Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7509-X
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Inspired by the Cary Grant and Irene Dunn movie My Favorite Wife, Pam McCutcheon’s My Favorite Husband really fumbles the moment it waddles awkwardly from the starting line because the author either does not have the ability or is too lazy to address the issues in the main couple’s relationship. Instead, she cranks up the screwball antics, most of them at the expense of the dim-witted heroine. It is not a good thing when this reader comes off thinking that a divorce is the best thing that can happen to the couple in this story.
Kelly Vincent is so blue. This year is the fifth year since her husband Chaz vanished in an expedition to the Amazon jungles (can anyone get lost in the Amazons nowadays?) and she has just married Spencer. Then Chaz shows up and Kelly finds herself in a bind as she tries to reconcile her current situation. Along the way, the author brings in really ridiculous cases of fake pregnancies from crazy other women and other noisy and nonsensical tomfooleries.
The author’s biggest mistake is to portray Kelly straight-off as a pathetic twit that apparently cannot live without a man in her life to guide her. In this book, her brother Scott (whose book is coming up, predictably) acts more like her seeing eye dog than a confidante – this woman cannot do anything or make up her mind on her own. From the start I am told that she married Spencer because Spencer pressured her to. She likes Spencer because he is stable and a far cry from Chaz – no she doesn’t – yes she does – and on and on she goes like a complete flakey. In the middle of the book, Kelly shows signs of brainpower when she tells off irresponsible and childish Chaz for taking her for granted. But by the end of the book the author apparently believes that she must make Kelly choose Chaz so she has Kelly having some pregnancy scare along with her realizing that Spencer is demonized to no end by the author. So she has to take Chaz back because everyone else is worse than Chaz. The alternative – getting by without any stupid men in her life and hence not settling for less – is no doubt unthinkable because Kelly is dim-witted that way.
Chaz is… I don’t know. Seriously, this man is the poster boy for deadbeat husbands. He actually spends five weeks after he is freed from his pygmy captors to go around looking for relics in the Amazon, and then he has the nerve to get mad when he comes off and realizes that the wife is not waiting at home with legs spread wide for him. His behavior in this book reeks of brainpower-free selfishness. And the baggages he brings into the story makes him a dumb, selfish, feckless, and irresponsible high-maintenance nitwit. It is not as if the author is not aware of how irresponsible he is and how he takes Kelly for granted, as Ms McCutcheon has Kelly half-heartedly trying to tell Chaz off in the middle parts of the book. But by the end, Chaz doesn’t change. He doesn’t seem to learn anything, and he gets his wife back because the author prefers to cut corners, insert contrived resolutions to their problems (by demonizing the ex and making Kelly come off like a pathetic ignorant fool that doesn’t seem to know anything about her body or female biology), and ultimately dumbing down her already dumb story.
Normally I would say I will give the couple two weeks. But from Kelly’s behavior, I would say this relationship will last until (his) death do they part. Chaz will keep taking her for granted and she will sit at home and come up with a thousand reasons to keep loving him. Of course, pathetic losers need love like the rest of us, but that’s life and this is a romance novel. Can we please leave the pathetic losers and the men that take merciless advantage of them out of romance novels the next time around?