The Replacement Wife (2012)
Sex scenes: barely classifies as mild, IMO
Camille Harte of Harte to Heart is a matchmaker and very good at her job. She knows which of her clients will suit and many of her matches result in marriage. Her own to a doctor, Edward Constantin has lasted twenty years and produced two children, reassuring clients that the happy ever after they always dreamed of might not be as elusive as it always seems. Kyra is fourteen and Zach is nine; while Edward won't ever win the award for 'best dad of the year' with his tendency to forget family events and responsibilities, they're the poster happy American family.
On a routine check-up, Camille gets the news she's been dreading: her cancer is back. The last time, Camille had laid for weeks in a hospital bed, weak as a baby, thrusting Edward into the role of main parent where he failed badly. The cancer is in its most advanced stages and the chances of recovery are tiny, even if they start treatment immediately. Camille is reluctant giving the disabling side-effects she experienced before, but agrees at Edward's persuading and for her children. Meanwhile, Camille is determined to carry on life and her job as normally as possible as she takes on board a very personal project.
Camille lost her own mother aged fourteen while her sister Holly was eleven. Their father Larry was a pilot and much like Edward in that he left the care of the children to his wife. On her death, Larry spent more time away from home and Camille was left resenting her father as she almost single-handedly looked after herself and her sister. Holly, despite Camille's attentions continued her path as the wayward-child and spent her early adult life as a rock groupie, leaving Camille in despair, believing her sister would never settle down with a husband and children of her own. Since then, Holly has grown up some and runs her own business selling rock memorabilia and collectibles and is now pregnant with the father nowhere in sight.
Camille thus wants to ensure that her own children don't suffer the same fate that she did. Her goal is to find a replacement for herself before she dies to (initially) be a platonic companion to Edward (though she acknowledges that the relationship may evolve into one of love and intimacy later on) and a mother to her children. As you might imagine, Edward is anything but enthused, but as he remarks several times through the novel (rather weakly, IMO) who is he to deny the wishes of his dying wife?
Camille's top candidate is a woman named Elise. She's a fourth grade teacher (clearly loving children) and a divorcee from when she found out that her husband was cheating on her. She wasn't looking to re-marry and was initially wary of Camille's proposal at first, but warms to the idea when she meets Edward. You can imagine the problems this would cause and I'm just going to end the plot summary part by saying that nothing goes to plan.
This was the first book I was given to review on NetGalley and I was supposed to put this review up several days ago when it was actually released, but I hadn't finished it so it's going up now. I read this using Adobe Digital Editions which I find really awesome and there'll be points where I'm going to quote my bookmarked notes to relay what I was thinking at the time of reading. Mild spoilers below, though I'll try not to because this is just a book that you have to read for yourselves to get emotional over.
I have serious issues with this book. It was good: the writing flowed well, I like Goudge's writing style and the dialogue was realistic. I like what we saw of Camille's job and I think Goudge captured Kyra and Zach well. The plot is original and kept me reading even when I wished that I was reading it in physical form so that I could throw the book against the wall because I couldn't do that to my laptop. A few bits were predictable, but I liked that with each new plot twist, Goudge had me questioning what I had previously thought was a foregone conclusion. Camille's plan only works if she dies, but what if Edward ends up falling in love and she manages to live? Who gets the HEA then? Will there even be a HEA? What kind of book would it be if it didn't? It's these reasons that prevented me from slapping the book with a much lower grade.
My problems: adultery is just WRONG. PLAIN WRONG. I'm a firm believer in true love, marriage for life and basically every other romantic cliche you can think of, I'll most likely believe in it. So when I say that I enjoyed the plot, I enjoyed it, but that doesn't mean I liked it. I understand that Camille probably wasn't thinking rationally and only really had her children in mind in light of her own experiences, but still. You don't just hand your husband over to another woman. At one point I wrote in a bookmark 'Who was Camille kidding in entering this whole debacle without imagining that she wouldn't get jealous?' - clearly a sign that Camille hadn't thought her plan through properly. These are people's feelings you're trying to manipulate, not their clothes.
This in no way absolves Edward from any wrong. Even when Edward was spending too much (platonic) time in another woman's company, there was still the underlying aim of finding him another wife which just messed up my enjoyment of the book. I don't particularly like Edward. He loves his kids, but he's an awful father; similarly, he loves Camille, but the only time he's really there for her is when she's ill and even then he doesn't do a particuarly good job of it. It seems that all women flock towards him so he has an endless line of available women but he still has to MUCK EVERYTHING UP. Perhaps his single redeeming factor his height: 6' 4", the thought of it makes me swoon a little, even if it is a foot and an inch taller than me.
I was definitely Team Camille, even if everything is all her fault and she only brought the situation on herself. I never reallly understand couples who agree to have an open relationship - what's the point of the relationship in the first place if they both allow each other to see other people? So while Camille might have sort-of allowed for this, this doesn't make it any better at all. The scene where she coolly confronts Edward is awesome and had me really cheering for her and swearing a lot at Edward for being such an idiot. While the ending for most of the characters (main as well as secondary) is nothing like what I had wanted in the first place, in retrospect, it's probably the right decision on Goudge's part considering the emotional rollercoaster that all the characters have been on over the novel.
This was an emotional book, though I think that I probably feel a lot differently to the way that most people would react to it. I must admit, it's been a long time since the characters and plot of a book have had me riled up this way. Yes, I felt a lot of compassion for Camille, but mostly, it was anger, annoyance and disgust that I felt. Mostly at Edward who (and I'm using one of the few instances where I was feeling quite mild in my language towards him) I called a 'STUPID STUPID SELFISH MAN' - in capital letters.. There were several points - three, I believe - where I wrote a bookmark stating that I had to stop reading because it sickened me to go on. At one point I wrote 'I actually want to cry' (because I was angry, but also upset for Camille) and this was repeated in various other forms at other points while I was reading. Like I said in my previous paragraph, I didn't like the endings that the characters got. I understand why those endings make sense in terms of their character development, but it still pisses me off that some of them clearly got a better deal than others. Yes, they all got some form of a happy ending, but it's not the conventional one you might expect from a romance novel, though I must make clear that while there are obviously romantic elements, this isn't classed under the romance genre.
Read it. It might make you as angry as it made me; it might not. It's definitely an emotional book that gets you thinking and asks what you would do if you were each of the characters and had to make such life-changing choices as they had to. And then makes you think that your own problems/issues/life is much less complicated/stressful in comparison. Well, at least mine seems to be.
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