I first read this book at 19 and found it really enjoyable. Maybe I was just so desperate for something new to read that I would have enjoyed anything. Maybe I was just young enough to find anything credible.
Many years later I’ve re-read it and had many WTH moments. I’ve read shoujo manga with more sophisticated, credible plotlines than this.
First off, the author has an annoying habit of writing in very short paragraphs. I remember finding this strange even the first time I read it. Some paragraphs are only one or two WORDS long. Yes, words, not sentences. The narrator, Claire, also feels the need to explain the punchline of every joke, as though the reader is too thick to get it on their own.
The plotline is about as cliché as it gets (sorry, spoilers follow). Woman has baby. Husband tells her on day of birth that he’s seeing another woman and plans on divorcing his wife. Woman goes back to her family in Dublin and meets a hunk. Husband comes back and turns out to be a complete jerk. After some dithering, she decides she prefers the hunk to her slimeball of a husband. The end.
Now I’m not saying the plotline fails entirely. I suppose it’s a generic format even I have used in the past. What fails is how paper-thin and clichéd the characters are. It’s simply not believable. The hunk, Adam, is as Mary-Sue as they make them. Seriously, this guy is totally faultless! He ALWAYS does and says the right thing. He’s so perfect he makes me sick. Naturally, he isn’t average-looking, or even averagely good-looking. He’s an absolute babe, no less. Total 100% hunk that everyone falls for. And young, to boot. Oh please, give me a break.
Then we have the Walsh family. One thing I’ll say is that those daughters deserve a kick up the backside. Are there really people who think nothing of telling their parents to eff off, and address them with the b-word? Really? If I ever spoke to my parents like that I’d never get away with it. No wonder all 5 of them end up head-cases.
Then we get to James, the errant husband. Ah. He starts off as the perfect guy. All caring and funny and sweet and intelligent. Then he returns in the second half of the book and his personality does a 180. His character becomes totally unbelievable. What a caricature. He has no interest in their baby, oftentimes forgetting that she even exists. Naturally, the baby has her ebil-radar switched on and dislikes him, too. He is manipulative, smug, bullying. Everything is set up perfectly for our Claire. She has a hottie waiting in the wings, and her husband has conveniently transformed into someone you wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. He has absolutely NO redeeming features — essentially, he turns into the opposite of Mary-Sue — sorry, I mean Adam. Ahh, decisions, decisions.
When Claire finally realises that Mary-Sues are better than Beelzebubs, we have the final confrontation scene. Yawn. How it does drag on. Someone needs to teach Claire how to make her point and move on, because in this scene it’s like you’re going round and round and round the same spot. It’s almost like she’s just copied and pasted her earlier speech on to the end of the chapter to stretch it out a bit. Also James’s behaviour in this scene defies credulity. I just honestly cannot believe that something could happen this way.
Even after that is resolved, James still does his Beelzebub impression, and in fact, gets better at it. Adam returns to the scene and perfects his Mary-Sue routine, “always anxious to be right-on and decent”. Why, thanks for showing us how it’s done, Mary-Sue.
This book could have been so much better if only Keyes gave her characters more depth and credibility, and made the plot more sophisticated. Because essentially what we have here is a fairy-tale fantasy that I am hard-pressed to take seriously. After about 3/4 through the book, I was so bored, wondering, Just when is this going to END?
Don’t let this put you off her other books. I guess as her debut, something as unpolished as this can be overlooked, although you wonder what her editor was thinking. It’s only a shame that she didn’t show the same ruthlessness with this as she did with Lucy Sullivan. Marian can and has done a lot better. I’d only recommend this if you are after reading the whole Walsh series. I give this 2/5, the only redeeming features of this book being the humour and occasionally good writing style.