In the second installment of Keller’s (Behind the Scenes of Jenna Shale, 2016) series, a woman reflects on the loves and trials in her life, with her memories taking the form of TV episodes.
Not long after Jenna finally marries Aiden Castoron, her on-again, off-again boyfriend of nearly a decade, someone guns him down in front of their home. Devastated, she falls into a depression and seeks solace in the arms of Kurt Jamison; they’d had a brief affair, just before he temporarily married her mother. Soon afterward, she finds herself torn between two other men: Shawn Merrill, her ex-husband and the father of her young twins, Michelle and Collin; and Tony, her former dance partner and Aiden’s brother. She genuinely loves the latter, but Tony is married and not planning on getting a divorce. As the years pass, Jenna has other sexual partners, and although she distinguishes true lovemaking from basic carnal desire, she tends to have affection for all the people she’s with. It seems, however, that she’s searching for someone like Aiden, who can offer and willingly accept as deep a love as her own. Still, Jenna’s heightened sex drive gets her labeled as promiscuous. Later on, she becomes the victim of a violent confrontation, and she also endures troubles with her children as they hit their teens. Keller’s second book adopts the same format as her first, presenting pieces of Jenna’s life as episodes of various television series, from Everybody Tolerates Shawn to The Bad Girlfriend. It’s an effective technique, and it’s clearly shown to be a coping mechanism for the troubled protagonist. There’s plenty of humor, though: sex scenes are prefaced with “Reader discretion is advised,” while intermittent news flashes or commercials are amusingly cynical—noting, for example, that people won’t loan cars to strangers, but they will ask them to watch their kids. A strong, convincing feminist theme prevails throughout; the main character beds whomever she chooses, and she isn’t portrayed as desperate to have another person care for her. Nevertheless, the erotic encounters eventually become repetitive, with characters spending pages discussing the sex they’re about to have—or that they’ve just had.
An often engaging portrayal of a woman re-examining everything that’s made her the person she is.