The author of, most recently, Best Enemies (2003), introduces the “bumbo.”
Melanie Banks is a successful financial planner living in Manhattan. When she married football hero Dan Swain, the two were perfectly matched, good-looking up-and-comers. Then he blew out his knee and turned into a “bumbo”: a slacker who sponges off his hard-working wife. By the time their divorce is final, Melanie is glad to be rid of him, but she’s not so glad about the alimony she’ll be paying for years to come. When Melanie realizes that the payments stop if Dan cohabits with another woman for 90 days, she hires a matchmaker to lure her ex into new love. The plan succeeds a little too well. Not only does Dan fall head-over-heels for a gorgeous veterinarian, but this dream girl also inspires him to take a shower, put on a suit and find a job coaching football. Meeting the new-and-improved Dan, Melanie wants him back. Any woman who has dumped a loser only to see him become another woman’s Prince Charming will feel a twinge of pathos here, but such sympathy will last only until she remembers that Melanie is the diabolical creator of this sorry situation. She engineered Dan’s transformative romance with Machiavellian determination and, in the process, manipulated and lied to several people—including Dan. Melanie tries to explain why her love of lucre supercedes ethics or decency (her mother died when she was small; her father was a poor provider; she equates money with security), but this isn’t enough to make her appealing. Heller may hope that the phenomenon of well-paid women supporting their less-successful exes will become talk-show fodder—indeed, the prologue features Melanie protesting that there really are a lot of women just like her—but Heller’s story this time out doesn’t succeed as entertainment.
Unlikable heroine, mean-spirited plot.