This is the best effort yet from the English, bestselling Maxted (Getting Over It, Behaving Like Adults, Running in Heels), who has endeared readers and critics alike with her own unique blend of heartache, hope and hope, particularly as it applies to romance. Maxted has a true gift for creating endearing characters and flushing out optimism and warmth from dismal situations. These gifts as a writer have aided not only in raising her to the forefront of chick lit authors, but elevating regard and standards for the genre itself.
In Being Committed, protagonist Hannah Lovekin (dig the name) thinks you have to be out of your mind to want to be married. She certainly has no aspirations for it herself (or does she, really?), and seems quite settled with her career as a private investigator in London, her boyfriend of 10 years, Jason, and a comforting relationship with her father (mum is another story). Besides, she tried marriage once when she was quite young and divorced before she was 21, and that experience has solidified her feelings on the subject.
Just when things are carrying along with consistency, if not predictability, Jason proposes, only to have Hannah promptly turn him down. Little does she know that one month later, hell be engaged to someone else, but if she had known, would that have changed her answer to him? Perhaps, she muses in the books onset, there might be something in his theory that being committed means first coming to terms with your past:
Every woman likes to be proposed to, even if she means to refuse. At least, until Id racked up a couple of marriage offers myself, thats what I believed. Aged fifteen, I read of one thirty-something whod totted up five and was happy to boast of it in a national newspaper. Then, I considered her lucky, glamorous, popular with boys. Everything that I, as a teenager, wasnt. (My adolescence can be summarized by one incident in which I took a gobstopper out of my mouth on a train. A man leaned forward in his seat and said, Oh! I thought you were deformed.) Years later, I realized that the proposal collector and I were a lot alike. You have to be quite a twit to allow matters to escalate to the point where some guy assumes youll agree to rely on him for your lifes entertainment when you have no intention of doing any such thing. (No man pops the question unless he is convinced of a yes. Which says not very much for the perception and self-regard of quite a few men.)
Im being harsh. If it happens once, its understandable. There are certain men who need to get married, for whom the woman is almost incidental to proceedings. The wife is the tedious yet necessary ingredient, similar to yeast in bread. This sort of man fixes on his target rather like a pit bull, and any girl who cant run fast enough is at risk. Then its not her fault. That said, sometimes it is. A persistence in finding you perfect can transform even a man of moderate charms into an accidental fiancé. I know that women, as a gender, are renowned for hankering after men one politely describes as a challenge. But Ill bet that even those men have at one point (perhaps by having sex with us) given the impression of finding us attractive. I think its instinct to gravitate toward those who find us delightful. Disagree, but youll disagree until the day you meet a person who dislikes you on sight and doesnt bother to hide it. Then youll realize theres little more repellent. You wont be able to get away quick enough. So, putting you at the right end of the desirability scale as it does, its no wonder that a marriage offer is glorious in fantasy
The fact that out of all the millions of women he has met in his life, you are the one he finds most bewitching. (Or who he thinks will have him.)
Alas. The reality of an unwanted proposal is spitefully different from the dream format I discovered this the embarrassing way. And, as I believe that it cheers the spirit to hear of another persons romantic woes now and then, I feel its only my duty to share. Patience, however. As I said, I have had two marriage offers wait! Three, now that I think about it one of which was successful. Im going to detail one here and, to reassert my dignity presently making for the hills Ive decided not to tell you which it is just yet.
When Jason rebounds to another woman, Hannah tracks him down, just as if on a case, and begs for another chance. He agrees, provided she resolve her commitment issues, see a therapist and make amends with her ex-husband. Reluctantly, she sets out on this to-do list, especially dreading a reunion with her ex, Jack, now a successful theatrical agent with whom she hasnt spoken since the divorce.
When she does so, there are a litany of revelations that come her way, and they arent at all what she anticipated. Being forced to see why her marriage crumbled comes along with some significant family baggage, and all of it leads to Hannah realizing that it might not be Jason she thinks she so desperately wants back.
Hannah narrates in a way that is clever, funny, self-deprecating and insightful, and many of Maxteds one-liners are just priceless. The plot twists work well in building towards a finale that is pleasing, while not entirely predictable, making for a thoroughly delightful read that has enough emotional heft to raise the bar for the Maxted, and the genre, again.