November 13, 2011

Better Off Without Him by Dee Ernst

 Better Off Without Him has a lot going for it.  While the plot itself is nothing new (husband leaves wife for younger woman, woman has some hilarious dates/hijinks, woman learns to love herself and finds someone she can be happy with), what makes it stand out is the phenomenal tone.  It reads like you're talking to your snarky yet hilarious best friend--the one who is perfect at summing up people with a clever phrase.

I also enjoy that the book gives a nod to the tropes of the romance genre.  The main character, Mona, is a romance writer.  As she's telling her writing group about how her husband left her for a French blond coworker, she points out how tons of romance books start like that.  Mona also has hilarious moments where she rewrites what is going on in her head with her hunky plumber into scenes from her historical romances.

I wasn't a big fan of how meta the book got at times.  Mona is trying to write a "not-exactly romance" novel that of course seems strangely similar to this book.  This "not-exactly romance" category is hard to define, but this novel definitely falls into it.  For example, the main character's divorce and dating life follow a much more realistic timeline than the average romance novel.  She has bad dates, she has okay dates, and she has this-is-fun-for-now but not forever dates, just as a real person would. 

The problem with this slightly more realistic plot is that it's difficult to transition to one week to six weeks to a day passing without it seeming choppy.  It also means that the wonderful, funny characters are described, have one or two scenes, and then are rarely heard from during the rest of the book.  There is very little sense of growth either with Mona or with the periphery characters.  Also, as a personal opinion, I like good sex scenes and this one did the tasteful book equivalent to a fade to black at during those moments. 

Overall, three stars.

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review.  These are my honest thoughts and opinions.
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