Hope Delafield is committed. They may not be engaged yet, but her and her attentive, easy-on-the-eyes boyfriend Jack have been together for thirteen years, and Hope can’t imagine their London flat and her life as a primary school teacher without him. So when she catches him and her best friend Susie making out at what was supposed to be her triumphant inaugural dinner party she couldn’t be more shocked and hurt. Instead of facing the cold hard fact of Jack’s cheating, Hope does what red heads do best: she storms off after expressing her raw anger towards her boyfriend and her best friend. It is only after realizing that she can’t remain unreasonably furious forever that Hope very slowly begins to face the state of their relationship head on. Nothing and everything at the same time between her and Jack seems clear cut. After thirteen years, it’s complicated doesn’t even cut it, and moving on might be the hardest thing Hope has ever done.
This was one of my highest anticipated releases of 2012 and it was with delight that I picked it up for the first time, intending to read only a few pages but instead reading a few chapters. Granted you know what will set the stage at the beginning but it’s more painful than you could imagine. Each of Sarra Manning‘s adult offerings has been so real, both the lows and the highs. Like Grace from Unsticky and Neve from You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, she runs her heroines through the gauntlet. They may not emerged unscathed but they arise visibly better women than they were before in a way I always appreciate and that keeps me coming back for more.
As most books are, Nine Uses for an Ex-boyfriend unforeseeably diverted from and met my expectations. Although it is a Book With Cheating and I’m not someone who has a personal aversion to them, I still felt like I was on some precipice between loving or hating the result. It helped that I liked Hope and all of her namesake emotion. She is incredibly mature when it comes to her commitment to Jack even though there are not kids or a marriage contract involved. Whether it was one drunken kiss or a flow-blown affair, Hope does not take ending her relationship lightly. Some may find her willingness to give their relationship another shot a weak and desperate move, but I see it as an incredibly daring thing to do. That isn’t to say it wasn’t simultaneously the low road as well, but Manning doesn’t abbreviate or sugar coat anything. Their relationship is awkward and stilted at times to say the least and Hope’s very understanding lingering doubts eat away at her. I liked the scenes with Susie’s ex Wilson, a character I hated a first but to whom I gradually warmed. I never desired to see things between Hope and Jack fast forwarded but I was so tempted to look ahead in the book to peak at the future. The on/off fluidity of their relationship was painfully true to life, and I felt jerked around by the end. The surprising unpredictability of it all was at times frustrating. It was a good thing that I liked Hope, and better yet, that I could understand her point of view. Catching your partner cheating is kind of like being dumped when you’re still madly in love and the point is falling out of love takes considerably more time and casts yourself in your most unflattering light. I may not ever reread Nine Uses for an Ex-boyfriend but for the most part I enjoyed the rocky, nuanced ride and admired the stronger Hope that emerged. Recommended for contemporary romance readers who don’t always have to have a traditional happily ever after.
Note: Although there isn’t an actual Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend listed in the book Sarra Manning recently posted her own nine uses for an ex on her blog. Go check them out.