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The Kept Woman    by Susan Donovan order for
Kept Woman
by Susan Donovan
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Ever since her husband announced he was gay and left his wife and three kids high and dry, Samantha Monroe has been working very hard to make ends meet and support the emotional needs of her children. But with a hairstylist's salary and often long and tiring hours, it's not always easy playing both mom and dad. Her life becomes even more complicated after Sam receives notice from Wee Ones Academy stating, 'due to your child's unresolved toileting issues, we must ask you to find other daycare arrangements within two weeks'.

The only bright spot in Samantha's crappy week is the regularly scheduled Drinks and Depression Night at the nearby Lizard Lounge with a few colleagues and trusted clients, most of them single or divorced. It's here in a moment of inebriated despondency that Sam blurts 'I never did understand what is so wrong about being a kept woman ... if I could do it without damaging the kids, I'd gladly live in a penthouse with a chauffeur a maid and a chef in exchange for giving some old geezer a little nooky every once in a while'.

Samantha is shocked when her tipsy, off-the-cuff remark takes on a completely convoluted life of its own. Kara DeMarinis, one of her Lizard Lounge inner circle of friends and the powerhouse behind Congressman Jack Tolliver's publicity machine, wants to make Sam's fantasy reality. For an unheard of amount of money, she proposes that Sam pose as bad boy Jack Tolliver's fiancée, but only long enough to help redeem the womanizing politician's spiraling reputation with voters. Sam is desperate to retract her statement, but even more desperate to make her kids' lives - and yes her own too - a little easier, and if that means being part of an orchestrated political lie then she can live with it.

As for Jack Tolliver - initially he's horrified by Kara's proposal; he doesn't do divorcees, kids or dogs for God's sake! Ever! But as the cool and ever-efficient Kara continues outlining the potential benefits of her scheme in all its rather underhanded glory, Jack becomes intrigued, realizing with a certain amount of renewed clarity that this is his last chance to make good his severely tarnished character, not to mention his family honor. Jack is shocked when his redheaded fiancée turns out to be anything but frumpy - her very presence causes him to think all sorts of hot, blissful and downright domestic scenarios. And despite her attempts to keep their relationship business-like, Samantha too, finds the bad boy politician hard to resist, even though she's certain a man who hates kids and dogs and commitment will only shatter her heart.

Susan Donovan has a real knack for looking at ordinary life and its many foibles in a uniquely clever and humorous way, and she does so again here. Samantha Monroe is a very likeable and realistic lead, with whom readers (especially single moms) will identify immediately. Donovan also does a great job with Jack as the jaded and womanizing politico who seriously needs to grow up and think about others besides himself. A wonderful cast of secondary players adds luster to the story, particularly Sam's best friend and fellow stylist, Monte, whose salty, shoot-from-the-hip wisdom is often right on the money and genuinely funny. Be prepared to settle in for a few hours of smart, sexy, hilarious fun with The Kept Woman.

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