I was asked if I would be interested in reading this book as part of a blog tour hosted by The Notebook Blogairy. I was super flattered to be considered for this blog tour and accepted a free copy of the book to participate.
Let Me Just Say This by B. Swangin Webster.
"Let Me Just Say This is an urban drama depicting the struggles one woman goes through to get out of her abusive marriage and how she finds the strength to begin the search for love with another."
Not a hell of a lot to go on, is it? I like fiction that depicts realistic people, relationships, and drama. This book certainly does that. The story is mostly about Cheryl, a woman who married a handsome young man despite her misgivings
about his possible anger problems. As a young girl, she has recently had a bad break up, one where she rightfully stands up for her own dignity but loses her backbone. It's enough, apparently, to shake her confidence to it's core. Put that together with an emotionally assholish mother and a sister who totally dismisses her feelings and Cheryl is a bit of an emotional mess. As an adult, she needs to get out of her marriage relationship before it kills her.
I enjoyed the book, overall. The story moves between current- day Cheryl and younger- Cheryl. It's fast paced and emotional. It took me a bit of time to get into the story because there were typos and formatting miscues that were irritating and kept pulling me back to reality.
Ms. Webster does a nice job of presenting one story of how different relationships impact each other in the context of some pretty serious dysfunction.
Now, I could end my review without this last bit... but, below is a brief discussion of things I hated about the book. I didn't hate them because they were poorly written or exaggerated. As I've said, the story was good. Ms. Webster's portrayal is emotional and realistic, full of the twists and turns in your guts that you would expect from such a story. You empathize with Cheryl even as you want to throttle her and there are even brief glimpses of Kevin's charm and receding love for his wife. The things I hated are actually things I hate about real life that are reflected in this story. These points border on SPOILERS so read on at your own risk.
- Cheryl's struggle (e.g., that she is regularly beaten by her husband) in her marriage is minimized by everyone. This is mostly because Cheryl herself minimizes the abuse that is happening in her marriage and hides the worst of the abuse from her family. So, when she or her best friend do mention it, her parents are able to breeze over or dismiss the fact that their daughter is in serious trouble. Cheryl's mother actually likes Kevin more than she likes Cheryl and often takes his side in arguments, making Cheryl out to be a whining, ungrateful harpy. Cheryl, as many victims, colludes with Kevin in a way that keeps her stuck. I could write a whole post about Cheryl's children, who are the only ones who are completely honest about what's going on. But I won't.
- There are a few sex scenes in the book, some of which really bugged me. I don't just mean the ones that are supposed to bug me, like between an abusive man as he ruthlessly assaults his wife. There were also love scenes between Kevin (Cheryl's husband) and his new girlfriend. Though I think they were intended to be erotic, villain-sex just isn't my thing, I guess. There's also an odd scene between Cheryl's best friend and an unnamed male visitor. It was sexy, but gratuitous. Perhaps the scene was meant to show frivolity in contrast to the gravity that is Cheryl's plight.
- Cheryl needs for a man. Not to give too much away, but she is able to think about getting out of her relationship, FINALLY, because another man shows up and tells her that it is time. A man with a limo. She actually got into the relationship with Kevin because she's trying to get over a breakup. I want to shake Cheryl my damn self, and tell her to get her shit together. When she yells at her husband's other woman, I want to slap her.
- Cheryl goads her abusive husband when they are together. She actually confronts him with her plans to leave him with his children while they are alone in the house. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? This happens often in abusive relationships for many reasons. For example, women attempt to take control in situations (like conversations about the groceries) to compensate for a sense of no-control in others; they often underestimate how dangerous their partners actually are; and they feel empowered by their decision to leave. I get it. But things don't go well and it's hard not to blame her when she should just get the hell out of there while he's at work!
- Kevin shows a classic abuser personality in most situations, feeling completely justified in taking what he believes he is owed. He places the responsibility for his feelings on his wife and punishes her when his feelings are uncomfortable. This actually makes the scene where his new chick puts him in his place a tad unrealistic or, at least in the long run. Maybe we are meant to assume that Kevin is a different man with a different women, like the new woman will change him or keep him in check. Or maybe he was only abusive with Cheryl because he and Cheryl no longer loved each other, maybe they never really did. All these options are unlikely given the man we know Kevin to be. There are some relationships where the man and woman are mutually aggressive, perhaps Kevin has started one of those.
- And finally, I'm disappointed with the whole Michael thing. The more I think about him, the less I like him. Or, at least, the less I like him with Cheryl. He has his own stuff we are going to learn about in a future story, so sayeth Ms. Webster.
Speaking of, the author is lovely and I enjoyed the #NBBookChat, yesterday. There were a few points she made that I didn't pick up while reading the book, so it was interesting to hear some of her thinking from the POV of the characters. She teased a few things from the sequel which is available, along with this book, through Amazon.