by Taylor Hahn
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Anchor Books
Number of pages: 336
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Women’s Fiction (Contemporary Romance*)
Ages 15 and up
Georgina Wagman has it all—a great marriage, a great job at a prestigious law firm, and great friends. She’s living the life she always wanted, and everything is perfect. Until, that is, she walks in on her husband Nathan in a compromising position with a junior associate. Georgina has a moment of crisis. But divorce is not a part of the five-year plan, so she comes up with an idea to save her marriage and recapture the spark. She and Nathan are going to become swingers.
Georgina isn’t going to embark on this adventure alone, though. Her friends Felix and Norah and their respective partners decide to tag along for the ride. They’ve got relationship woes of their own that swinging just might fix. Georgina, convinced Felix and Norah belong together, is thrilled. What better place to reignite romance between two people destined to be together than a swingers’ party? Her plan is foolproof, until she runs into a college ex at the first party. When they reconnect, Georgina will find herself torn between her head and her heart, with her very happiness hanging in the balance. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella, The Lifestyle is a playful homage to Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse and an outrageously fun summer read.
I had my reservations about requesting an ARC of this story. While I love the description, the use of an illustrated cover had me questioning the actual content. I should have stuck with my gut. The story is not bad. It’s also not at all what is advertised. Quotes from other authors saying it’s hilarious and sexy. Calling it heartwarming and a beach read. I found none of these things to be true. Like I said, it’s not bad. I went into this book expecting a whole other story than what I got.
One of the things that had me interested is the reference to Jane Austen’s Emma. I love Jane Austen. Emma is by no stretch my favorite, but still. Now, I will say there are certainly times that it’s obvious that story was an inspiration for this story. Yet somehow, in this day and age, the way the MFC was written did not work for me. I even thought, at first, I was being too harsh on Georgina. I did the little test with my self whenever she would annoy me asking, “if this was a MMC would I still have issue with her actions?” The answer was always yes.
*This is marketed as a contemporary romance. In my mind it is women’s fiction. I never felt the romance was central to the story. At one point, I wondered who I was supposed to be rooting for to get their HEA or HFN. While it would seem this story would be about Georgina and her marriage, it really wasn’t. Only in a peripheral way.
I love Georgina’s best friends. While I think there are times they should maybe be a bit more blunt with her, they are really what kept me reading this story. At times, I still didn’t know who or what I was rooting for in their situations since we see everything from Georgina’s point of view, but I knew her viewpoint was skewed. (That is not a knock on the storytelling, it is obviously intentional for the reader to see Georgina has her own way of viewing her surroundings.)
Now let me get to the meat of this story…the lifestyle. The swinging lifestyle that is. After what I’ve said so far, it may surprise you that I feel the author did a good job of laying out the “rules”, so to speak. Georgina is told on multiple occasions that in order for the lifestyle to work for a couple they have to be open about what they want and need, they have to be honest about what happens while they are at a party or other lifestyle situation, they have to communicate above all else. At no time in this story do Georgina or her husband actually communicate. While I’m pretty sure that’s intentional, it isn’t ever really addressed by any of the other characters. Not even the old-timers who have been swinging for years and years. While Georgina is crumbling not only her own life and relationship, she’s wreaking havoc on the others in the group they were invited to join. I understand being patient and giving newbies leeway, but it goes beyond that and it was annoying.
There is a distinct lack of intimacy in this book. I’m not just talking about sex, although that was extremely tame. I mean, it barely banged and it’s supposed to be about a woman exploring the swinging lifestyle. But even putting that aside, there were not many moments of intimacy. Not between Georgina and her husband. Not between her and her friends. Not even much between her and her old boyfriend. This story is really about a woman who has to make some discoveries about herself and learn what she really wants in life and what will make her happy. It’s not about romance, her marriage, or the lifestyle. It’s not a funny book at all. In fact, I found it quite depressing.
Although time got a bit wonky in this book (mostly because nobody seemed to talk to one another), it had a decent flow for the most part. I would have loved to see more of a connection between all of the characters. I want to believe they actually care about each other and not just themselves. So much could have been done with this concept and it just fell flat.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**