Grace McAllister, a 36-year-old career-oriented woman, has not been successful in finding a good possible mate until she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome owner of a restaurant. He, however, is a divorced father of two, and Grace is determined not to have kids in her life. But Victor assures her that, with the children’s mother having primary custody, Grace doesn’t have anything to worry about, and they become engaged. Less than a week later however, Victor’s first wife Kelli is found dead, and suddenly Grace has a lot more on her plate than she bargained for.
The story is told in alternating points of view by Grace, Kelli (via flashbacks), and Ava, Victor’s 13-year-old daughter. From the flashbacks plus some investigative work by Grace and Ava, we find out what happened to Kelli, and how Victor, Grace, Ava, and Max (Ava’s younger brother) learn to cope with their jarring new circumstances.
Discussion: I thought the stepfamily and adjustment-to-sudden-death dynamics were portrayed rather well by the author, at least until the All Better Now ending. Most of the story was incredibly predictable. Moreover, Victor was annoyingly self-centered, and Grace way too understanding of it. HELLO, Victor: Grace has been put in a WAY harder position than you, and you have practically no concept of it! While the author does show the difficulties faced by Grace, her emphasis is on Grace’s adaptation to the situation and her full (and career-impeding) embrace of “motherhood”, rather than on Victor having any enlightenment. This may be realistic, but it was also quite irritating.
Some of Ava’s dialogue didn’t seem very thirteenish to me: “My anger was barbed and bitter in my mouth.” Really?
I was also a little put off by the dialogue given to Grace’s gay brother. It seemed a little too evocative of gay stereotypes for me.
I did like, however, the advice Grace received from her assistant about what love is:
“‘…if I’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it’s that any fool can learn to talk a good game about how they feel. It takes real strength to show up and prove it.’ She paused. ‘You hear me? You understand what I’m saying? Love is a verb.”
Evaluation: Predictable, but not a bad beach read, and one that will especially appeal to those who have been in step-parenting situations.
Published by Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Note: Today, September 16, is National Stepfamily Day (celebrated annually). Visit the National Stepfamily Day website for helpful links on coping with the challenges of stepfamilies.