Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Lawrence and Jo have enjoyed a strong marriage, the envy of their friends. Even after thirty years they have lots to say to each other, many interests in common and, until recently, a good sex life.
But Lawrence seems wary and restless. Something's wrong. Just how wrong, Jo is about to discover...
Can they use their years of history - all the things they've shared - to overcome a devastating betrayal?
A Most Desirable Marriage is the first book that I have read by Hilary Boyd but despite the interesting, thought provoking subject matter this book failed to grip me and I did find it tough to persist with until the end. At first it was refreshing to read about characters that were older - Jo and Lawrence the two main characters are in their early sixties but as the story progressed I couldn’t relate to them and really didn’t care what the outcome was in the end. Ok, so maybe I wasn’t the intended audience for this book being way younger than the featured characters but surely a book should have enough appeal to keep the most casual of readers keen to discover the ending.
The story opens as Lawrence is retiring from his job as a university lecturer. Jo (his wife) is looking forward to a relaxing time enjoying life together and strengthening their long term marriage. But Lawrence drops an enormous bombshell that leaves every member of the family up in arms and doubting everything they ever believed in relation to their lives. Lawrence has fallen in love with someone else and all I will say is that who that person is will leave you open mouthed with pure shock. The author was brave here in tackling a controversial subject and this aspect of the book certainly provides many questions for discussion and exploration. Still, throughout the book I felt we never really got to know Lawrence at all, I would have liked a few chapters told from his point of view to discover how his new relationship came about and how he felt about taking the hard decision to leave Jo after so many years of marriage. I found I couldn’t really form an opinion on Lawrence as he didn’t feature that much until the end and overall he came across as weak and not that likeable as a character.
Poor Jo thought she was facing into a wonderful, easy, chilled later stage in her life but Lawrence’s revelation leaves her stunned but she picks up the pieces. Her neighbour Donna is a great source of support and provides plenty of light, humorous moments throughout the book. Jo realises now she is on her own she will have to make the best of what she has got even though that means selling her beloved house. I felt Jo was quite stoic in her reaction to Lawrence’ affair, if it was me I would have fallen to pieces and struggled to move on due to such a devastating betrayal. Just imagine being married for over 30 years and then your husband turns around and says he doesn’t love you and is leaving. It would be just heart-breaking and I would certainly be hurting for some time. Jo attempts to pick herself up relatively quickly and when Travis (an actor friend of her son Nicky) arrives on the scene what happens next to be honest just seemed so clichéd. What does a woman do after being dumped? You guessed it; she turns to a younger model. Yes, Jo did struggle with her feelings for Travis but did she have to give into them? I would have liked to see her being a bit stronger and forging more of a single life and coming to terms with the absence of Lawrence before embarking on the next romantic stage in her life.
Jo’s children also have to deal with the fallout relating to the breakup of their parents’ marriage. They are grown up and have left home but still a breakup up is emotional and affects you no matter what age you are. I really liked Cassie (Jo’s daughter) she is married to ‘eco conscious’ Matt and struggles to deal with his obsession despite the love she obviously feels for him. I enjoyed reading the parts of the book featuring Cassie and wanted more. Whereas the plot featuring Nicky and his girlfriend Amber to me really read as if it was just thrown in for the sake of it. Their storyline featured a very serious matter which people could relate to it but it was brought up, dealt with and glossed over within a chapter or two when it could have been explored and developed a lot more. To be honest it seemed Nicky’s story was written purely to encourage Lawrence and Jo to meet up again and start talking.
After persevering to the last chapter, the ending proved to be very flat and not that realistic in my opinion, I certainly wanted a different outcome. This will be one of those books that was an easy read in terms of writing style but the characters won’t be staying with me in spite of the number of issues it raised. Sadly this book left me unsatisfied and wanting more.
Many thanks to Margot from Quercus for sending this to me for review.