The Woman Most Likely To...
I like Jennifer Greene. She’s written several category romances I’ve very much enjoyed, most notably Kiss Your Prince Charming. I also appreciate that she often sets her books in Michigan, my home state. Greene’s first single title release from Avon, The Woman Most Likely To…, is set in Michigan. Greene does an excellent job at describing the beauty of the Traverse City locale, but she doesn’t do quite as good a job making her story work.
The Sinclair women have a long history of “doing the right thing” and sacrificing personal goals for the good of the family. Lydia, the grandmother, found herself pregnant at a young age, and married a man she didn’t love to give her daughter Susan a stable family life. Susan likewise found herself pregnant at age sixteen, but rather than make a permanent relationship mistake with Jon, the father, she stayed single, moved away, and raised her daughter Becca largely by herself. Now Becca has a familiar problem, but she’s not sure what to do about it since her grandmother and mother seem to have regrets about their (very different) decisions.
Becca takes it into her head that her mother and father should give their relationship one more whirl. She worries that her birth and existence have kept the two of them from being with their true love. But when she proposes this to Susan and Jon, they think she’s nuts. This is none of her business. Complicating matters is Lydia’s behavior. She’s decided that she’s never really had a life, and at age 57 she should use the time she’s got left to do all the wild and immoral things she never got to try. The radical changes she makes in her lifestyle alarm her daughter and granddaughter. But when Susan comes home to Copper Creek to solve all of these problems, she’s confronted with the reality of living near Jon again. Even though, she thinks Becca’s reunion idea is crazy, she can’t help but be attracted to him. It’s just a tad possible that she never quite got over him.
The book had some high points. There were humorous moments, and the sub- plot involving Becca’s boyfriend Douglas was interesting, sad, and realistic – all at the same time. Those scenes captured and held my interest. But the rest of it was rather problematic.
If you’re at all familiar with Jennifer Greene’s work, you’ll know that her writing has a down-home descriptive style, and her characters talk in a fairly folksy way, using expressions such as “tarnation” and “son of a sea dog” in lieu of stronger expletives. Sometimes Greene makes this work, and it’s charming, and other times she seems to go overboard with it. I know people who say things like “cripes” and “sure as patooties,” but they are very conservative and often quite religious people. The Sinclairs and Jon do not fit this mold. And while I could see that it might be possible for Lydia to pass her homespun way of speaking down to her girls, I couldn’t picture Jon actually thinking or talking that way. Let’s face it, it’s grandma-speak.
Additionally, Susan seemed like the only stable and sane Sinclair, and Lydia and Becca spend the whole book trying to get her to change. This was annoying as was their “your business is my business” attitude. It’s not as if Becca and Lydia are so together themselves. Becca’s relationship has big problems, and Lydia spends her time thinking about how she might accomplish her goal of sleeping with the whole male population of Copper Creek – when she’s not dressing in spandex, making aphrodisiac foods, or getting rid of family heirlooms. Her new view is that you have to sin, sin, sin, and live it up to be self-actualized. Since I do not agree, I found her behavior and character to be puzzling at best. And it was difficult to understand how a woman of her age, background, and history could have such a blasé attitude about sex – even in rebellion.
The romance between Susan and Jon takes a backseat to everything else that is happening in the women’s lives. Much more page time is spent on the characters’ ruminations about their combined and repeated history or in girly activities that involve giggling. Jon and Susan are likable, but Jon remains fairly undeveloped, and they decide they still love each other as much as ever without any serious time spent together. Twenty-two years have passed since they were an item, twenty-two years full of frustration, bitterness, and regret that melt away in the face of “true love.”
If you dislike the Woman-Goes-Back-Home-to-Her-Small-Town-and-Old-Love stories, this one probably isn’t for you. Personally, I like this type of romance, and in this case, I’m quite familiar with both Detroit and Northern Lakeshore Michigan, and I can tell you, Northern Lakeshore Michigan is much nicer. Susan makes the right decision here. Greene lovingly portrays the beauty of the Traverse City area, and its lure is understandable.
I think The Woman Most Likely To… may have a possible audience among women’s fiction enthusiasts, but it did not work for me. I more or less dragged myself through it, irritated and exasperated at Lydia and Becca and wanting more from Susan and Jon. If you’re a big fan of girl bonding stories, you might want to read this book. Otherwise, there are better Greene titles out there in any used book store.