5 "Big Kaboom" STARS
I don’t know how Penny does it but every book I’ve read so far has me falling for BOTH the heroine and hero. Just LOVE her women; they’re not cookie cutter types (thank goodness). Each unique, strong, beautiful, bad ass and oh so smart!! And the men…no two are alike but again, each is strong, smart, sexy and endearing. This story is about Fiona and Greg Archer, married 14 years, and it covers a lot of ground that most married couples can likely relate to, to a point, as Penny gives us a lot more than just a tale about marriage.
As a married woman of 17 years, this book spoke to me.
“Marriage with children is a study in delayed everything – delayed conversation, delayed resolutions, and delayed gratification.”
While it’s got some serious action and suspense and by no means even close to my life - seriously! - the marriage and relationship was so real and so relatable for me.
“We never caught our breath. We were hardly ever a couple, because we were too busy being a family.”
Perhaps it was a case of misery loves company! I jest somewhat because reading's an escape for me and so you'd think, why the heck would you want to read about something you "live" daily? For me, Fiona and Greg were a reminder of some very important truths and their story was comforting to see that it’s no different for any other couple. Every relationship has it’s ups and downs and Fe and Greg’s relationship was like a mirror - reminding me that the struggle, the routine and the compromise is worth it.
While this may sound boring or unappealing, it was far from it!! Penny not only gives you the reality of marriage...
“I need you for the most mundane of tasks because that’s what marriage is. It’s the mundane. It’s the everyday. It’s the showing up and being there and supporting each other in a million different small ways that add up to a colossal commitment. It’s consistency.”
but she gives the history of Fiona and Greg, their courtship, their family, the lovable and quirky knitting gals and loads of action and excitement. And you might ask, who is the Ninja? Fiona is. I freakin' loved how bad ass she was!!
“She was a reminder that true and brilliant beauty exists in the world.”
At the beginning of each chapter, Penny also included correspondence: letters, notes, texts, etc., from couples from all walks of life and in different stages of their relationship...this was the icing on the cake. All of it so perfectly captured that relationships, and especially marriage, are complex and hard work.
“Because sometimes marriage to this man was wonderful. But sometimes it was a chore. Love was never enough, not without mutual respect and a great deal of drudgery and effort. And even then, it wasn’t enough. Wanting each other, being open to change, pushing each other to improve and grow – for the better – working to deserve each other was the key. I loved him and I always would. But that was the easy part. Working to deserve him and demanding that he work to deserve me, everyday – that was hard. But he was worth it. And I was worth it.”
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think I’m doing?” He unbuttoned his pants and unzipped them.
Perhaps it didn’t make any sense, but I didn’t want Greg to see me naked. Not when I was still furious with him. Not when he was angry with me. Even though we’d been together for eighteen years, married for fourteen, and made two children together, when we were arguing I didn’t like the vulnerability of bare skin.
“Oh, no. No, no, no.” I sat forward in the tub, hiding my nakedness. “We haven’t talked through everything yet. I’m angry with you, and I know you’re still upset with me.”
He shrugged. “Then we’ll have angry intercourse.”
“We’re not having intercourse.”
“Then I’ll give you angry cunnilingus.”
Damn him, but that made me laugh.
Greg’s eyebrows bounced once on his forehead and he grinned, his pants falling to the ground.
“I don’t want any of your angry oral sex, thank you very much.” I crossed my arms over my chest, endeavoring to keep my expression stern . . . and failing.
“Of course you do. Angry oral sex is the best kind of oral sex. And we are so rarely angry with each other. We should take advantage of this opportunity.” His thumbs hooked into his boxers with the intent of pulling them down.
“Do not take off your boxers.”
Greg didn’t remove his boxers, but he didn’t withdraw the threat of his thumbs either. “You know, I’ve heard it’s a good idea to fight while naked. I think I read that in a very important medical text book written by Albert Einstein’s cousin, Dr. Olga Einstein.”
I sensed Greg stiffen further and straighten. He turned from me to face our neighbor. “Who the hell are you?”
Matty’s eyes were wide, clearly confused, and more than a little concerned when they met mine briefly, then flickered back to my husband’s. “Uh, I’m Matt.”
“Mat? As in, a small rectangular piece of carpet made for the express purpose of cleaning dirt from one’s shoes?”
Greg’s impolite words and clipped tone pulled me from my stupor and I smacked his shoulder. “Greg!” I pulled my towel tighter and walked around my rude husband to stand in between the two men.
“Oh, you’re Greg,” Matty said, sounding less confused, but more wary.
“Yeah. I’m Greg,” he growled, making no attempt to disguise his hostility; but then, he never did.
“Greg, this is Matthew Simmons. He is our next door neighbor.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes,” I ground out, “that is so.”
Matty, holding a kitchen towel, gave his palms another wipe before reaching out his hand to Greg. “Nice to meet you . . . ?”
Greg made no movement to accept the handshake, instead opting to narrow his eyes threateningly. “Why don’t you have a shirt on, Matt?”
Matty’s eyes widened and he dropped his hand as he glanced at his bare chest. “I, uh-I was just—”
“He was replacing the garbage disposal,” I supplied, irritated with Greg’s bad-mannered behavior. Furthermore, I was irritated that I was irritated, because my husband was home. He was home! He was here and I’d missed him and, instead of taking advantage of his presence, I was standing in my towel in the living room being irritated.
“My garbage disposal?” Greg’s frown was severe as his gaze moved to me, ripe with accusation. “You let him replace my garbage disposal?”
“Your garbage disposal? What are you talking about?”
“I just installed that disposal.”
“No, you didn’t. It’s been three years. And Grace ruined it in January.”
“How did she do that?”
“She put Jack’s rock collection in the sink and turned it on as revenge for him hiding her Barbie dolls.”
Greg blinked and he appeared to be digesting this information with some difficulty. At last he said, “Grace has Barbie dolls? When did she get Barbie dolls?”
Sigh . . .
I glanced at the ceiling and shook my head, then turned to poor Professor Matthew Simmons. “Thank you for your help, Matt. I really appreciate it.”
Matty’s eyes moved between us, then finally settled on me. “No problem. I’ll just get my tools and . . . other stuff.” He tossed his thumb over his shoulder, lingered awkwardly in the doorway for two seconds, then disappeared back into the kitchen.
I slid my eyes to Greg and found my husband still staring at the spot where Matty had been standing, an angry frown creasing his tired features.
“What is wrong with you?” I asked in a tight whisper, gripping the towel at my chest.
“What is wrong with me?”
“Yes. What was that?” I motioned to the kitchen, to Matt, keeping my voice low.
My husband’s eyes flashed and he spoke through gritted teeth, “A man, who happens to live next door to my family, takes off his clothes in my home while my beautiful wife is walking around in nothing but a towel . . .” Greg’s typically dry delivery was intoned with an extra helping of scathing sarcasm as he added, “Yeah. Seems legit.”
It took me a few seconds to recover from his insinuation, but when I did I forgot to lower my voice. “I used to babysit him, Greg! I changed his diapers.”
“Babysit him? What?” He looked truly perplexed, like I’d revealed Matt was responsible for all the Star Wars prequels, but then his eyes narrowed again as though he’d just realized something important. “Wait, so you’ve seen his penis?”
I gasped, then inadvertently laughed my frustration. “Really? That’s the take-home message? That I’ve seen his penis? If it makes you feel any better, it was about this long.” I held my thumb and forefinger apart to indicate an inch.
At the same moment Matt reappeared in the living room—shirt on—and unwisely said, “Hey! I was only two years old. It’s at least fifteen times larger now.”
“Fifteen times? Prone to exaggeration, aren’t you?” Greg drawled, giving Matt a look of plain disbelief.
“Not longer, larger.” Matt shrugged innocently, like he was clarifying the size of his sofa and not his man parts. “I was referring to volume, not necessarily length—though it is—”