Rant, Review

Review: Husband Material by Emily Belden (2019)

Heat Factor: Barely kisses

Character Chemistry: I remain unconvinced

Plot: Charlotte finally comes to term with her husband’s death

Overall: Exceptionally irritating but, for some reason, I read the whole thing


The basic premise of this book was kind of promising: Charlotte is a young widow (her husband died when she was 25) who has, in the five years since his death, built up a perfect LA life for herself. Until his ashes are sent back to her after a wildfire destroys the mausoleum where they were being kept. This spurs Charlotte into finally coming to terms with the end of that relationship. I will say that the general grief arc was very well done. Charlotte learns and grows and also holds on to the good, but none of it is heavy-handed. 

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only nice thing I want to say about this book. 

Here are the things I found irritating about this book:

  1. The Voice

This is a single POV 1st person narrative, and Charlotte is “snarky.” The jokes felt off. There are definitely some humorous bits, especially in the beginning, but Charlotte’s asides mainly felt like forced humor interjected into serious moments. Now, sometimes you need a break, but in this case, it felt tonally discordant.

There’s also some toxic food stuff. And “research has shown that after the age of thirty it becomes exponentially harder to find your future husband,” because apparently we’re in Sleepless in Seattle, where you’re more likely to die in a terrorist attack than get married over a certain age (though in that movie, the age was 40, not 30). I am so over these 29-year-olds being so anxious about love. 

Anyways, I mainly found Charlotte to be unlikeable. Now, I’m all about an unlikeable heroine—except it really doesn’t work if she’s *meant* to be relatable. I think she is. Except she definitely uses people (and is called out on it) and concludes in her moment of insight that she keeps people at arms’ length. Which is not quite the same thing. Whatever. People are messy, she’s going on a journey, I could let this one slide…except this was only the beginning of my irritation.

  1. The Technology

Did you know that Charlotte has an Apple watch? I sure do, because she mentions it 16 times. (I did a phrase search on my Kindle, so that is not an exaggeration.) There is a LOT of name-dropping of specific brands, especially tech brands, throughout, and it’s very distracting. It also makes the book feel very tied to 2019, back when all the youths were using Snapchat. 

It’s especially odd because some of the tech use seemed…off? For example, Charlotte spends an awful lot of time on her personal Facebook feed for someone who works for a company that’s all about social media use. Doesn’t she know that only old people use Facebook? To give another example, she is confused when her mother-in-law tells “Alexa” to do something—she thinks that perhaps there’s a new maid. “Alexa buy me a dollhouse” happened in 2017, so I’m pretty sure she would know who Amazon’s bot is.

Also the hero drives a Tesla and gets 46 miles to the gallon and my brain melted a little bit because Teslas don’t have any gallons in their mileage. But also this Tesla has programmable scents in the vent system so you can make your car smell like McDonald’s without actually getting McDonald’s (why would you want that????), so maybe it’s just a magic fantasy car? 

  1. The Hero

I mean, I guess lacrosse-playing frat bros deserve to find love too, but I don’t want to read about them. I found it especially off-putting when Charlotte would wax rhapsodic about how all-American slash desired by all females Brian was. No. My dude is fully 32 and is still really into his college frat. (He is white.) I am not impressed by him. 

  1. The Logic

Maybe I should title this section The Lack of Logic, because this is a serious problem. I am talking about on a plot level here, because people in this book take actions which have repercussions that need to occur for plot reasons, but the original actions are COMPLETELY nonsensical. 

Examples:

  • Charlotte texts her mother-in-law her exact location, ostensibly to show how cool her job is, even though they are currently having a conflict about the cremains and don’t have a good relationship. This allows the mother-in-law to send Brian to talk to Charlotte and kick-start the romance, but it’s just dumb.
  • Charlotte is worried about her mother-in-law breaking into her apartment to steal the cremains, so she brings them with her to a work dinner. I mean, this doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I could let this slide as a function of grief. This, in turn, sets up a scene where the cremains fall out of her bag because the waiter trips and spills a tray of desserts on her and she has to crawl under the table to get them. So when she starts having a panic attack and can’t finish the presentation, her boss forces her to take personal leave instead of being like, well, you are wearing a tart on your head, maybe you can go home. The scene almost made sense, but the dessert spilling—which made for more comedy—also diminished the logic. 
  • Charlotte can’t get a lipstick stain out of a tea towel, so she goes to Brian’s house to use his fancy washing machine. Obviously this is to set them up to slowly start spending time together. But…that is not how washing machines work? The way to get lipstick out of something is to pretreat the stain, not wash the item (which has already gone through the dryer) in a fancier machine. 
  • Charlotte knows nothing about baseball, but when she and Brian go to a Dodgers game, she knows that she’s wearing an away jersey (that belonged to her dead husband) and that Brian’s wearing a home jersey, and that’s why the colors are different. 

Ok, that last one doesn’t impact the plot at all. It was just a tiny detail that made no sense and made me so so angry. Couldn’t tell you why.

  1. The Romance

I mean, there isn’t much of one. Charlotte and Brian don’t have any chemistry to speak of, so when they are dating at the end I kind of don’t care? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think this would have been a stronger book as a straightfoward journey of self-discovery without the romance subplot—or at least, with the romance subplot not the focus of the ending and epilogue. 

***

So there we have it folks. Can’t say I’d recommend this one.


Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop


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