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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Otherwise Engaged by Eileen Goudge

Otherwise Engaged is one of those stories wherein I kinda have an idea how it ends and who the characters end up with. The premise, although intriguing, is a concept that has been done both in other books and also in the movies. Think The Holiday which starred Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, or The Stand-In by Kate Clemens or Swapping Lives by Jane Green.

Title: Otherwise Engaged
Author: Eileen Goudge
Pages: 432


Can a New Your City journalist exchange her subway pass for an SUV and find happiness? Can a small-town wife and mother take on the role of single city woman and discover a whole new life?

Jessie Holland is in search of a hot story for Savvy magazine when her editor poses a compelling question – can you ever really go home again? Jumping on the idea, and with her love life currently at a crossroads, Jessie plans to return to her Arizona hometown and follow the path not taken – with a twist. Her best friend back home, Erin Delahanty, is dealing with a crumbling marriage, a teenage daughter, and the demands of running a bed and breakfast. Needing to take stock of her life, she agrees to Jessie’s offer: she’ll live in Manhattan for six months, while Jessie steps into Erin’s shoes. But the choices and challenges they face take them by surprise... and what began as a daring magazine article will change both women forever.

What made Otherwise Engaged different is that, the people involved were not strangers from each other, they were best friends. And swapping lives was more than just an adventure for them; it was a means to escape their current situations – a stagnant career for Jessie, and a marriage on the rocks for Erin. Jessie wanted to take the chance to reconnect with her mother, while Erin saw this as an opportunity to live the city life she passed up on more than a decade ago.

With the switcheroo, there’s a lot to gain AND lose for both women – careers, love lives, family. But both of them take the plunge knowing the risks that surround their decision. Six months seem like a long time to be away from the life you were used to, but for Jessie and Erin, it’s just the right amount of time to allow themselves to discover what have been missing in their life. Jessie, though in a relationship, and eventually engaged to Jonathon, meets Hunter back home, a complex addition in her already complicated life. Erin juggles saving her marriage with Skip while managing a career as an assistant chef in a TV cooking show.

Written in third-person subjective, the reader sees the lives of Jessie and Erin from their points of view, which alternates with each chapter. In a couple of chapters, we get to see the situation from Hunter and Skip’s point of view. This clued me in on who Jessie and Erin eventually ended up with.

Between the two, Erin had the more fulfilling journey. She didn’t stray from her purpose. Jessie on the other hand, cheated with Hunter while she was still in a relationship with Jonathon. Jessie’s path to self-discovery was vague, which made Erin’s storyline more captivating. Both women have different takes on long distance relationships. As Jessie pointed out:

“Long distance relationship... now there’s an oxymoron. How can you be with someone, when you’re nowhere near that someone?”

Interesting to note is that, Hunter’s character is Navajo Indian. We often read about relationships with mixed races, but rarely do we find an Indian in a contemporary romance novel. We get a glimpse of Hunter’s culture when he and Jessie attended his cousin’s wedding.

Nothing surprising really jumps out of the story. It offers nothing new. But Otherwise Engaged manages to strike a chord every now and then, especially when Erin had her bouts of homesickness, when unknowingly, Skip and Erin reminisced their good times together, when their daughter Kayla got caught in the middle and ran away, and when Jessie had to deal with her and her mother’s difficult relationship.

People magazine is featured quite a lot, and Jennifer Aniston made a “cameo” towards the end.

Otherwise Engaged is well written, with vivid descriptions of Jessie and Erin’s feelings and emotional turmoil, but it fell short in character development. New York and Arizona may have just been a back drop in the story, but Eileen Goudge could have worked a bit more on the setting. It was as if it could have been just any other city and town. A more majestic New York or a more rural and rustic Arizona could have engaged the reader more.

I give Otherwise Engaged a 3 out of 5.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ : NICE - Fun read.

1 comment:

  1. I really like The Diary by the same author. However, this one I haven't read. :)


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