The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
My rating: 2 out of 5.
Harlequin Presents that feature adulterous heroes are always hard to read. In this one, the hero does start dating someone else and blames his straying on his wife. Let’s break this one down, shall we?
Sancha Crofton is a mother of two guys and a very demanding little girl while married to Mark, who is busy at work all the time. Having three kids in six years put a strain on their marriage, they sleep in separate beds, and they haven't had sex in several months.
After a difficult birth with her daughter, Sancha suffered depression and pushed away Mark who's been feeling neglected. Now Mark has been coming home late from work, sleeping in a separate room, and is sarcastic and dismissive of her when they talk, which is rarely.
During breakfast one day, Sancha receives a note basically telling her that Mark has been having an affair and he's been lying to her for months.
Distraught, Sancha doubts herself, goes a little crazy, gets a makeover, and flounders over confronting Mark about the letter. While out and about in town, Sancha sees Mark going into a fancy restaurant with his arm around a young blond. That bastard, he has been cheating on her!
The last couple of years have been difficult for Sancha who has had no help from Mark. Mark is a corporate executive and he's been working hard to bring home a paycheck without realizing that he has left all the parenting responsibilities to his wife. She cleans and maintains the house, cooks for everybody, takes care of the children, neglecting to spare any time for herself or Mark. At the end of each day, she is too tired to take care of herself or pay attention to her husband, who hasn’t been picking up the slack when it comes to his husbandly and daddy duties. This is a recipe for disaster.
Mark finds solace in his young, pretty assistant who listens to him about his problems and troubles at work. One thing leads to another and they start dating each other. Mark lies to Sancha by telling her he's been having late night dinners with his boss. Mark doesn’t consider it cheating because they haven't slept together yet.
Meanwhile, Sancha hasn’t confronted Mark with her suspicions yet because she's afraid everything will spiral out of control and she’ll end up losing Mark, whom she loves very much. But sometimes she hates him and wonders if they should get a divorce.
Sancha has been a devoted mother but an imperfect wife. In taking care of her children, she forgot she has a husband who needs her, too. Mark is a lying, cheating cheater who deserves a roundhouse kick to the balls.
The big issue with these two characters is the lack of communication. Mark doesn't tell Sancha that he's been feeling neglected and jealous of his own children. Sancha doesn't tell Mark that she’s always exhausted from taking care of the children on her own and receives no help from him, so she's been distant and too tired to be a wife to him.
This particular HP was a little hard to read because it deals with real life issues that spouses have to face every day. This isn't about handsome Italians, glamorous ladies, mansions, sweeping scenery, and private jets. This is a scenario that happens in real life. Spouses neglect each other and don’t talk, which cause a rift in the relationship. Sancha doesn’t wear gorgeous designer gowns and sparkling jewelry as she is often in jeans and a t-shirt with baby throw-up somewhere on her person.
Mark is cranky, irritable, and resentful of the children. Instead of talking to Sancha about his concerns, he turns to his lovely assistant who is only too willing to receive him. Mark almost sleeps with her, but guilt stops him in time. He tells Sancha he might be in love with the assistant, he doesn't know. Sancha’s response is to push him away as she doesn’t want to have sex with Mark until she confirms for herself that the affair is over and they can start something new.
The problem with Mark is he doesn’t realize his wife is struggling and needs help with the kids. He doesn’t even offer to help. The problem with Sancha is her wishy-washiness over the whole thing when she should be screaming in Mark’s face and kicking him repeatedly in the balls. This man starts dating someone else without thinking about his wife who tirelessly maintains his home and takes care of his three children. Mark needs a resounding punch in the face.
The mistress turns out to be a scheming little weasel who'd do anything to keep him. She even goes to his house where his wife and children live to plead with him to stay with her. He tells Sancha, “keep her out is this,” which is annoying because she IS involved. Sancha should have pulled all her hair out.
After talking it out and spending an entire day with their kids together, Mark and Sancha seem to be on their way to repairing their marriage. Sasha promises never to neglect Mark again and Mark… well, at least he realizes he was in the wrong and he was an asshole to blame Sancha for the rift in their relationship.
In the end, I didn't feel relieved or anything. I’m still concerned whether they will have a continuous happily ever after. Mark asks Sancha not to neglect him again and Sancha agrees, but Mark doesn’t ask Sancha what he can do for her.
In conclusion, Mark is just an additional burden, seeking Sancha’s attention, just like their three kids. This is not my favorite Charlotte Lamb. The whole time I was reading it, I was anxious and not once did I feel “these two are going to be all right.” I don't believe in this HEA at all.