My Perfectly Imperfect Life
After a long hiatus from romance reviewing I looked forward to getting back to reading a good love story and telling the world all about it. So much for my expectations; Jennifer Archer’s new release for Harlequin’s Next line is not a romance, nor can I tell you much of the plot, as that would spoil the story. Nevertheless, My Perfectly Imperfect Life is an entertaining book, one that will have me examining upcoming releases in this women’s fiction-y line.
Dinah Dewberry, a teacher and free lance writer nearing forty, has what should be the perfect life, at least in comparison to that of her neer-do-well sister Dottie. Dinah ditched her white trash roots, married a police officer, and settled in the suburbs. But nothing is going the way she hoped it would. She’s having trouble getting pregnant. Stan, her handsome husband, is staying up all hours with the computer, hiding emails and surfing the Net on what Dinah suspects are questionable websites. Stan is beginning to question whether the pregnancy is worth the stress of dealing with fertility problems and he no longer wants to quit his dangerous police job for something safer.
Into this stressful mix walks Dinah’s estranged sister Dottie, pregnant with a child she doesn’t want. She offers Dinah the unborn baby in exchange for support, then makes herself at home in the guest room. While Dinah is considering Dottie’s offer, she finds a size 42D bra in Stan’s jacket.
Dottie may be unstable and unreliable, but she’s not a bad person to have around when you have man trouble. My Perfectly Imperfect Life is about the lengths Dottie and Dinah go to in their efforts to uncover Stan’s secret activities. Together they break into Stan’s computer, read his emails, follow his mysterious “friend,” and spy on him when he goes out after work. The book is also about re-connecting with a sibling you love, someone who has disappointed you, but who has a lot more going for her than you ever suspected. Dinah and Dottie have a lot of history. Abandoned by both parents and left with an eccentric aunt as children, they resented each other for the problems that grew from that. They begin to understand each other better as they grow to know each other as adults. Dinah is the cynical, practical and cautious one. Dottie believes you should never let fun pass you by. But Dottie worries more than Dinah knows, about the baby she carries and whether she is doing the right thing.
Though I generally avoid “white trash” themes in literary and popular novels, I enjoyed My Perfectly Imperfect Life. After a rocky start, where Dottie throws the usual wrong-side-of-the-track accusations at her sister, announcing to a crowd of wealthy guests that “She’s plain old Dinah Dewberry from Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in Coopersville,” she turns into a real person, one with enough heart to write notes to the baby she carries. Dinah’s resentment of Dottie and fears about her marriage are believable, perhaps because this is not a romance novel, but a book about new chapters in life. Dinah’s husband Stan, though not a romance hero, provides enough heat for us to understand that Dinah loves him and wants to save her marriage.
My quibble with My Perfectly Imperfect Life concerns the neatness with which all the story ends are tied, which lowered my assessment of the book from a B+ to a straight B. The HEA, though necessary for this book, has a few too many predicable elements. One of Dinah’s problems seems to be her difficulty accepting that people she loves are flawed. The solution to the story seems to be that they were not as flawed as she thought they were, though Dottie does seem to have progressed somewhat during her pregnancy. Reading the final pages, I could not help but wonder if the characters in it would go forward as successfully as predicted, or if Dinah’s life would continue to be perfectly imperfect. I hoped it would. Life is a lot more interesting that way.