Flippancy gives way to more affecting emotions in a second novel from Asher (My Husband’s Sweethearts, 2008) about a married woman who, as a favor, pretends to be the wife of her ex-boyfriend.
Gwen Merchant lost her mother when she was five in a drowning accident from which she was mysteriously saved. Her caring but undemonstrative father spoke little of the tragedy and never filled Gwen’s emotional gap, and neither does Peter, her perfectly nice yet somehow underwhelming anesthesiologist husband of three years. Then Gwen bumps into Elliot, a boyfriend from college days, and ends up agreeing to stand in as the wife he lied about to his cancer-stricken mother Vivian. The weekend visit to Vivian at her lovely lake house is both idyllic and disconcerting, throwing into the air many of Gwen’s ideas about family and marriage. Vivian sees through the deception but gives her blessing to Gwen, who must now come to terms with her feelings for Elliot, Peter and most of all her mother. Some clunky bits of plot mechanism and meditations on love and commitment are required before all players are liberated to reach desired conclusions.
Although the book could have used a stronger foundation, it largely succeeds with the aid of humor, insight and an appealing heroine. If this one has not yet been optioned for film, it soon will be.