REVIEW: Just Sex by Susan Kay Law
Dear Ms Law,
When Jane sent me a bundle of June release books, I immediately picked yours off the pile to try. I’ve long been a fan of your historicals (please say you haven’t given up writing Westerns) and I wanted to see how you’d handle a contemporary. Well, if you must give up historicals, at least I can say that your modern efforts are worth checking out.
Ellen thought her life was all planned. She’s been married to a man she loves for twenty years, has two teenagers who, if they aren’t always stress free to raise, are basically good kids, she lives in a lovely suburban house and has a nice middle class life. Then she caught Tom cheating on her and realized it’d been going on for a while. Marriage counseling has only helped so far and now she realizes the time has come to decide: is her marriage worth any further effort or not? At their counseler’s office, Tom causually tosses out an offer. Why doesn’t she try a brief fling and see that, as he’s told her for months, “it’s just sex.”
Ellen is shocked but her best friend from high school, who’s always been more sexually adventurous, urges her on. With Jill monitoring her wardrobe and picking out the clubs and bars, Ellen plunges back into the singles life she thought she’d left behind. Juggling parenting with dating is challenging but things really heat up when Ellen takes a Caribbean vacation and finally meets someone. Is a brief fling what she needs for herself? Her marriage? Or will it end in something more?
Readers who want a contemporary romance that features an older heroine who isn’t a Chick Lit dingbat ought to read this. At forty two, Ellen and I are both fighting the middle age slide into plumpness and having to watch what we eat. Ellen may choose the elliptical trainer to my Nordic Track but I feel her burn and can empathize with her efforts. And while I might have been willing to toss Tom without trying to save their marriage, I can see why Ellen can’t just junk twenty years together. You make her actions stay well within what most romance readers will tolerate which could be a good or bad thing depending on how adventurous a reader is. She does end up with quite a few men in her life by the end of the book but the one it looks like she might face the future with is someone you take a lot of time with. And I like the openess the story ends with. Ellen goes through a lot and she deserves happiness. She also grows a great deal as a person.
I can see lots in the story that lets me know you have children as well. You also use your settings well and remind me once again of why I’d never want to live in the mid-west in winter time! I guess if you grow up with all that snow it’s easier. I kind of wonder why you included the end bit with Jill since it wasn’t really dealt with much and sorta wished you hadn’t stuck with “romance traditions” in depicting Tom. I loved reading your humor again as well.
As I said before, I hope “Just Sex” doesn’t herald your complete move to contemporary stories so much as an expansion of your writing options. It has depth and shows you aren’t afraid to tackle some serious issues like infidelity, teen sex, friendships and aging. I enjoyed it and am happy to give it a B.
This book’s official street date is June 5, but you might be able to find it in the stores this weekend.