Charlene Dugan thought she had a pretty good life. She's very independent, happily divorced for 20ish years but still on good terms with her cop ex, Jake, her daughter Stephanie's grown up and employed, and she's got a nice boyfriend, Dennis, who she sees a few times a week but has no interest in marrying. And she kicks ass at being a divorce lawyer.
Then Charlene has a really shitty day. One in which her daughter bitches that she doesn't want to end up like Charlene. One in which her mother is showing signs of dementia and it can't be ignored any more. One in which she sees her boyfriend having a tete-a-tete with a hot young doctor. One in which her tire goes flat and she's rescued by her ex-husband, who makes a crack about her fear of commitment. By the time she staggers in home, exhausted, realizing that Dennis is a totally good guy and the only stable thing in her life...she proposes, feeling like she'd better lock that down.
That's pretty much where everything goes to hell. Because Dennis, a widower of 20+ years, starts having doubts and hitting it off way too well with the widowed wedding planner--especially since Charlene ends up being way too busy at work to ever make a planning meeting. Because Stephanie, who everyone tells us is nice but super spoiled, is kinda feeling bratty over the fact that her live-in boyfriend Grant is way too busy at school and at his bartender job to spend much time with her ever, and probably never will be able to since he wants to be a cop. And she kind of takes a dubious dude up on his offer a few times and then he starts stalking her. And Charlene's mother Peaches is going all kinds of downhill fast, so what are they going to do to take care of her? And Jake (who's quite the do-gooder cop and he and all of his buddies are working to protect various down-on-their-luck women) recruits Charlene to help a young mother whose ex is now trying to get custody of their daughter out of the blue, so Charlene is way too occupied to even see Dennis.
You probably get where this is going. Heck, halfway through the book Dennis has moved on emotionally, he just can't get a hold of Charlene long enough to break up with her. Meanwhile, Charlene has been off and on hooking up with Jake and does it again...
This is an interesting book because for a romance, I didn't find it all that romantic. (And this review felt similarly.) It's far more of a book about breakups, in a way. Dennis and Charlene are kind of "two rights make a wrong" a la Sleepless in Seattle-- two folks who happily settled and didn't really think too much about it, but once they actually deal with the idea of formal commitment, the relationship peters away. Charlene and Jake seem to be a match sexually and have a similar passion for saving women, but do they match otherwise? Or was it just Charlene's own flaky dad issues that made her throw Jake away? They're both nice enough people, but I can't say I was sold that those two are made for each other either as life partners either. More as FWB's, in some respects.
As for Stephanie, while she comes off as pretty dang bratty at the start (neither of her parents can even mention her for the first half of the book without being all, "she's really sweet, she's just...being a princess, AGAIN" or "God, I wish she'd stop complaining about her boyfriend."), it isn't totally awful of her to want a dude around that she can actually see and hang out with. Grant straight up isn't going to be available for her to see almost all of the time if she works days and he works nights and when he has free time, he's in class, and that's never going to change once he becomes a cop (which Stephanie, as a cop's kid, will be aware of). Maybe she would be better off finding a guy with a day job, and Grant finding a woman who's okay with him being gone most of the time. Even if he's a super nice guy, maybe they're not a match when it comes to how they want to live their lives. So when Grant eventually hits his limit on this, I was relieved. But what was awesome was that Stephanie realized that she's also kind of a wreck in her own way, and starts cleaning up her act and becoming a grown-up--NOT as a way to get Grant back, she doesn't even tell him she's doing that--but just for herself. I was really impressed.
As for the romances, I wasn't too into Dennis's whirlwind relationship with Agatha the wedding planner. It was okay, not objectionable, but...okay. It was bland, except for the well, cheating aspect of it (ugh). For a "decent guy," Dennis sure doesn't seem to think too badly about getting physical with Agatha before becoming single again, so that's a bit fishy about him. Charlene's assistant Pam's developing interest in another man is nice, but we don't see much of that to get invested in it or the guy. And while I don't really have objections to Charlene with Jake, I don't necessarily think they would need to remarry either.
But in the end, this is a book where nobody gets married, and heck, nobody even lives with each other by the end as far as I can tell. Grant and Stephanie seem to be in a tentative "we'll see" sort of situation--which is probably fine-- and Charlene and Jake give me the impression that they'll be together in the same way she was with Dennis, i.e. independently. That might be the best way to handle a relationship between them, actually.
And I'll give the author props for drastically turning the custody situation on its head--would not have expected it to go there, I'll put it that way! (There's also a case involving a goose...well, let's just say that ends INTERESTINGLY.)
Overall, I'm going to give it three and a half stars. I enjoyed the read, but I wouldn't say I was super sold on any of the love relationships being all MFEO for each other. I kinda think that's okay--but maybe others won't. So I give fair warning.