Susannah Nix offered an ARC of Mad About Ewe on Instagram to reviewers. I picked up the copy because I love middle-aged romances and second chances. So perfect timing for an honest review.
[Also, so sorry about any formatting errors. WordPress updated their system. Again. Badly. Again. This happens every couple months. I try and hide it. But…blockquotes went back to strange formatting once more.]
I turn 40 this year. I’m hitting middle-age territory, which is a mind-blowing reality when life sneaks up on you since my brain still thinks I’ve got a good 10 years before hitting 40. It’s a weird worldview when you’ve had to grow up too early.
And I feel like Dawn, the heroine in the story, had a similar reaction once the nest was empty. I have no nest, mind you, but when you hit that line…well, you suddenly look around and need to shake things up. And shake things up she did.
So what’s the set up for Mad About Ewe? Here’s the official summary:
Dawn Botstein is doing just fine after her divorce, thank you very much.
She’s got her yarn store to run, her house to herself for the first time in her life, and no use for men anymore. That is until the hottie silver fox who walks into her store turns out to be her old high school crush—the guy who rejected her 30 years ago.
No way is she going to lose her head over him this time, no matter how well he wears that salt-and-pepper lumberjack beard. Okay, so he’s the opposite of her ex in every way, and his attention gives her a thrill she thought she’d never feel again. She’s not risking her heart again.
Mike Pilota is having a mid-life crisis.
Only instead of buying a red sports car he can’t afford and dressing like a 25-year-old who’s time-traveled from the 1990s, he quit his job after his second divorce to move closer to his recently widowed mother.
He didn’t expect to run into Dawn again, but as soon as he lays eyes on her he’s utterly smitten. So he sets out to make up for past mistakes and prove he can be the kind of man she deserves.
But is it too late for second chances? Or will these two lonely hearts find a way back to each other?
Also, the title makes me think that Helen Hunt’s character in Mad About You has divorced Paul Reiser’s and has moved into a yarn store in the middle of Dharma’s neighborhood (Dharma and Greg). Apparently it’s a 1990s kind of sitcom world for me. And why her character would be this laidback is completely unknown.
Note: there may be spoilers for Mad About Ewe throughout the review.
One of my favorite things about this story was Dawn. She went through a life change in early middle age and found herself. I love a complex heroine. One who has layers. And Mike didn’t deserve her.
Mike was too deep in his self-doubt and self-loathing. When he managed to do something for his mom, to connect, it still felt like a quick give up. If it’s hard, he runs away. Twice divorced, Mike seems to be too stereotyped. There isn’t a lot of depth to him. Which is counter to Dawn.
Dawn opened her own yarn store with the divorce settlement. She’s made her own mark by being independent and community connected. Learned how to move beyond an empty nest and being perceived as only a doctor’s wife. Maintaining a lifelong friendship with a very dissimilar best friend named Angie. She’s even volunteered to help out at the 30 year high school reunion committee because Angie asked. Deep friendships that tie deep into her fabric.
That was what I got for shooting my shot. But I didn’t bear Mike any ill will. If anything, I was grateful for the lesson. It had taught me not to aim for the stars. I was more of a middle-distance girl, and that was fine. Somewhere between the ground at my feet and the visible horizon was where I belonged. It was useful information, and it had saved me a lot of unnecessary embarrassment over the intervening years.
She has plans. But I agreed with Angie that Dawn has a martyr complex. It’s not easy to see yourself in a book, by the by, but it was there. I saw a little more of myself in Dawn’s need to caretake at the cost of herself.
Disconcerting to say the least. It’s hard to say “I need help” when you’re usually the one providing it. And it’s even harder if you feel utterly vulnerable. You learn to settle. And sometimes it takes a lot to grow out of that mentality. It’s not always easy.
I wish there had been more information about her cancer. Mostly for selfish reasons since I’m not that much younger than her and I need a little more information to judge how my body’s reacting. Endometrial cancer isn’t really discussed among women and certainly not in romance books. Even though women writers are the main force behind the genre. I think I wanted to know more. To not sweep it under the rug. To find more community in those ‘please help’ moments since Dawn kept her emotional core to herself for the most part.
There’s a feeling throughout that she has to fix the men around here. That was a bit frustrating, I have to admit. Even as a self-proclaimed caretaker. And Mike seems to need so much care, even at nearly 50. Which, no. Run, Dawn, run. Men aren’t a fixer upper project. She gave him a lot of time when teaching him yarn basics, to connect with someone left behind and unable to function with unexpected loss.
He seemed super judgmental of his former high school sweetheart Gina whenever they interacted. Ashamed to have dated her instead of someone like Dawn, a wallflower he rejected. Imagine Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles talking to Ted about Caroline. That same kind of snobbery. But add 30 years.
Really didn’t care for the snide comments since it kind of positioned Dawn as ‘not one of those girls.’ Will never be a fan of that. Don’t pit women against each other.
Checking my notes, I have a few comments on the gay representation of a high school reunion committee. It seemed a bit too…pointed and an ‘aha’ moment for Dawn. That was one reason the star rating fell a bit. I’m not fond of stereotypes and the ‘oh, he must be gay’ line needs to disappear from romance.
Please don’t assume I hated the book.
I actually really liked it, especially Dawn and Angie’s friendship. For another Hughes reference, I imagined Angie as Annie Potts character in Pretty in Pink while Dawn was a bit like Molly Ringwald’s character. Instead of the wrong side of the tracks, it was more about self-confidence and not letting others dictate the future. Angie was a great pushback for maudlin Dawn phases. Angie was also willing to absolutely cut a person to their knees if needed.
Ever since I could remember, Angie had been who I wanted to be when I grew up. Bright, colorful, loud. Irrepressibly herself. Only I hadn’t grown up to be Angie, of course. I’d grown up to be me. Dull, predictable, humdrum Dawn, who tried a little too hard to be exactly who everyone expected her to be.
Love a strongly connected friendship among women. High, high marks. Enough so that the book earned really high logistics/relationship numbers (8.0/10).
I also appreciated that Mike wanted to do better for his own confidence and skill level. He didn’t stay inactive for the entire book. He made moves forward.
And he was so very good for Dawn after he found out about the cancer. He validated, appreciated, and cared without asking for anything in return. Hoping but not requiring. That is what made my romance rating higher than average (7.0/10). Wasn’t entirely sold on the love since they both needed to grow more.
Really enjoyed how he didn’t just push off any calls from his ex-wife, either. Divorce doesn’t have to equal hatred. Both Mike and Dawn were excellent at maintaining connections without anger or jealousy. And they trusted each other about the exes. Dawn didn’t assume that he would leave her the moment an ex called for help.
Also! I flipping loved Linda. She was a hoot!
“Men,” Linda harrumphed from her chair by the window . “Can’t live with them, can’t tip the lot of them into a volcano and start society over without ’em.”
The dry humor made me smile, too. When Dawn talks about how the creator of paper hospital gowns was a sadist, I legit snorted. Because accurate! Those gowns never cover. Even the fabric ones never fully fit and shows areas that are meant to be available to my husband rather than the random stranger walking the halls. Just saying.
The question now is how does all that information break down on a scale? I use the CAWPILE method with a bonus of a ‘romance’ section. Seemed rather wise to add a section for the area this podcast talks about.
- Characters: 7.0/10
- Atmosphere: 6.5/10
- Writing Style: 7.5/10
- Plot: 7.0/10
- Logic (Relationships): 8.0/10
- Enjoyment: 7.75/10
- Romance: 7.0/10
- Final Rating: 6.34
A high three stars. I would have given four stars, but there was too many negative character thoughts. Like Mike was too negative and insecure for a good portion of the book. And I found him rather unlikeable and felt like Dawn deserved someone willing to uplift her. He needed to be more of motivated, especially with his mom and her grief. Seemed like a dropped story line entirely by the end. Yet was the reason he moved back home. So.
I’ll definitely read more by Susannah Nix. I liked the overall writing style and the way she wrote Angie and Dawn. Seriously, you want me to like a book? Create a strong friendship without jealousy and negativity seeping around the characters. It’s not just found families, either.
Do I recommend the book? I do if you want to read about characters who’ve moved on to a different life phase. This was my first Smartypants romance and I’m curious about more. I like that that the sex was important for their own bonding, giving a little more context to their relationship, and the fears that come with new stages and relationships.
Mad About Ewe is available for purchase on March 16, 2021.