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The Idea of Him (2014)

On the outside, Allie Crawford's life seems enviable: a successful PR consultant, with connections to New York's elite, with two lovely children and a charismatic husband, Wade. However, when Allie sees Wade leaving the laundry room after an encounter with a mysterious woman, Jackie, it opens up old wounds and stirs new questions. But when Jackie suggests that there's more to this than meets the eye and that Wade is embroiled in some bigger, shadier business, Allie's whole world is turned upside down. The man she fell in love with isn't who she thought at all. This was a bit of a strange one that's quite hard to pin down. It's like serious women's fiction that explores the secrets and lies within a marriage but in terms of fraud and espionage. Whilst I appreciated the original premise, I did struggle a bit with the genre and the characters, all of whom are too flawed to be likable. Similarly, although I didn't mind the absence of a romantic narrative, the referencing and later presence of Allie's childhood sweetheart James felt too much like an unnecessary dead-end. Although the novel's message points to women living strong, independent lives without the need for men, none of the female characters make this seem particularly appealing and a more compromising middle ground between Allie and Jackie would have been more effective. I admire Peterson taking on something so different and alternative, and whilst I thought the premise of falling for the idea of a man then finding out the reality had huge potential, unfortunately for me I just didn't connect with the direction this was taken in. (JC)

The Manny (2007)

TV producer Jamie Whitfield is worried about how her husband's work-related absences are affecting her sensitive son, Dylan. So she decides to appoint a manny to help out - in addition to her nanny and cleaner. As Jamie's work life gets more hectic chasing a sex scandal story involving a right-wing politician, she finds Peter Bailey teaching kids to play chess in the park - the perfect guy to be a male role model for her son. Despite her husband's demands that she get rid of him, Peter develops a close bond with Dylan - and Jamie.

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