The Sweetheart Deal
Author: Polly Dugan
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½
Narrators: Kathleen McInerney, John Glouchevitch, Brad Abrell, Adam McArthur, Aaron Landon, John Salwin
Run Time: 9hrs 40min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½
Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio
Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident.
As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey’s feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.
I’m not sure what it was about this audiobook that caught my eye when I was looking at the available list. I think because I am a sucker for romances (I mean, look at what this blog reviews most of the time), I was curious to see how the author would handle an issue like death of a husband and the potential romance between his widow and best friend. Yes, it felt kind of sketchy to me, but I was intrigued. This is the first book i’ve read by Ms Dugan, but taking a look at the descriptor of her other book, it seems as though she likes tackling these difficult themes and ideas (her other book looks at two women dating the same man and the outcomes).
From the get-go, I was glad (as bad as that maybe sounds) as to how she handled the death of the husband – it was sudden and unexpected, not prolonged. Having seen how both types of deaths have been handled in my family, I would take the sudden/unexpected over the prolonged any day of the week (if I was forced to chose…which I hope I never am). I also found that she did a good job of capturing the different cycles of grief that people go through – how Audrey handled the death of Leo, compared to Garrett (his best friend) compared to Leo and Audrey’s son’s – each was individual and you could see that the author had done research into different methods of coping, dealing with grief etc. I know that Garrett just up and quitting his life in Boston (where he was an established professor) was drastic but I could see it as his way of coping.
i think for me the most appealing (if that is the right word) of this was that it took place over a period of time – it wasn’t like there was the death and then wham bam, Audrey had moved on. You could see (most definitely in her) how she progressed through the stages until she could be in a relationship with someone again. That being said, I still found the time period to be too fast, Audrey and Leo had been together for close to 20 years and so to have her move on in less than a year, just seemed too quick.
For me, the most enjoyable parts (for lack of a better phrase) was seeing Garrett interact with Audrey and her family. Seeing him try to fit into an established role and navigate what were potentially rough seas. I found that the author did a good job of making all the voices of her characters unique – not only because the audiobook used multiple ones, but because they were different. That being said, maybe it was because I was listening to the audiobooks, but the dialogue tags drove me nuts. I know its a probably a personal peeve, but a few times, it got very he/Garrett said or she/Audrey said in their conversations and seemed almost redundant to me.
For me, the book itself was brought to life by the narration. Honestly, I don’t know looking back, if it is a) a book I would have picked up without it being an audiobook and b) if I would have stuck with it, if was I just reading it. I thought that the use of multiple narrators (a different one to narrate each POV) worked well – although looking now, it strikes me as funny that there was really only one female POV in the book, compared to the 5 men. Maybe it was because the majority of the book was alternating between Audrey and Garrett’s POV’s, with the other ones playing a more minor role. All of the narrators were new to me and I was intrigued enough that I want to check out more work they have done in the future.
I thought all of the narrators, especially Kathleen McInerney, who was the narrator for Audrey’s POV were able to convey the different emotions/feels that were tied to parts of the story. You could hear the grief in her voice early on in the narration, the desolation of realizing that the life she knew was gone – but at the same time, as she began to move on with her life, you could hear the strength returning to her and a sense of purpose.
While I liked both the book and the narration, I gave them 3.5 stars each. I would recommend The Sweetheart Deal with readers who like women’s lit and potentially new love later in life type books.