Tag: Jeanie London

Guest Review: The Husband Lesson by Jeanie London

Posted June 21, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of The Husband Lesson by Jeanie London.

Karan Reece has no other explanation for this situation. Being assigned to work with her ex-husband, Dr. Charles Steinberg? She really must have offended someone to be forced to spend her days with him. The only good thing she can say is at least this arrangement has an expiration date.

Funny thing, though, is that working together for a shared cause forces them to look at each other differently. She’s learning a lot about him and his strengths. And those discoveries are causing her to see him in a new way…a very attractive, can’t-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-you way. Seems that life with Charles is a lesson she’s willing to study again.

Ok, so this is one of those Harlequin Super Romances, but I have to tell you right off the bat that I think there is a ton of stuff in this novel that is very substantive.  Certainly the two main characters are smart, intelligent, professional, worldly, yet they are ex-spouses and they are both carrying around a TON of baggage, much of which they don’t even know how to decipher or have chosen subconsciously not to deal with.

That being said, it is evident that Karan is a woman who has drawn strong responses from people in her past–both negative and positive.  A simple traffic ticket–at least that is what it appears to be on the surface–is not so simple after all, especially when being adjudicated by a judge who Karan treated like dog doo in their high school days.  Payback time!!  Add in the presence, right in the middle of the hearing, the chief of police who, as it happens, was once Karan’s really serious boyfriend–in love, planning a future, looking forward to the wedding after college, until he had the audacity to make a switch in his professional plans from lawyer to law enforcement, and she dropped him like a hot potato, and he is now married to another one of those girls who got the high-handed treatment from her in high school.  Time to pay the piper, girl!!  The upshot of this whole mess is that Karan ends up having to do community service in the new women’s shelter for abused spouses and families, and the chief of staff there is her ex-husband Charles, the man who she loved deeply and who slowly but surely faded out of her life, allowing his surgical practice to become his partner instead of his wife.  Karan is now divorced from husband #2, a doctor who was “safe,” with whom there was definitely a sexual chemistry and with whom she was good friends.  No love, because that would be too dangerous.  She is living once again in the house that she and Charles bought even though the inside bears no resemblance to what it was during their marriage.  Karan is screwed!!

While it appears that this novel is about Karan, that is not entirely true.  There is a very clear and bright spotlight on Charles, on his internal struggles, his old resentments and angers, his deep desire to get Karan re-assigned to another community service project, especially after she messes up pretty badly and the safety of a couple of the women and families is put in danger.  The glue that holds this story together is the therapist/psychologist who is the co-chief of staff at the shelter, a woman who genuinely likes Karan and Charles both, who loves helping these women and their children, and who sees incredible potential in Karan and admires and respects Charles for his professional achievements, but recognizes that he is a total dufus in his personal life.  Her quiet but insightful comments to Karan and Charles individually start them both remembering, thinking, doing some authentic grieving, and in lots of ways she holds their feet to the fire emotionally.

I liked this book a lot!!  I felt it was a wonderful expose of a marriage gone wrong but one that could have survived if these two people had been honest with themselves and each other, had been honest about their long-term goals and objectives, and had been willing to put their relationship ahead of their ambition.  What was equally fascinating about this story was the way the author brought these two face to face repeatedly, forcing them to process more and more of their past, making them remember stuff they had refused to remember, and which ultimately helped to siphon away the anger and resentment so that each could begin to take responsibility for they way they had failed each other.

There was something so positive about this book, even while it felt like these two were going to end up murdering each other.  Karan was boxed in legally, while Charles’ professional obligations kept him lashed to the mast.  Behind the overt action in each encounter was the recognition on the part of the reader that these two just couldn’t get away from each other and that was the way it was supposed to be.

I have not read anything written previously by this author, but I think she exhibited a writing skill that was quite advanced, telling the story with an expert touch, and keeping all the background characters and the historical happenings in Charles’ and Karan’s lives straight.  Lots of authors don’t pull that off nearly as well.  When push comes to shove, this was not a lightweight happy-go-lucky kind of romance.  Rather it was girtty and uncomfortable and sort of an emotional toe-to-toe slugfest–not in a War of the Roses fashion, but certainly with enough adversarial sense about it.  Many of us have read Harlequin publications down through the years and have found them to be fun and entertaining.  This novel is certainly worth reading but I wouldn’t put it in the “fun” category.  That being said, it is a really splendid piece of writing and deserves to be read with care and attention.  I know that I have already put it in my “to be read again” file.

I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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