Berkley, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-425-21523-4
Contemporary Fiction, 2007
Just Sex is not an erotic romance, folks. It is a different kind of pornography altogether: wish fulfillment fiction for the fortysomething divorcée. You know the drill, I’m sure: a wife of a rich man who is more familiar with PTA meetings and stuff realizes that her husband is a jerk who has been cheating on her and starts out to discover a brave new world waiting out there for her after the estrangement.
In this story, Ellen Markham’s husband tells her that his flings are “just sex” and she should try having such an affair herself before she can judge him. Her best friend Jill, the stereotypical wilder woman character, decides that this is exactly the opportunity for Ellen to spread her wings and, who knows, find a worthier replacement for Tom. Meanwhile, Ellen’s daughter Katie predictably blames Ellen for the separation while experiencing her own “teenage girl gets the blues” subplot. The younger son, Eric, is fortunately too busy playing video games to be sucked into the vortex of stereotypes that has claimed everyone else in this story.
This is a wish fulfillment story in my opinion because it isn’t really much of a story other than how every guy Ellen meets either wants to bed her or, in the case of that one guy who is too much in love with his ex-wife, be her best friend forever and ever. Despite Ellen’s protests that she is old, too conservative, or too goody-goody to spread the love around, every man she encounters wants a piece of her. Ellen has a merry time judging other people left and right while protesting again and again that she can’t sleep with so-and-so, although strangely enough, she has no problems spreading them wide and fast for the Mr Right Now in this story. That’s probably because the story is ending soon and there is not much space left for constant “Oh no, I can’t put out because I’m such a good person, sorry for leading you on!” whining.
At any rate, in the end of course everything works out fine for Ellen. She’s supposed to be everyone’s placeholder for such a wish fulfillment fantasy after all. I just wish that there is a little more substance underneath all this fluffy “fortysomething women dumped by their husband are still hot and hotter than ever” stuff.