Bestselling Brit serves up a frothy Bridget Jones–like account of a fashion-savvy newlywed faced with a monster-in-law whose bark is worse than her bite.
Ellie Black is a perfectly fulfilled, self-sufficient, single woman, thank you very much. Head of marketing at a chain of hip, Ian Schrager–esque UK hotels, she shops the designer racks of London’s Soho, albeit only on sale days. But when blissfully bland TV producer Dan Cooper pops the question, things progress breezily from engagement to wedding to unplanned pregnancy to birth of bouncing baby. Predictably, the other woman of the title turns out to be Dan’s mum, Linda (perfunctory Oedipal undertones alluded to if not included). Despite the endless wrongs Linda commits (paying for the wedding! presents galore for her newborn grandson! heirloom diamond earrings!), none seems to warrant our narrator’s consuming hatred—that is, until a baby-dropping incident in France that’s so abhorrent as to make the eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter-in-law seem even less justifiable. Then again, Green lets inconsistencies abound. The pop-psych explanation for Ellie’s fear of abandonment (one never actually exhibited, since marital separation yields the requisite tear down the cheek, new outfits, and a date with a hunky bachelor) is that her own alcoholic mother was killed while drunk-driving when Ellie was 13. She becomes an avowed teenage teetotaler: “I discovered boys, and dope, and parties. Not drink, though . . . .” Why then the recurrent hankerings for a cocktail (“I could do with some dancing, and . . . I could certainly do with some drinking”; “Oh, why did I have so many vodkas last night?”)? And when it comes to female friendships, Ellie switches allegiances faster than Renee Zellweger morphs from a size 2 to a 12. The reader is merely apathetic witness to it all.
Jane Austen—nay, Helen Fielding—she isn’t.