Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes
Three out of Ms. Martin’s four football romances have earned DIK status from me and her debut novel received a solid B, so I think it would be fair to label me a big fan of her work. Which is why Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes was a surprise. This women’s fiction story has some of the humor and terrific gal-pal relationships that contribute to the overall awesomeness of the author’s romances, but it’s too superficial to tackle with depth and sensitivity all the issues its heroines are going through.
Jude Andrews stumbled upon stardom. A paparazzi picture of her and her mom (a semi-famous actress) leaving a workout turned viral and resulted in sponsors reaching out to Jude and asking her to turn her healthy post Pilates class glow into a brand. Now she makes a living as an Instagram influencer, portraying the quintessential California girl – a blonde, sun-kissed, fit goddess who attends posh parties, eats healthily and takes fitness seriously. Jude’s social media makes it look like she’s crushing it but her real life has actually been a series of unfortunate events since that photo. Jude’s dad died and her mom has turned into a recognition seeking, perpetually broke, weepy dependent who spends every dime she gets on trying to recapture her youth – and Jude is spending thousands per month supporting her. Adding to Jude’s financial and emotional woes is the fact that her lover absconded with all her savings and her dream of owning her own Pilates studio crashed and burned as a result. The only good thing in Jude’s reality is her bestie Lauren Turner and Lauren’s fabulous five-year-old, Addie.
Lauren had planned to be a doctor rather than just the fiancé of one, but an unexpected pregnancy took her off the medical school path and placed her firmly on the stay-at-home mommy road. She didn’t mind. She loved being able to spend time with her baby, and becoming the picture-perfect plus-one for her beloved Ben was her new goal. But when Ben leaves her for another woman, all of that changes. Lauren initially moves in with her parents, but that solution proves to be rather disastrous since her mom is hypercritical of everything Lauren does. Needless to say, Lauren is delighted when she and Jude are able to scrape enough together to buy their own modest home and (semi) escape their dysfunctional families. Now they are “sister-wives without the husband – all of the support with none of the dude drama.”
And it works really well until Ben, an absentee dad for most of Addie’s life, gets married, decides he wants full custody and begins proceedings to get it. Fortunately, Lauren’s mom is a lawyer with excellent contacts, and she is able to hook Lauren up with some great representation. Yet somehow, at that point, Jude’s idea for Lauren to do a mommy podcast that focuses on the world of coparenting, mom groups, and dating becomes a necessity because how better to convince a judge that you are a great parent than by getting tons of followers?
I have to admit that setup felt ridiculous. When Lauren does her first on page drop off of Addie at Ben’s house, she speaks about the fact that she worked hard to get Addie into an excellent school for kindergarten, gathering together teacher recommendations, taking her for observations and testing and handling the application process alone. Ben had blown off the entire thing. Additionally, Lauren has been taking the little girl to doctor’s appointments along with her gymnastics classes and doing the pickup/drop off at preschool. According to Lauren’s lawyer, this is just the kind of hands on parenting a judge is looking for when determining custody, so it’s absurd that a podcast would somehow also be necessary, especially since Lauren already has a responsible, respectable position as the office manager for an OB/gyn. My understanding (in fairness gleaned mostly from the internet) is that things like podcasts actually make custody harder since the parent routinely violates the privacy of the child by talking about them, even if such conversations are generic and don’t mention names or specifics. The kind of guilt-by-association fame that launched Jude’s career could be dangerous for someone of Addie’s age and I couldn’t help but feel this was a mistake in the making.
Jude is another mistake in the making in terms of the coming custody battle. She’s a loyal and true friend and a fabulous playmate for Addie, but it’s clear from the beginning of the story that she’s something of a hot mess. It’s also obvious that she has a drinking problem since a lot of her time, from morning (mimosas) to evening (shots), is spent downing copious amounts of alcohol.
But the biggest problem is that the author tries to cram too much drama into a relatively short, light-hearted book. The characters are wonderful women with some really big issues. Reliable, mature Lauren is a warm hearted, sweet person who can also be naïve and overly trusting. Ben has taken advantage of that for years, not just cheating on her as she went all out to build a home for them and their daughter, but being emotionally abusive towards her as well. When we add in the drama of the mommy play group she is trying to fit into along with the issues with her mom and the nasty-because-Ben-is-an-ass custody battle, I got the impression of a woman overwhelmed by life who did not need to be taking on the magnitude of work required by something like a podcast.
Jude, who is fun loving, a bit wild, crazy loyal and very loving, has really big family issues, financial issues and a high stress job. Her burgeoning alcoholism makes some sense given all she’s going through, but it’s too much in terms of the story the author is trying to tell. If just one of our gal pals was facing tons of problems, that would have been enough fodder for a book, but having all of this happening in one novel covering both their lives was too much.
There is a romance here for Lauren, which has a hero so underdeveloped I couldn’t remember his name from scene to scene. He’s a nice, reliable, bland guy who is supposed, I think, to counter Ben’s nastiness, but the romance is so blah the book could easily have done without it.
Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is a nicely prosed narrative which does a great job of showing the immeasurable value of lifelong friendships. I adored how Jude and Lauren knew everything about it each other and were always there for each other; I liked how they balanced and often brought out the best in each other. But the plot is overwhelmed with the sheer number of threads it’s trying to work out and as a result the tale is a tangled mess which never gives any of the issues the focus they deserve. Fans of the author might want to pick it up if they are sticklers for reading everything someone writes but otherwise, I’d give this one a miss.