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Husband Material


Husband Material

Known as the “Numbers Girl” at her flashy tech startup, 29-year-old Charlotte Rosen has an unusual reason for being so attracted to the promise and potential of facts and figures: she is a secret widow --- and is desperate to reclassify her marital status. Part rom-com and part powerful redemption story, Emily Belden’s HUSBAND MATERIAL is a pop culture-filled romance about accepting one’s past and racing towards the future, algorithm-approved or not.

For five years, Charlotte has hidden her deepest secret from the world: she was widowed unexpectedly shortly into her marriage with the love of her life. Though she has worked hard to move forward, she has become increasingly inward-facing: she dives deep into her own spreadsheets and algorithms in hopes of finding Husband #2, but struggles to maintain any other real relationships or hobbies. Even her own roommate, Casey, does not know about her past. But when her husband’s ashes show up on her doorstep after a fire comes dangerously near the fancy mausoleum where her even fancier mother-in-law demanded her husband be laid to rest, Charlotte has to ask what this sudden twist of fate might mean.

"Funny yet sensitive, HUSBAND MATERIAL is a delightful palate cleanser for those used to reading darker books but are not quite ready to commit to a full genre switch into romance."

Though readers have already gotten a glimpse into present-day Charlotte’s life --- full of Bumble dates, Instagram hashtags and sparkling influencer parties --- it becomes devastatingly clear just how far Charlotte has veered from her original plan. She has maintained close to no friends from “before,” cut off her mean mother-in-law and even avoided her late husband’s best friend, the man who introduced them. It seems as though Charlotte is sorely in need of a new start, but is so obsessed with facts and statistics that she has stunted herself at every turn, always choosing the most mathematically safe bet, even though her own introduction to her husband was a matter of fate. As she grapples with the return of her husband --- both the urn and her unwelcome memories of him --- a devastating secret comes to light, forcing Charlotte to reconsider her marriage, the last five years and how she must continue to live her life.

As much as I loved the premise and delightful cover, I struggled quite a bit to relate to Charlotte initially. As a character who lives on social media and tracks influencers for a living, Charlotte is decidedly hip --- occasionally a little too much so. Her constant references to viral posts and popular hashtags were light, but distracting. Though it soon becomes clear how and why she is hurting, she is, as a main character, unusually self-involved. Even when she is set to move forward in her career, she frequently blocks herself, creating unnecessary and unwarranted roadblocks that made her downright unlikable at times. The situations Charlotte found herself in were often laugh-out-loud funny, but I just felt so disconnected to her and her character arc. However, propelled by the more tender moments Charlotte spent at home with her quirky roommate and urn, I continued reading --- and I am glad I did.

HUSBAND MATERIAL ultimately proves to be less rom-com and more women’s fiction as the story continues. Charlotte deals with grief, depression and acceptance in truly satisfying ways; her character arc is fully fleshed out and beautifully realized. It is clear that Belden has a knack for witty, sparkling prose, but I would have liked to see these tender moments more clearly realized earlier in the book, at least to anchor me to Charlotte sooner. Where Belden makes up for Charlotte’s unlikability is in her supporting characters, most notably Casey, Charlotte’s goth roommate who helps draw her out of her self-imposed emotional prison. Even as I was rolling my eyes at Charlotte, I loved reading about her interactions with Casey and seeing their casual friendship evolve into something real.

Of course, we can’t discuss a romance book without a romance, so I will tell you now that Charlotte does indeed find a reason to move on from her late husband. Belden provides a likable love interest for Charlotte and some seriously swoon-worthy moments, but there was a bit too much “insta-love” for my taste. I cannot say that I found her new relationship believable at every turn, but, having come to understand her later on in the book, I was definitely rooting for her. This is another area where I wish Belden had applied some of the sensitivity that she infused into Charlotte’s relationship with her roommate and used it to more thoroughly flesh out Charlotte’s new life.

Though “widow” often implies a certain age bracket, I feel I must stress that this is definitely a very 20-something book --- which is not a bad thing at all. I think 20- and 30-somethings will find a lot of Charlotte’s life relatable and interesting, especially as it pertains to dating and balancing a career in social media. Some of the references will fly over your head, but the tone behind them is always just playful and biting enough to keep the humor going. Funny yet sensitive, HUSBAND MATERIAL is a delightful palate cleanser for those used to reading darker books but are not quite ready to commit to a full genre switch into romance.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 7, 2020

Husband Material
by Emily Belden

  • Publication Date: December 30, 2019
  • Genres: Comedy, Fiction, Romance
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Graydon House
  • ISBN-10: 1525805983
  • ISBN-13: 9781525805981