“If Singletree’s only florist didn’t deliver her posies half-drunk, I might still be married to that floor-licking, scum-sucking, receptionist-nailing hack-accountant, Mike Terwilliger.”
Lacey Terwilliger’s shock and humiliation over her husband’s philandering prompt her to add some bonus material to Mike’s company newsletter: stunning Technicolor descriptions of the special brand of “administrative support” his receptionist gives him. The detailed mass e-mail to Mike’s family, friends, and clients blows up in her face, and before one can say “instant urban legend,” Lacey has become the pariah of her small Kentucky town, a media punch line, and the defendant in Mike’s defamation lawsuit.
Her seemingly perfect life up in flames, Lacey retreats to her family’s lakeside cabin, only to encounter an aggravating neighbor named Monroe. A hunky crime novelist with a low tolerance for drama, Monroe is not thrilled about a newly divorced woman moving in next door. But with time, beer, and a screen door to the nose, a cautious friendship develops into something infinitely more satisfying.
Lacey has to make a decision about her long-term living arrangements, though. Should she take a job writing caustic divorce newsletters for paying clients, or move on with her own life, pursuing more literary aspirations? Can she find happiness with a man who tells her what he thinks and not what she wants to hear? And will she ever be able to resist saying one . . . last . . . thing?
Welcome to another rant about Things People Don’t Want to Talk About.
I debated whether or not to write a review for this book. A lot of people loved it, and it’s increasingly difficult for me to find the energy to point out all the things that almost no one else is, especially with an author whose other works I’ve enjoyed.
Plus, I can readily admit that I’m hyper-focused on feminism, and that I bring up topics like sexism, racism, bigotry, and rape culture in a lot of my reviews. I realize that these are not “fun” topics. Also, banging the same drum over and over again becomes tedious, for both the percussionist and the audience.
As the percussionist, I understand. I really do. My arm hurts. I’m sure your ears do too.
I might apologize for that, for making you feel uncomfortable, for making you think about things that you might not have noticed had I not lit them on fire in one of my rants, but no one apologizes to me every time I’m bombarded with normalized sexism, do they? No one apologizes to me for being afraid to walk home alone at night without some sort of knife tucked into my boot top. They just expect me to suck it up and deal with it. I’m a woman. Such is my lot in life.
So you know what? Fuck it. I’m not apologizing. And I will keep pointing out how pervasive these themes are in our culture until things change.
If you don’t like it, let me demonstrate a way for you to avoid facing such unpleasantries in the future. Go ahead and click on my avatar in the top left of this review. When my profile comes up, you’ll notice three helpful little buttons on there. One says “unfollow”, another says “unfriend”, and if you really want to get rid of me, there’s even a “block user” option. Feel free to click on any of these three.
Now, on with the rant. As I have so many nails to hammer here, I think I’ll break this review down into sections. Those sections being the lessons I learned from this book.
Men. They are going to cheat on you. Always. Because penis.
On page eight, our MC, Lacey Terwilliger, harangues herself for being the “stupidest woman on the planet”.
For not stalking her husband. For not questioning his every move. For asking him how his day was and not interpreting his answer of, “Oh, nothing new” as a declaration that he was banging his secretary.
That’s right. She’s the stupidest woman on the planet for not expecting her husband to cheat on her.
Twenty pages later, her mother confirms this to be true by explaining to Lacey that the reason she travels all over kingdom come with Lacey’s father is because if she doesn’t, he’ll run off with another woman.
This theme is perpetuated throughout this book, and comes to a head toward the end, when Lacey finds herself in the middle of a beauty parlor, getting judged by all the other women in town for playing the part of the jilted wife. She looks at each of them in turn and rattles off their husbands’ dalliances in her head.
Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
What kind of misandrist bullshittery is going on here? What kind of message is this sending?
I read a lot of articles and see a lot of social media kerfluffles over how men portray women in fiction, but I don’t see nearly enough outcry over how women portray men. And let’s be real for a moment, this is a systematic problem in the romance and chick-lit genres. We need to start calling this out, we need to start talking about it as a community, because right now, a lot of us do a piss poor job of it, and we’re only hurting ourselves and our readers.
Portraying men as stereotypes – the most popular flavor of the month being the pseudo-alpha douche –only contributes to normalized sexism and rape culture. When we have our male leads threaten, physically assault, stalk, harass, and browbeat our female leads into submission, all in the name of True Love, we become complicit in perpetuating themes that are dangerous FOR women TO women.
Can we take a time-out to realize how fucked up that is?
*pause for emphasis*
So please, readers, reviewers, writers, published authors, and publishers, start paying attention. Start having this discussion.
Gay men are walking, talking stereotypes. Because gay.
This needs to stop. Like, now.
I’ve lost track of how many times the same gay man has been interjected into novels alongside the female lead to…what? To prove that she’s not a bigot? To make her seem hip? To fulfill some female fantasy of intimacy with a man that doesn’t involve sex?
Emmett, Lacey’s older brother, fulfills that role in this novel. The stereotypes begin with appearances:
“Imagine growing up with a brother who knew how to dress better than you did. It’s humiliating.”
Then we have his mannerisms:
“Emmett, who’d always had a flair for the dramatic, took the tail end of the quilt and carried it like a royal train.”
Then we have his social activities:
“Sweetie, I’m sorry, the resort was all about relaxation and binge drinking.”
“Carla Gibson still avoids Mama at the Piggly Wiggly after trying to ban Emmett’s “Salute to Cher” from the senior talent show when we were in high school.”
Then we have Emmett’s dating life:
“But Emmett was on a two-week trip to the Bahamas with his current boyfriend…” – who is never mentioned again.
“The best way to get over one man is to get under another one. It’s a life philosophy I wholeheartedly embrace.”
“That’s because you’re a man-whore.”
Then we have this line, delivered in response to Lacey asking him if he’ll join her in a fruity drink:
“Ugh. Even I’m not gay enough to drink that swill.”
He is a walking, talking stereotype. But he draws the line at fruity drinks. Because he’s not gay enough.
Seriously. Stop it.
Be nice. Always. Because vagina.
That sums up so many prevalent themes in rape culture, many of which are featured in this book. The first being that women must not bother other people or make a scene.
In the opening pages of this, Lacey makes a scene after discovering that her husband has been cheating on her. Wow, does she live to regret it.
The patriarchy has taught her that it is only natural for the financial burden of a household to fall onto the shoulders of the man, and over the course of her marriage she allows her husband to convince her not to work because he considers having a working wife an “embarrassment”.
So she quits her job. Without argument.
Her entire life then becomes a reflection of him. She plays hostess to his clients, because that is what’s expected of her. She joins fundraising committees, because it looks good for him. She becomes his maid, his cook, his servant, his doormat, all because he wants her to.
So you can understand that she has a pretty spectacular meltdown when she realizes what she’s allowed herself to become for a man who’s cheating on her.
Instead of confronting him, she decides that the monthly newsletter she maintains for his company is going to become her platform. She uses it to out her husband’s infidelity. To his extensive client list, their families, and the entire population of their town.
What immediately follows is scene after scene of people telling Lacey that she overreacted to her husband’s treatment of her, and that what she did to him was worse than anything he ever could have done to her.
Apparently public humiliation > total subjugation of another human being.
“Lacey, baby, it’s me. Bob Martin just called and said I need to get a tighter rein on you…” – her husband.
“All my boy did was play the field a little bit. Why’d you have to make such a fuss? He’s just a man, Lacey. They’re all just men. You’re a big girl. You know what men are like.” – her mother in law.
Her mother, her father, her brother, basically everyone she’s ever met, get in on the shame fest. They brand her a crazy person, and she’s ostracized. To the point that she has to move away. And what happens to Mike, her cheating husband? His business booms. That’s right. Don’t bother saying anything, ladies, because you’ll only bring misery on yourself and financial success to the man who wronged you.
Again, what kind of message is this? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s merely repeating what rape culture has taught us; that we should never make a fuss. Because this is what comes of it.
Then again, if we find ourselves facing this kind of backlash, we can do what rape culture has also taught us and defer to the judgment of men. Which Lacey does. From beginning to end of this novel.
In the beginning, she does everything her husband tells her to do, without questioning it. In the middle, she does everything her brother tells her to do. Sure, she might question some of it, but she does it anyway because he has a penis, so he obviously knows what’s best for her. At the end, she does everything her new man tells her to do, because, again, penis.
Blah, blah, blah
So this review is already 1.5k, and I’m sure I’ve lost most of you by now. There are other prevalent themes in here that drove me batty, like the normalized sexism via innumerable lines like, “I fight like a girl” and “Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday?” “Because I’m not a woman?”, and how it is Not Okay for a woman to leave the house without heels and three layers of makeup.
Don’t even get me started on the portrayal of women in here. No really, don’t. Because I could honestly write another 2k on that alone and link you to so many articles that your head would spin. Needless to say, if you’re not this MC, you’re a horrible stereotype.
Okay, so all my anger might have been righteous. I might have been made to feel this way by the author. She might have intentionally pissed me off, because this is “chick-lit” (a term I loathe, btw), and Lacey is going to grow as a character by the end and realize just how brainwashed she’s been.
At least that’s what I kept praying for. My prayers were unmet.
This book is nothing but a perpetuation of everything that I hate about our society. If you’re a feminist, if you’re aware of how pervasive sexism, rape culture, bigotry, and all the other topics I touched upon in this review are, I suggest you skip this book.