nice contrast to the slightly neurotic contemplator Sybil.But their relationship had some challenges, and while it added depth to the story, we were shocked by Madeline’s actions.

On Rocker Rob
We loved Rob. We hated Rob. He was passionate. He was a bit of a whore. He was probably a bit too real for us. “It’s real easy for guys to separate sex from love.”

On Resolution
We all liked how the book ended, which is a bit surprising. The Book Babe that always wants a little more, still wanted a little more. But for most of us, it ends at just the right spot in just the right way.

On What Kind of Book Is this Anyway?
We have a tendency to label books written by women, starring women and involving a love story as Chick Lit. And yet when I read Love Slave, I didn’t get a Chick Lit vibe at all. Love Slave has heart, but it also has more literary bite than typical Chick Lit fare. Spiegel has crafted a flawed, yet likeable, protagonist in Sybil Weatherfield, who is clever and witty behind her words, but a bit of a mess when she’s not. Sybil is perfectly imperfect like we all are, really. In Love Slave we get to experience writing that goes above and beyond the Top 10 Summer Beach Reads. Not that I don’t love a good beach read, but I loved this more and most were in agreement.

But there was a dissenter (there always is in good discussions). “It’s totally Chick Lit and I can see it being marketed to that group of readers. It has all the elements of Chick Lit.”

Despite some of our disagreements, we agreed on one thing: liking it. Love Slave gave us a lot to talk about, reminisce over and even shift uncomfortably as we saw some of ourselves in Sybil. But mostly, we agreed, it was refreshing to read such a smartly written contemporary love story.

On You
Now it’s your turn. Grab a copy a copy of Love Slave and form your own opinion. Take it to your book club or share it with a good friend and talk it over for yourselves. Even better? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy reading!

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 280
Genre: Fiction

This review originally appeared on www.popcultureworldnews.com on 10/17/12.