UEL Enterprises, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-9786062-0-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2007
Despite the titillation factor you may believe to be present in Swap, the book itself is actually very tame. It has an epilogue written in a pattern that fans of Jackie Collins’s novels may find familiar, but there is really nothing truly sleazy about this tale of partner-switching. What it is, though, is an oh-so-typically male story of how a man overcomes his midlife crisis-like phase by trading his old wife for a new one.
Sheldon Marsh is married to Eleanor and they even have a kid, but that doesn’t stop him from deciding that he’d rather be married to Lucy, the wife of his best friend and fellow baseball team player Tom.
It’s not that Sheldon wasn’t happy with his wife and his daughter. It’s just that he knew he would be happier with Lucy; she’d be happier with him; his wife would be happier with Tom, and Tom would be happier with Eleanor. After all, Tom and Eleanor had been friends and occasional lovers for years, as had Sheldon and Lucy, so why not make it permanent?
Note that in the above swap, Sheldon is pairing his wife, who is suffering from depression, with a man he knows to be a promiscuous twit who never let his wedding vows stop him from consorting with groupies. But don’t worry, Sheldon knows more about “it” than a certain Clarissa Darling, so I’m sure Eleanor is better off with Tom, oh yes indeed.
That’s my biggest problem with Swap: it’s written entirely from Sheldon’s point of view, and I find Sheldon an unlikable selfish twit who gets rewarded with a new wife just because his life is not going the way he wants it to, boo-hoo. The author also makes it too convenient for Sheldon to pull off his spousal upgrade: the daughter doesn’t mind too much, for example. Eleanor is portrayed as somewhat crazy so that we will know and accept that Sheldon is better off without her. Since I’m seeing things through Sheldon’s point of view, Lucy is the hot woman he wants to bang, one who is perfect for his bruised ego, while Eleanor is the crazy wife. Those poor women don’t get much characterization beyond that.
It’s not that I mind Sheldon that much, mind you. It’s just that a part of me doesn’t believe that he is actually entitled to a new wife or that having a new wife is the perfect solution to all his blues. Plus, I think this man is so full of it. As a result, I can never fully get into this story – a big part of me keeps telling me that Sheldon Marsh has it way too easy in this story and the whole story comes off way too much like a vicarious fantasy for male readers. I tell you, a story with similarly blatant vicarious fantasy aimed at women will never be able to avoid being torn apart by critics. I should know – I read romance novels and I have heard all the criticisms leveled at those books.
There are still many things to enjoy about this book, if I can overlook the hero’s self-absorption. The writing is clean, witty, and always readable. The author provides a hilarious insight into Sheldon’s past, one that involves unconventional characters and a quirky way of looking at things. The author is often guilty of taking some very obvious and even cheap shots at various subject matters, but still, he has a pleasant and quirky sense of humor that shows in his writing.
At the end of the day, I do have a pleasant time reading Swap. Still, I’m afraid the story also makes me roll up my eyes and mutter under my breath, “Men.” If this story is a cup of tea, I’d have to admit that the it tastes fine, but still, it’s not what I usually prefer to drink.