Prudence, I’m pleased to say, was a more substantial book than I was expecting. From its description, I figured I’d read a largely predictable, yet entertaining story about a woman who falls in love with her long-time friend while trying to comfort him through their mutual grief. That is, at best, an oversimplification of the story; it’s honestly a mischaracterization. It’s more akin to a reawakening, wherein the main character has to reconcile her vision of her life with the reality of her truth. Admittedly, I had to reread the book synopsis to check my own assumptions. Maybe I misread it. That’s not the case, but I actually enjoyed this “catfish” moment. The result was a book that constantly kept me interested and needing to figure out what secret was going to pop out next.
The book is centered on Prudence Payne. She’s a disgraced up-and-(was)coming attorney who is in a long-term relationship with a married man whose wife is well aware. She’s still reeling from the death of her best friend to cancer. She’s not even on speaking terms with her mother, and her father’s never been in her life. She’s just lost on all fronts. She didn’t seem to start the book that way, but as it continues, it’s apparent that Pru isn’t as sure of herself and her world as she once was.
I found the most drama came outside of Pru’s locus of control, because she’s always at the center of someone else’s game. She’s struggling with her eleven-year relationship with James. He more or less preyed on her when she was a young law student, and groomed her as his mistress and colleague. His recovering alcoholic wife knows about their affair and is nearing the end of her rope with her philandering husband. Pru’s caught in the middle having to decide whether to cling to the bits of hope James gives her or cut him loose for someone who will make her a priority in his life. Pru also has to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Val, to cancer. Nine months have passed, and she’s been largely missing in action from the lives of Val’s husband — and one of Pru’s closest friends — James and his two daughters. For his part, James sees Pru as the one who got away, and refuses to let her slip away from him. His mother-in-law, however, has a vendetta against Pru and will stop at nothing to keep Pru away from her family. In the midst of this, Pru begins to see her deceased friend beyond the image of perfection she created in her head, and instead recognizes that Val was a flawed woman who grappled with Pru’s presence in her family life and marriage.
Much of the conflict in this book comes from Pru’s attempts to reconcile how she’s approached her life thus far with her present situation. To be honest, I found her a bit unlikable in the beginning because she seemed passive. In many ways, her life just happened to her and she reacted accordingly. Later, however, she was able to take the reins a bit more and had the power to deal with things head on, take responsibility for her role in her problems, and move forward. I was particularly intrigued with how her approach to the men in her life shifted, between James, her friend, an ex, and others, she finally was able to show up and show out. She grew through her experiences, and I respected her for it.
This book is so full of secrets that it’s almost hard to keep up. The best way I can describe it is that everyone in this book had a secret or two, and some where more conniving than others. How much one knew depended solely on their positioning. In Pru’s world, people lived by play or get played, which manifested in ways that I couldn’t have fathomed. I spent a great deal of the book waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it did? DRAMA. I was aghast, dismayed, and everything else as the action started to pick up. Kimbrough brought a lot to this story, but her approach to telling Pru’s story was such that it never felt completely overwhelming. The suspense factor was alive and well, and I just wanted more.
I definitely recommend this book. It’s not a traditional romance, though love and lust do factor into it. The author, however, was able to couch them in a greater story about the lengths to which people will go to get what they want and keep what they’ve taken from others.