In some ways Rivals is very much more of the same from Jilly Cooper as Riders, but in general Cooper has tightened up her act. The writing is more snappy and less rambling, the characters seem more vivid and certain of them are far more likeable then in her first book.
The plot this time involves a large franchise battle between Corinium - the incumbent television company, led by Tony Baddingham - and Venturer, formed by a number of larger than life characters who have had various run-ins with Tony and wish to see his downfall.
As well as being reintroduced to Rupert Campbell-Black - who is far more loveable rogue this time than unprincipled bastard - we also meet the O'Hara family, including the divine Taggie who is destined to play a huge part in Rupert's life. Taggie is one of my very favourite characters of Cooper's and her union with Rupert is sweet and genuine.
As mentioned, Cooper's plot is less convoluted. Here there is the definite focus of the franchise battle, which drives the plot forward. There are innumerable cases of bed-hopping and wife swapping as each consortium attempts to plunge the other into controversy before the big meeting with the IBA.
Of course, there is a naughty fairytale element to the story - nice things happen to nice people(Taggie and Rupert) ; those who are conflicted and difficult learn how to become better people (Cameron Cook); while the bad guys are ousted (Tony). There is one person who is irredeemable in my eyes, and this is Maud O'Hara - she is selfish and shows both lack of judgement and bitter jealousy.
I also found myself annoyed with the plot device of young, precocious girl (in Riders, Fen and here, Caitlin) - I sense that Cooper is attempting to build a youthful version of herself into each of her stories. Finally, Cooper has the tendency to use words such as 'screamed' and 'yelled' in terms of conversations, which becomes jarring after a while.
Overall, Cooper is not breaking the mould here at all but she writes a fantastic and gripping story.