This had so much promise but fell flat. This is probably my least favorite Mary Calmes book, which is very disappointing. It felt rushed and it wasn't as funny as usual. The ending was pretty sudden and I wanted a little more, maybe an epilogue.
I've been complaining lately that I'm uncomfortable with the sexism in Calmes's books. This one wasn't nearly as bad. While the office person was a woman, she was kick ass, although that reminds me too much of Heinlein's heroines. But the main character and his family were way too tolerant of racism. Here's part of the relevant passage:
"My grandmother always said that if my father had just married Susie Apelt like he was supposed to, that I would have had blue eyes instead of brown. I shook my head and explained that I wouldn't even be me without my mother, but she would just wave her ahnd dismissively like I was stupid. Of course I would still be me, just better. My eyes would be the right color. But it was okay; my [Puerto Rican] mother didn't care, because she and my grandmother had become friends over the years. It was, my mother said, generational. My grandmother categorized her friends: my Korean friend Jean, my black friend Tanya, my grandfather's dear Chinese friend Tommy. It was ingrained in her to see the race of a person, just like it had never been ingrained in me to care."
It's one thing to "categorize" people because that's just how you were raised (although that should change over time with exposure to people of different cultures) but saying it's no big deal that a woman says her grandson would have been better if born to a white woman because he'd have blue eyes is disgusting. Yeah, he'd still be him but with blue eyes, but that's disapproval because of his hereditary race traits and also just not approving of how he is.
I also didn't like how the MC thought two people divorced because they weren't happy but that wasn't a good enough reason to "split up a home or a family." That's absolutely a great reason. Kids raised in unhappy opens tend to have a lot more problems than kids whose parents divorced and then found happy lives where the kids could see happy relationships modeled. It wasn't relevant to the story or the completely nonjudgmental character and I feel it was put in just to make a point. This conservative attitude fits with the stuff I mention above and it's soured me a bit on her writing.
But back to the writing. There was major info dumping over and over and the characters ended up talking things to death. There was too much we were expected to read between the lines. For example, at one point a minor character is attacked at home but it's a big scene and we are never told who the attacker is, just a hint by what he says.
I loved Charlie but there was too much time in the book without him in scenes that weren't necessary to the plot. There was so much potential in his past trauma that wasn't explored really. Leo is just kind of there, not really active in his own life. The scene when his mom and dad are arguing was really good, vivid in my mind, and yet his scenes with Charlie were often one dimensional; only the last couple of chapters were better but they also talked everything to death and it was typical Mary Calmes characterization with people wanting Leo.
It hurts to say this but 2.5 stars rounded down because of the racism and judgmental tone.