The Man I Should Have Married
by Pamela Redmond Satran, contemporary (2003)
Penguin, 6.99, ISBN 0-141-01215-3

I must admit that it makes a nice fantasy to have a Mr Right waiting in the wings only to come into my life and fix up my self-esteem problems as I try to rebuild my life after Adversity strikes (usually this means the collapse of a marriage). Meanwhile, I'll move to a nice place and live in a house where I will spend the rest of the story renovating it even when the money isn't all quite there. Oh, and that Mr Right will be a nice reprieve from my dealing with the usual collection of stereotypes in my life, from the kooky best friend to the meddling mother to the sullen teenaged daughter to the nicer preteen daughter to the soon-to-be-repentant old hubby (self-esteem problems - goodbye!).

That's the premise of Pamela Redmond Satran's The Man I Should Have Married and at least seven thousand other derivative "women's fiction" stories out there. When the pleasant fantasy becomes a broken record, however, I'm not entertained as much as I'm bored by this very unimaginatively derivative story.

In this case, our heroine Kennedy Burns has been separated from her husband Frank for months now. When Frank starts seeing a surfer gal Sonny, Kennedy realizes that it is time she moves on with her life too. This story deals with her trying to reconcile herself with her past (she had her eldest daughter with an unstable drug dealer Marco Rivera - Marco bizarrely described as "Asian" even when he's obviously South American) as well as rekindling her relationship with that employer-friend-turned-one-nighter Declan McGlynn who has been in love with her in the ten years since their one-night stand. She has to deal with the standard Mommy, Rebellious Daughter, and That Old Hubby issues too before she can decide who she is and what she wants in her life.

There is nothing new or at least interesting in this very formulaic tale. "Predictable" is the word to describe it, with "well-written" added to cushion the sting, perhaps. Kennedy is a straightforward cookie-cutter Chick-Lit heroine, but she isn't the whiny one here - that honor goes to Declan. Declan and Kennedy's love story isn't too rivetting, thanks to the author using very contrived reasons to keep these two from just getting together and cutting this story short by a hundred pages or so.

With every character in this story a stereotype and the conflicts and the resolutions to them being so predictable, the only thing I like about this book is its title. The Man I Should Have Married takes on a pleasant escapist fantasy but gives it a really stale treatment that this book should be filed under The Book That Should Have Been Better.

Rating: 69

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