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One man and his five women
The Stepmother - Carrie Adams
Member Name: catsholiday
The Stepmother - Carrie Adams
Advantages: An easy but fulfilling read
Disadvantages: None really
This is another of the books left here by my daughter,. I am trying to downsize and am busy bookcrossing quite a few each week but this caught my eye ( being a step-mother myself) so I thought I'd give it a try.
This is the second novel by the author, the first being 'The Godmother' who is the same person as becomes the 'The Stepmother' in this novel. "The Godmother" is Tessa King's story before this and leads up to where she meets her new man, James. Really that should be read before this book but that in no way spoiled my understanding or enjoyment of this book. However if you have read neither it may be an idea to start with the first and Therefore my advice would be to try and read 'The Godmother' first as it's clear that "The Stepmother" is meant to follow on from it
I have to say the pink cover and design did lead me to think this would be a light read in the 'cjick lit' genre so I wasn't expecting much. It is indeed an easy read but I did get joked into the story and found the characters to be pretty real, neither 'evil' nor 'goodie goodie'. They were believable and I did find myself sympathising with both at different times during the book.
This is her second novel and prior to writing Carrie Adams was a high flying business women in the world of oil. Obviously she has used characteristics in her previous life to create her characters as they are very sympathetic and believable.
This is one of those stories told by two of the main characters, in this case, the mother and the stepmother.
The mother is Bea. She has dedicated her life to bringing up her three girls and given up a promising career to do this. She is divorced and is now able to talk politely to her ex husband, Jimmy, and is even becoming rather fond of him again. Together they were known as JimBean.
The Stepmother is Tessa King who has recently met James ( Jimmy) and has an exciting and demanding job in a recording studio and dresses to suit the job. She is not a marriage wrecker as James/Jimmy had been divorced for some time when they met.
We flip back and fro as each chapter takes the reader a little further into the story. We obviously see the story move on through the two different characters and even sometimes see the same event through different eyes. It is never easy when two families merge or one family gets a step mother. There is always a fear that the children will be drawn away from or towards the other female in the triangle. Bea fears that her girls will find Tessa younger and more' hip' than her and she will lose their love. Tessa meanwhile thinks that Bea is 'mother wonderful' and strives to keep up with her cake making and freshly washes clothes regime.
During the story we are taken through a few major family events and through these we meet James/Jimmy's family and therefore the girl' extended family members. These characters also interact with both the main female characters and so we learn a little more about each.
There are times when either one or other of the main characters go through a particularly emotional time. Bea's eldest daughter who is not an easy person to get on with starts her period while with Tessa and she deals with this perfectly bringing her a bit closer to Amber. Meanwhile Amber is struggling to cover up for her mother Bea's collapse mentally.
As the story progresses we see that Bea is really struggling and reading between the lines she has a breakdown which manifests itself in some pretty horrendous way that Amber is left trying to cover up from the world.
It is hard to say too much as I don't want to give away too much of the story as there are so many ups and downs and minor problems that become more major because of the way character's react to the event.
AS I said before I found the characters to be very sympathetic and believable. There are times when I really felt for Bea and her pain at sharing her children, already lost her husband ( through her choice) and now she could lose her children. She is overweight and feeling at the lowest ebb possible. She comfort eats and tries to be sick but even fails at that.
Bea gave up a successful career to support her husband and bring up her children. James was struggling to find his feet on the career ladder and was also not great at being supportive when the second and third children were born but she held the family together at the expense of her own stability; hence the divorce. Sadly she now sees she made a mistake and falls back inm love with James just as her is about to tell her that he has met Tessa.
She's a likeable character and you can't help but feel for her. At times I wanted to give her a good shake but once you are down the slippery slope of depression it only takes a small thing to tip the slope and make it steeper and being told James has met someone new is not a small thing. She has a major mental collapse and this requires James to be more supportive of her which he is but he fails to actually see how bad she really is. I think anyone who has suffered any form of depression will feel sympathy for Bea as she sets out on the road to self destruction.
Tessa King is almost the person Bea was before children she is a successful lawyer for a record company and seems to be everything that Bea isn't. She has no children but is a very good godmother to several children. She finds it hard to understand how close James is to his eldest daughter. She worries about how the girls feel about her and if she will ever mange to have a relationship with them.
Both women have worries over the situation and we see each of them try to come to terms with the problems that arise. Initially I felt that I would not like Tess, she was slim, attractive and successful but we do get to know her and see that she is as insecure as Bea and has a lot to live up to in her mind.
Although I am a stepmother of three children I already had my own two children and my problems came from wanting the best for my children and slightly resenting the fact that their mother only had her own children while I had hers half the week as well as mine all week. I resented her sticking her nose in how we organised our household and phoning to speak to then within ten minutes of them coming back to us. I was not that worried about them accepting me as I had my own children. As it happens they did and we all get on fine but we had a few challenging times over the years.
Tessa wanted the children to like her and accept her because it was important to James. James it seems was totally oblivious to the fact that he was totally changing Tessa's life and expecting her to cook and wash for the girls and him while he continued his life in his own sweet way.
I think the author did an excellent job of making both these characters so vulnerable and human. I liked this book far more than I thought I might after looking at the pink girly front cover. The blurb on the back thankfully does not give away anything of the story but just sets the scene.
This is not just a novel about relationships it deals with some pretty serious issues which are handled quite sensitively. Firstly the theme of depression and mental illness and its off shoots of binge eating, bulimia and alcoholism. We also see divorce and what often happens after wards second wives and combining families. Another aspect of families is also touched on and that is that of aging parents and indeed a mother with MS and how much stress that puts on the family and children or child if they are an only child.
I really felt that the author dealt with all these things with sensitivity and a sense of realism; she does not gloss over these problems. She shows the problems that these problems such as ill parents can cause with your boss and taking time off from work. She touches on the difficulty of juggling a successful career whilst also being a carer of either children or aging/ill parents.
The novel takes us over a period of time when all the characters are going through major emotional change. Even James seems to come out of the experience a better person. It needed someone to actually tell him to wake up and smell the smoke before he could actually see the fire burning but in the end he becomes more aware of the situation he has found himself in with all his women - ex wife, new wife to be and three daughters who all want a part of him.
This novel had me really desperate to find out what happens to the characters and how things were going to work out for them all. It isn't just a happily ever after chicklit as there are some pretty sad things that happen in the story as well as some pretty shocking things. Some of the characters needed a big hug while others needed to open their eyes and see what was happening around them rather than behaving like an ostrich.
It is chick lit but it does have a deeper side to it. There are lots of things that really make you think, 'what would I do faced with that situation?' I have to admit that I don't think I would be as nice as Tessa was at times. I think I would have 'lost it' way before she did. And done a lot more ranting about the situation and not just tried to do more and more.
I also don't think I would have been able to 'cover; my feelings like Bea did when told about Tessa. Maybe that's why she fell into the depression, she was bottling yp her feelings rather than shouting out how she felt.
I did like the way the author was able to let us see the story from two view points and still managed to make both characters sympathetic.
The last chapter is a sort of 'and a few months later' so that we can see a bit into the future how things were going to pan out. The book started with a school concert and this chapter is also at the children's school concert but we have one extra character there. It sort of spells out the future but I do wonder of there will be a third in the series dealing with Bea meeting someone and all that that will entail for the family once again; 'The Stepfather'.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Summary: A novel that touches on some deeper things in life very sensitively