The Sexy One
Today, we have a guest review from Milly! At first, she was really enjoying The Sexy One, until she got to one particular character’s portrayal.
I know many of us will downgrade a romance for often pitting two women against each other for unnecessary or superficial reasons. At the end of the review, Milly calls for some recommendations, so maybe we can help her out!
Milly describes herself as a book loving, arts appreciating, cooking crazy, language/history nerd all the while questing for beachy serenity and who thinks the best words ever written are “And they lived happily ever after.”
So this is going to be long…I apologize in advance but I had to share ‘cuz I know you ladies get it.
So I just finished Lauren Blakely’s The Sexy One – the story was everything I was looking for… light, humorous, sweet, not angsty, well developed. In other words a solid B+/A- read for me but something kept nagging at me about this book.
The set up is this: Prior to the start of the book, the hero, a divorced dad, hires the heroine as his daughter’s nanny. They are connecting really well and the two of them develop feelings for each other. The opening of the book begins with each of them individually trying to come to terms & dealing with the fact that these feelings aren’t appropriate. Forbidden love is a bit of a catnip for me so again everything was set up great!
The main characters were well developed, had a great network of people in their lives, and very good at what they did for a living. The character & plot arcs were real, the H/h didn’t just fall into bed with one another and the child in the book wasn’t a plot moppet but a fully fleshed out character. Most importantly, the hero never once forgot he had a daughter and she was always at the front of his mind as he juggled business, friends, schedules, a burgeoning relationship and his ex-wife. A total win for me!
Which brings me to what really bothered me – the portrayal of the ex-wife.
The author did a great job of fleshing out each and every character in the book but she resorted to clichés in dealing with the ex-wife. The hero acknowledges he was a workaholic during his marriage and probably neglected her thus accepting some culpability in their relationship’s demise. He also resolves to that he and his ex-wife deal with each other civilly for the sake of their child. So far so good right? Real life right? Here’s where it went south for me.
The catalyst for their divorce was her affair with a co-worker – ok I get that. Then it gets worse. The ex-wife is portrayed as difficult and selfish and less than a concerned mother even though the hero doesn’t doubt her love for their daughter. She gave up full custody of their daughter because of her demanding career. She returns her daughter early on her weekends. She is portrayed as selfish for putting her career first while the hero scales back. She also baits the hero and the only way they can have a civil conversation is because the hero refuses to take said bait. Basically the ex-wife is portrayed as a horrible person and the reason for the divorce.
Why oh why must the ex-wife be vilified for the hero to be heroic?! Full disclosure here – I am an ex-wife. My ex-husband and I are divorced for a reason… our own mutual incompatibility in the long run, our own mutual failures. But, and this is a big but, we are effective parents who can actually talk to one another about our child. And guess what, I can even talk to his current wife about my son – we have a great working relationship. We won’t ever be best of buddies but we make this aspect of our lives work and work well. I know for a fact we aren’t unique in this – I see it all around me.
I can’t tell you how many people have asked me over the years, “You can actually talk to him?” or even better yet, “How can you say you like her.” Ummm, because she wasn’t the reason why my marriage broke up and because my son is happy at their place and at mine – it’s called parenting & being a grown up.
Sorry I rant.
The ex-spouse is rarely entirely evil – why can’t we get past certain stereotypes?
In this story the ex wasn’t even necessary to move the romance along. She’d attempt to set up barriers, and the characters surmounted those barriers in a reasonable adult manner. The forbidden love trope was more than enough. This portrayal of the ex-wife really dropped the story down to a C for me because of the ex-wife portrayal. The romance itself a solid B+.
So do you guys know of any books at all where the ex-spouse or deceased spouse is actually a good person? I can only think of a Julia Quinn in the historical side where the heroine’s first marriage was a good one.