Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, by Jenny Gardiner

Jenny Gardiner Books, June 2011

Claire Dolittle married her true love, and fifteen years later, she thinks he's turned into Ward Cleaver. Authoritarian, nagging, critical, and dull. Jack thinks she's distant and indifferent. When she thinks he's seeing a younger woman at his architectural firm, and an old boyfriend pops up from her past, reminding her who she used to be, she decides she has to find out if her marriage can be saved, or if it's time to get out.

With five kids, a part-time job, and a husband who expects dinner ready to eat when he gets home, Claire is under a lot of stress. It doesn't help that Jack mostly gives orders and criticisms, to both Claire and their kids. Meanwhile, the five kids, the dog, the parrot, and the cat create a lot of chaos. With a tight margin leaving time for detours to get to work, Claire is often making detours because at least one of the kids will have forgotten their lunchbox--and none of the kids like to eat the school lunch.

Then three things happen. Jack is making a business trip to Miami, and says he'll be too busy for her to come. At a work party, Claire meets Jack's "new colleague," the very lovely Julia, a fairly new hire at the architectural firm where Jack is a partner. And finally, Claire gets an email from her former fiancé, Todd. The guy who, while they were planning their wedding, abruptly dumped her for someone else.

Todd reminds her of what a strong, confident woman she used to be, including reminding her of some of their more daring escapades. He tells her about his life since they last met, and asks about hers. She encourages him to contact his ex-wife and build a relationship with his son; he encourages her to fly off to Miami and have some fun, with or without Jack.

And, at a crucial moment, Jack's mother, Candy, calls, happy for the opportunity to spend that time with her grandchildren, along with Jack's stepfather, Dick. They happily agree to keep this a secret, on the grounds that Claire's trip to join Jack is a surprise for Jack's birthday.

It will be no surprise to the reader that Todd also joins her there, though it is to Claire. And what happens is a wild and exciting weekend, 

Where this all goes is not where you may be expecting, and it's a lot of fun. It's also a story for adults, and not in the "salacious sex scenes" sense. With all the laughs and silliness, this is a story about adults figuring out what they really want, and how to go about it responsibly.

It is a lot of fun. It's also very satisfying.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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