by Stacey May Fowles
Published by ECW Press
Genre: women’s lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5
As novels and films show us repeatedly, life is made up of happenstance, quixotic moments, the absence of which alter your life as much as their presence.
Ronnie is engaged to her longtime chef boyfriend, believing that she has over-reached, to some degree. Aaron is gorgeous and successful, and Ronnie has been told – if not so much by Aaron himself – that he can do better.
Their relationship has reached a sort of predictable stasis: Aaron works, she works (as a hairdresser), they occasionally have sex, he wants to get married, but she is somewhat ambivalent. The only drama in their lives centers around the child Aaron wants but Ronnie fears she cannot have. She has suffered some Lady Troubles, and she doesn’t know if she can get pregnant.
While at one of Aaron’s catered affairs (no pun intended), Ronnie meets Charlie, a somewhat famous author who is married and has an autistic son. They challenge and intrigue each other from the start. She is drawn to him for reasons she cannot understand, and when she takes a bite of his cookie, Charlie finds himself captivated. He slides his hand up her dress. She is somewhat shocked by her physical response to him.
And then she leaves.
Of course, they reconnect later, and their relationship largely is flirtatious. But one thing leads to another, and infidelity occurs. Stacey May Fowles takes us into both Ronnie’s and Charlie’s minds, and we see why they are attracted to each other. We understand the boredom they face at home, the lack of excitement or appreciation. Each feels emotionally abandoned by their significant other, each needs to be desired. So when they discover that they can give each other what they’re missing, their relationship has no place to go other than infidelity.
The sexy times, while not gloriously hot like you’d find with C. C. Gibbs or Sylvia Day, are nonetheless spicy and delicious. We become as addicted to their story as they are to each other.
The thing with infidelity, though, is that there are parties who will not embrace this relationship. Charlie’s wife, for one, might not approve. She has supported him and nurtured their son. How would she react if she knew?
One of the things I enjoyed about this book was how Fowles addresses Charlie’s desperation for Ronnie. They have sex on his desk. Anyone who has spent time in a college building knows that the walls are thin. Does Charlie want to get caught? Does he want his marriage to end? In his case, his son is one reason why Charlie would want to cling to his wife. Ronnie, on the other hand, is with Aaron because that’s how it’s been for her for so long. She is far more willing to upend her life than Charlie is, yet he’s the one who behaves recklessly. He does not hide his affair quite as stringently as we would think.
Ronnie is occasionally frustrating; okay, she’s frustrating for much of the book. She’s flighty, selfish, and a bit obsessive. But yet I knew why Charlie wanted – needed – to be with her, just as I understood – perhaps better than Ronnie – why she needed to be with Charlie. As Fowles makes clear, sometimes the harshest infidelity is when you’re unfaithful to yourself.
Do you root for people to be happy with their infidelity? Do you cheer them on?
Such is the dilemma for us readers. And the beauty of Fowles’ writing is that she knows what she’s asking us to do. Her ending is proof of that.