NAL, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-451-46586-3
Contemporary Fiction, 2015
I read Beth Kendrick’s New Uses for Old Boyfriends while having to make an unexpected trip recently, and it turns out to be a perfectly adequate distraction during the long bus rides. However, this is a familiar story that plays out in almost scripted predictability. It can be argued that the guy the heroine Lila Alders ends up with may surprise some people, but I personally see that one coming from a mile away. Perhaps this is because I’ve read too many books of this sort, or maybe I’m just cynical, but the most useful dude ends up being the guy to put the ring on Lila’s finger. So yes, once again, love is only sweet if the guy can make nice things happen to us. Hey, this is a philosophy I can totally get behind – I’m just saying that I can correctly guess quite early on which guy will get to win Lila in the lottery of love.
So, Lila. She came from wealth – once again, evidence that nice things can only happen to us if we have the money to buy those things in the first place – and she eventually moved from the small town of Black Dog Bay to make it somewhat big as a host in some late night home shopping show. And then, she realized that her husband was wagging it around town, and the subsequent divorce left her finance in tatters. Her effort to give her ex-husband the finger ends up costing her her job, so there is only one thing a sassy chick-lit heroine can do in this case: go back to her small town, where her father had just died to make wonderful things happen to her. Thanks, Dad, for being so thoughtful and dying at the right time!
Lila’s mother Daphne was a former fashion model who never had to worry about money or anything similarly bothersome, as there were always people (read: men) to handle these things for her. With her husband’s croaking, however, she finds herself having to deal with these things, and as you can probably guess, she’s not doing a good job of it. Her husband had been amassing debts by the wazoo, and now it’s up to her and Lila to sort out the mess. Lila decides that they should sell their huge house and move to a smaller place, but of course Daphne refuses.
Fortunately, everything Lila does here turns into money with ease, to the point that we have an inexperienced person churning out two super successful businesses without any difficulty. Several men line up to be Lila’s potential beau – an ex and a high school mate, and the latter is an ex-Marine who helps Lila to settle down and become an overnight success, so goodness me, I wonder which guy will be the one for her, hmmm.
Various secondary characters, some clearly from past books set in this small town – books that I haven’t read so I don’t care one hoot about them as a result – and none of them really doing anything for the plot other than to remind me that there are other people living in this place.
On the bright side, the author has a charming, upbeat style, and the narrative is very easy to read. A few scenes have me smiling a bit. On the whole, though, it’s hard to become emotionally invested in New Uses for Old Boyfriends because everything amazing happens to Lila and Daphne way too easily. Things always fall into place for the best, and whenever anything bad threatens to ruin the scenery, these things quickly go away because our main characters are apparently impervious to misfortune and failure after the initial boo-boos that set up Lila’s return to Black Dog Bay. As a result, this story often reads like the author ticking away the items on her “happy small town women’s fiction” tropes list. Tick, tick, tick, time for a happy ending, yay.
Not that this is a terrible read, of course. As I’ve mentioned, it’s perfectly fine as a lightweight and entertaining read to pass the tedium. It’s just that this story also doesn’t leave much of a dent, and when it’s over, it’s very easy to put it down and forget everything about it.