The Secret Lives Of Housewives
by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
(Kensington, $15.00, NC-17) ISBN0-7582-1275-5
Let’s get this out of the way up front – Lloyd’s latest is not a romance novel. Kensington isn’t marketing it as one either, instead emblazoning “an erotic novel” on the cover. Unfortunately, that’s not quite right either. The Secret Lives Of Housewives reads like a cross between women’s fiction and chick lit with a bunch of naughty words tossed in. Oh, and it isn’t erotic at all.

Monica is a high-powered advertising executive who is one-step away from a coronary. On the advice of her doctor, she decides to try relaxing. That means yoga class once a week and making some friends. She decides to combine the two, and latches on to three other women from the class.

Angie is the instructor and a mother to 10-month-old twins. She loves her husband, Tony, but his ex-wife is still hanging around. In addition, since the arrival of the twins, Angie’s feeling less like a woman and more like an asexual Mommy every day.

Cait is married to money and lives in an exclusive part of East Hudson, New York. However, Logan has become more distant, and she’s become bored. To spice up her life she’s started to chat online and has quickly latched on to her own Internet lover.

Eve is a shy woman who loves old movies. She also happens to be having an affair with her married boss. She’s so lonely though, and he says he’s going to leave his wife just as soon as the kids are old enough to understand.

Lloyd’s novel succeeds where many other novels of this type fail by giving her four characters some depth. There is actual character development here, and the women soon have their own distinct personalities. Monica gets the story moving, and the reader quickly learns that being a high-powered ad exec has meant trading sexual favors to get to the top. However, when she falls for Mr. Nice Guy, can she reconcile her past in the hopes of having a future?

It’s hard to find a novel “erotic” when almost all the women in the story are making disastrous choices about men and sex. Only the married Angie isn’t a complete idiot. While she fails to communicate effectively with her husband, at least she’s not Monica, Cait or Eve!

Monica has a deep disdain for men. They’re all no good. They’re all liars and cheats. However that doesn’t keep her from sleeping her way to the top, and she’s perfectly comfortable passing judgment on other women’s choices – most notably Eve’s. Eve sleeping with a married man is deplorable enough, but the fact that she actually believes he’ll leave his wife just makes her stupid. Honestly, do women still fall for that old line? And Cait having some fun in cyberspace is all well and good – except she lets too much personal information slip to the wrong man. Maybe Kensington should have titled this book Dumb, Dumber And Dumbest?

So how did this story manage to garner an acceptable rating? Because despite all of the ragging on men and the idiotic behavior, there are flashes of something deeper here. Every now and then one of the characters says something insightful. Also, Monica is paired up with the deliciously attractive Dan, who is the poser boy for Beta heroes everywhere. He’s the kind of guy you want to take home to meet Mom. There is also the last chapter, which is so fantastic that words fail. It involves the Eve character and her big revelation soon leads to a confrontation with someone from her past. The dialogue during this moment is emotionally charged and I actually found myself getting misty.

The Secret Lives Of Housewiveswas likely slapped with that title to cash in on the Desperate Housewives craze, and this story does borrow heavily from Sex And The City. It reads very much like a guilty pleasure, the type of book you’d take on a cruise ship or read while lounging on the beach. While it’s hard to feel erotic about a book that features characters making such horrible choices, it does end happily. These are better women at the end of the book, and I actually found myself caring. Readers just have to get through the first three quarters of the story to hit the jackpot.

--Wendy Crutcher

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