Title: Been There, Married That
Author: Gigi Levangie
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: February 11, 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Summary: Agnes Murphy Nash has been married to big shot movie producer Trevor Nash for over a decade, but Trevor has decided he needs out of the marriage. Completely caught off guard, Agnes does the only sensible thing and chooses to fight tooth and nail for custody of their tween daughter Pep (short for Penelope), hoping that giving in on everything else won’t prolong their Hollywood-style divorce. Unfortunately, Trevor is determined to make her life a living hell, throwing wrenches into her life so he comes out looking his best. But, with a trio of Spanish speaking employees and a criminally inclined younger sister, Agnes has more than enough ammo to fight with.
I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be a witty and, perhaps, sarcastically funny take on the lives of the Hollywood elite. Considering I live in LA and have met aspiring actors, an artist, and music producers (plus my daughter’s dance teacher is married to a cameraman), I was hoping for a really funny novel that was both hilariously familiar and shockingly revealing. Instead, the attempts at humor made me roll my eyes and cringe, and wonder about how accurate the portrayals of the Hollywood folk were.
The Characters: All About the Supporting Cast
I loved the supporting cast. The Triplets, as the three Hispanic ladies who worked for the Nash family were called; Fin, Agnes’s prison-prone younger sister; and Pep, the spunky tween caught between her parents. They were amazing, amusing, and really added color to the story. They were really the only reason why I kept reading. They were the funny ones.
Agnes and Trevor annoyed me. I didn’t understand them, either as individuals or as a unit. Both were rather one dimensional. Agnes, the narrator, painted herself as, basically, a nobody in Hollywood who happened to strike it rich when Trevor encountered her and fell madly in love. Sure, her fight against Trevor during their divorce proceedings showed she had a backbone, but it also showed how bland she probably had been before the start of the story. Overall, she wasn’t really interesting and fell into traps far too easily for someone who had spent over a decade as a Hollywood wife. Trevor was so annoying I just wanted to strangle him. He was manipulative and Agnes never seemed to see through him. I don’t even understand why he wanted to marry Agnes when, as a big shot producer, he could have literally had any woman in town. He was little more than a grown child who hid behind his lawyers. I could see why Agnes wanted to marry him, but I couldn’t fathom why he wanted to marry her.
The Setting: Comfortably LA
Set almost entirely in LA, the setting was familiar, and probably my favorite part of the book. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy books that use places I know. And I know LA. It was a bit like reading a piece of home. Not only were the streets familiar, but the behaviors as well.
Whenever my husband and I drive through the city, we like to remark on the big expensive houses in quiet neighborhood pockets. We always ask each other what people must do to be able to afford those homes, as well as what they do in their homes. Well, guess now I know. It was fun and comforting. I loved that this book felt far from touristy as Agnes traveled around, yet still managed to maintain the air of LA.
It also really did feel like LA, complete with the flashy celebrities zooming around, acting elitist, and spinning stickier webs than a spider can. As someone who knows the city, but isn’t intimately familiar with the Hollywood lifestyle, I did wonder just how accurate it was, and how overblown it might be, but I somehow doubt it was too over exaggerated. It was both amusing and cringe worthy.
The Plot: Built Up Far Too High
My biggest problem with this book was the ending. The whole book felt like it was building up towards something, but the end fell completely flat. It almost felt as though the author had just run out of steam and decided to tie the story up with a neat little bow. It was too perfect and too sudden. Perhaps the story had begun to spin a little out of control and necessitated a quick tie up, but it felt forced.
This was the story of a regular woman who became a Hollywood wife whose husband decided he no longer wanted to be married to her (how Hollywood) and wanted to make her life a living hell just so he could win. I thought it might be funny, but it came off as more inane. Some of it made sense and some of it didn’t. If I had been Agnes, I would have been dancing in the streets when Trevor said he wanted a divorce. Their relationship was so bizarre and I just didn’t get the sense either of them even cared about the other. It felt more like Agnes stayed for the lifestyle. I expected, since this is women’s fiction, that she would face difficulties (I suppose divorce from a big shot producer and loss of current lifestyle could be considered difficulties to her) and find a way to rise from the ashes. I did love that she was a devoted mother, more devoted than some other mothers I’ve read about this past year, but she didn’t seem to really struggle and everything she needed just happened to fall neatly in her lap. Oh, to be a Hollywood wife!
To put it mildly, the story bothered me. Too much didn’t make much sense to me and Agnes got on my nerves after awhile. She let things happen to her when she should have known her husband better and just should have known better in general. Instead, she was gullible and it made me cringe too many times while reading.
Overall: And the Award Goes to the Supporting Cast
Overall, I enjoyed the setting and I adored the supporting cast. The main characters were annoying and the plot was almost cringe-worthy. Some of it was fun to read, but too much had me asking why. I suppose to some this might be a fun novel and perhaps it would be fun to laugh at the Hollywood lifestyle, but, personally, I found it to be more lackluster than glittery.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.