Francesca’s Party is straight women’s fiction, not, as I’m more used to reading, romantic women’s fiction. This was not a terrible book, but it reminded me of why I don’t read a lot of straight women’s fiction.
Francesca Kirwin has a nice, calm, easy life as the wife of an international banker. She has two grown sons who love and like her, a beautiful house, a nice dog, and a handsome husband. Then she catches said handsome husband, Mark, snogging a young chickie at the airport. She follows the two of them to their hotel, confronts them, and then changes the locks on her house. And she tells Mark emphatically that she will not give him a divorce so he can replace her with a younger model.
That’s more than fine for Mark, who only wants a bit of excitement and doesn’t particularly want to get married again. But it’s not fine for his honey, Nikki, who is looking to be more than just the other woman. So the three of them duke it out and navigate the choppy waters of an adulterous affair. But will any of them get what they truly want or even what they deserve?
Though Francesca’s Party could have used a little editing to limit the point-of-view shifting and overexplanation of emotion, Scanlan writes a readable story and there are moments of humor as well as angst. All her characters and especially the three main ones, Francesca, Mark, and Nikki, act naturally, if not always sympathetically. Most of the time the story held my interest and kept me wondering who would do what next.
However, even though Scanlan’s portrayal of human nature is realistic, that does not mean that it is always enjoyable reading. Personally, I’ve never been particularly interested in The Other Woman’s point of view. Or, for that matter, the cheating husband’s. At least half the book was from Nikki or Mark’s vantage point, and reading their endless selfish thought patterns was a bit wearing. Mark whines incessantly that he just wanted a bit of fun, and why does Francesca have to be so angry, bitchy and resentful? Nikki rationalizes her poaching by saying that Mark and Francesca must not have had much of a marriage if he would cheat on her. I wanted to smack them and suggest that they both grow up and develop a moral framework.
Francesca was more sympathetic, obviously, since she is both the title character and the wronged party. But she also has a number of moments of complete selfishness and general bitchiness. Her anger at Mark and Nikki is understandable, but, again, it became a bit repetitive and tiresome to read.
Francesca is the only character who makes any growth during the course of the story, and since this is women’s fiction, it’s not a spoiler to say that she becomes stronger, more aware of her abilities and more capable of taking care of herself. By the book’s end, she’s quite independent and things look a lot brighter for her. That said, the ending is also somewhat depressing, as complications crop up in the last few pages that are not resolved satisfyingly.
Francesca’s Party is a quintessential “C” read. It didn’t bore me, but I didn’t really connect with any of the characters either. It wasn’t hard to read, but it also wasn’t something that I would have finished had I not been reading it for review. If you like women’s fiction, recognizing that it doesn’t end with a bow on it, you might want to read this book, but with the hefty hardcover price tag, I’d recommend checking it out at the library over purchasing it.