It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jane Porter’s contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve read almost every book in that line (she also writes for Harlequin) that she’s written. So I was really excited to hear that she’d written a new series about the Brennan Sisters that’s been published by her new publisher, Berkley Trade. The Good Woman is the first novel in that trilogy.
The first thing that struck me about The Good Woman is its exquisite cover – the model who was chosen to represent leading character Meg Roberts is exceptionally lovely and beautifully photographed – as well as its tag line, “sisters always know…” I have two sisters who are among my best friends in the world so that phrase really rings true for me.
The Good Woman is the story of Mary Margaret Brennan Roberts, a.k.a. Meg, who on the outside would appear to have it all. She’s married to a successful architect (Jack), has three children (Tessa, JJ and Gabi), a gorgeous home, drives a Lexus SUV, and has a great job as a publicist working at a Napa Valley winery called Dark Horse for a very kind, warm and ruggedly handsome boss, vintner Chad Hallahan. We just know something’s going to happen between Meg and Chad, but it’s the way Porter reveals how her heroine feels, why she ends up doing what she does, and how she deals with the consequences that is remarkable. Porter writes with such a truthful and authentic voice about the issues that women deal with, that her stories are always completely relatable.
Meg is the oldest child of a large Irish-American family. She’s smart, ambitious and a perfectionist with control issues, but she’s also a faithful wife and loving mother who constantly makes the right decisions. Her father Tommy is a sixth generation San Francisco firefighter and her mother Marilyn is battling breast cancer. Meg’s brother Tommy is also a firefighter and he and his wife Cass are struggling with long-term fertility issues. Meg is closest to her sister Kit, a Catholic school English teacher, who has been with her boyfriend Richard for 10 years and has never received a proposal. Her youngest sister Sarah is married to professional baseball player, Boone (who has had an affair on her but she’s stayed with him), while Kit’s fraternal twin Brianna is the family wild child who has never married and is an activist who works in the Congo in Africa.
The sisters meet up with their mother for their annual Brennan Sisters’ Getaway at the family beach house in Capitola and it’s not long before Brianna and Meg are at each other’s throats. They don’t get along and constantly rub each other the wrong way. Meg’s relationship with her sisters is both rewarding and realistic and sometimes the family’s gossiping astounds her. However, her family dynamics are an important part of her life and we see how they perceive Meg and how her decisions impact them too.
Years of being “the good woman” has left Meg feeling burned out, empty and lonely as she finds herself disconnected from a distant Jack. A perimenopausal woman in her forties, Meg wants sex all the time, her husband barely wants it at all, and when they do have sex, it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and Jack doesn’t seem to care that Meg never has an orgasm. There’s no touching, no lingering, and no intimacy and Meg is not happy or satisfied. However, rather than try to talk to her husband about it, she thinks that she has to just suck it up and deal with it, and that her role in life is simply to look after everyone else. But we women know that you can only live like that for so long before something has to change. And when it does for Meg, the shit really hits the fan.
Meg decides to attend the London Wine Trade Fair with her boss, Chad, who over late night business dinners and multiple glasses of wine, ends up revealing his deep-rooted desire for her. At first she’s determined not to give in to her feelings for him, but ultimately she just can’t, and “the good woman” Meg becomes the wanton adulteress who risks losing her entire family because of her reckless and irreversible decision.
I love that Jane has brought up the issue of oral sex in Meg’s story and the fact that some men don’t seem to like to reciprocate although they certainly enjoy receiving it. Every woman I know, including me, wouldn’t want to be with a man who wasn’t into oral sex, that’s for sure!
Infidelity is also an issue that has touched most of us at some time in our lives and as a woman in her late forties, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about men screwing around on the women that I know, and I’ve been cheated on as well, so it’s an issue that’s very close to the surface of my emotions. In The Good Woman, Jane Porter writes about what drives a woman who would never be suspected of it to cheat on her husband, and rather than be angry with her, I found that I couldn’t blame Meg for her actions at all. I cried while reading her story, but what I was amazed by was how she chose to accept the consequences of her actions and decided to fight to keep her family together after realizing that she really was meant to be a good woman after all. That decision is something that I think that only married women with children can truly understand.
The Good Woman is a captivating page turner and one that I finished reading very quickly because I didn’t want to do anything else but read it. Fortunately for Porter’s readers, the next book in the trilogy, The Good Daughter (available February 5, 2013), will focus on Meg’s sister Kit. I’m fortunate to have received an ARC copy of it, so I’ll be reading it right away. I think that the third book will be The Good Wife, but the sister’s story that I want to read the most is Brianna’s…because I’m more of a wild child than a good woman.