A change of pace-
I want to recommend one of my favorite writers- Sheri Reynolds
Her first book Bitterroot Landing was recommended by a friend who did a lit circle for a women's group. I read it in one sitting, the people in the story were very real to me, I don't think I've ever been so affected by a book.
other books are: The Rapture of Canaan an Oprah pick- but please don't hold that against her, A Gracious Plenty, and her latest (long-awaited) The Firefly Cloak.
She has the most wonderful way of fleshing out characters, or maybe she knows many of the same people I do, past and present.
I don't think she's strictly a 'chick-lit' writer- I think she captures certain aspects of a southern life that few others have. She speaks to me. Read her.