How to Be Second Best

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

“I am in the kitchen making tea for my husband’s current wife.”

How to Be Second Best was a very different story and I really enjoyed the uniqueness of it. The topic chosen is probably not common in real life, but it could happen. The protagonist, Emma is a very unique character and even though she was being used throughout the entire book, she was one amazing person and seemed to do what she did for the benefits of her children. 

“Outsiders assume it takes a staggering amount of goodwill and personal largesse for me to care for my husband and his new wife’s child like this, and that assumption, though wrong, is fine by me. If people want to think I’m a wonderful person for minding Lola, they’re very welcome. Frankly, I’d rather they thought that than the truth, which is that I am a pushover.”

I felt for Emma, she held onto the hope that her husband would come back to her one day and any tiny gesture of that, the hope grew. Helen used Emma for her lovely, giving nature and  was very passive aggressive and condescending when dealing with her and she used her for childcare so she could continue her career. Even though Emma was single-handedly bringing up 3 children (only 2 were hers), she still had lots of doubts about her success as a mother, her mum never got a chance to see her as a mum and tell her she was doing a good job. Her sister Laura was constantly telling her she was doing a great job.

“She never got to see me be a mum...she got to see you do it and you knew she thought you were good at it. I don’t know if I’m doing it right and I never will...you’re doing it right...Mum would think you’re an amazing mother, Em. You just need to make sure you’re an amazing Emma as well.”

I really enjoyed the part where Emma left everyone to go away and ‘find herself’, for once she was the selfish one! Her experiences while she was away were very entertaining and helped her deal with what happened when she returned.

“My small bag, with everything I think I’ll need for three days,contains less than I would take out with me for a walk to the shops with my children. It’s a marvel. I start to feel the tiniest twinges of excitement.”

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for a bit of light hearted reading, but it also deals with some issues that families might have.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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It took me a little bit to get into this book, but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The author is very funny and offered a unique premise: becoming the "au pair" type person to your husband's new wife's daughter.  I really liked the character development and enjoyed the adventures that occurred throughout the book.  I would love to hear more from this author and was glad that I got the chance to read this book.  Thanks for the ARC, Net Galley.
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Emma was shocked and devastated when her husband Troy admitted to fathering another child around the same time as their daughter Freya was born. When he left to live with Helen and daughter Lola, he left Emma as a single mother to Tim and Freya. But it was them moving three doors down from Emma, then having her look after Lola with her two while both Troy and Helen worked, that slowly ate at Emma’s confidence. She was being used – big time – and she didn’t realise it. She was in effect, a single mother of three children…

As Emma tried to be the best at everything she did – mother, ex-wife, step-mother, sister, daughter, editor – she concluded (with much prompting from her Dad and sister Laura) that this wasn’t the life she wanted. But could she change it? What would it take to make Emma take stock of her life?

How to be Second Best by Aussie author Jessica Dettmann is an intriguing, at times laugh out loud, heartwarming debut novel which I quite enjoyed. Set in Sydney in an exclusive suburb where being competitive was as natural as breathing, the author has created an amusing, dramatic story, with much angst and “drama queen” moments while showing the ups and downs of modern parenting. Recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved this book and the character of Emma.  She has the odd "job" of taking care of her ex's child with his new wife.  This book had me saying "aw..H@## no!!!"  A much-needed break from the heavy drama thrillers.
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This book made me so angry at first, Emma was such a pushover and I have to admit I wonder if she was just plain stupid. After she had her second baby, she founds out her husband is cheating on and the other woman just had a baby as well. She somehow let him convince her that the other woman needs him more and he still loves her. So now she's in the weird arrangement with her ex and his new wife, where she now spends most of her time with the three kids. Thankfully in the end she redeemed herself, her life was quite a mess and she needed to see her role in this mess.
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A hilarious and heart-warming debut that captures the dramas, delights, and delirium of modern parenting. This is Marian Keyes meets Allison Pearson, with a dash of Caitlin Moran.

Going from one child to two is never all that easy for a family, but when Emma's husband simultaneously fathers a third child three doors up the street, things get very tricky, very fast.

No longer is it enough for Emma to be the best wife and mother - now she's trying to be the best ex-wife and the best part-time parent to her ex's love child, and that's before she even thinks about adding a new bloke to the mix.

Set in an upwardly mobile, ultra-competitive suburb, this is a funny, biting, heartwarming modern comedy that looks at the roles we play, how we compete, and what happens when we dare to strive for second-best.



As soon as I laid eyes on this book, I knew I had to cut myself a slice of that cake! I had to read this book immediately, and the Synopsis was just the cherry on top. 

Emma, Troy, Helen, Tim, and Freya make for an excellent ensemble cast and are brought to life brilliantly by author Jessica Dettmann who has managed to capture the struggles and doubts mothers can sometimes face in everyday life. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading.

I'm pleased to say this book didn't keep me guessing, although it did keep me wanting to have continued access to Emma's take on the world, and those of the lives that live three doors up. This is why I highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a Woman's Fictional light-hearted read.

Upon reaching the final sentence, I'm extremely tempted to tell you every single event of the story from start to finish. However, I don't want to give too much away. I first noticed this book by its cover and how it really stood out to me, (not judging a book by its cover!), which is what lead me to read the blurb. It is my hope that the story is as captivating to other readers as it was for me, as it had a lot of humour and personality within its pages. 

4/5

With thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Australia Publishing for proving a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved the book!! I loved Emma but I wanted her to grow a backbone. Why couldn't she see that Troy and Helen were taking advantage of her. She was pretty much Lola's nanny without the benefit of being paid. I'm not sure how she managed to take care of her ex-husband and his new wife's child for so long. A child who was born only three weeks before her own daughter. Emma should have been glad to be rid of Troy, he wasn't that a great of a husband and didn't do much with his children. 

I loved the story, writing style and characters. It was a fun read and had many humorous moments. If I was Emma, I would have done more than just making the sink drip to annoy Helen. The BBQ, why did Emma go? Then there was the camping trip. I wasn't expecting what happened at the Fun Run. I loved the school's closet of never-ending missing items. 

Definitely recommend the book. How can you not love a book with a cake on the cover?? I can't wait to read more books by the author. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins Publishers Australia through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Super quick, fun read. I laughed out loud often while reading about Emma’s romantic escapades and her accurate depictions of motherhood. 

This was a coming-of-age type story, except Emma is rediscovering herself in part two of her life, post-divorce. In addition to coping with her divorce and single motherhood, she’s caring for her ex-husband’s love child and is a total and complete pushover. 

Dettman was able to frame her characters in such a way that you liked them despite their faults. Emma herself is very flawed but she’s lovable nonetheless. 

Thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy. I will definitely check out this author in the future!
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This is a great chick lit!  I always enjoy to take a break from my psychological thrillers and have a light read.  This one did not disappoint! Emma is a great main character and someone you want to root for.  You will definitely enjoy this one!
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Funny, but not something that I would consider a really good book. It was sort of boring and tried too hard.
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I have mixed feelings about this book and the main character. Yes there were funny parts but parts of it also made me very sad. Did Emma let everyone take advantage of her of did she do it to make herself look good. I still don't know the answer and I don't want to think that much about it.
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This is a fun, light-hearted story about relationships, with interesting characters I wanted to know more about.  It was a little predictable, but I didn't mind that. Recommended!
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Thank you Hatchett Australia  and Netgalley for an ARC of this book in return for my honest review. 

I requested a copy of this ARC  for two very valid reasons:  the cake on the cover looked amazing and it is an Australian author.  Shallow?  Perhaps,  but having been so miserably disappointed in recent attempts at this genre, being advertised as the best book to hit the shelves etc, I was dipping back to chick lit hesitantly and with low expectations.  

Thank you Joy Dettman for changing my mind and starting my reading year off with such a funny, heartwarming read.  I absolutely loved the humour used, possibly because like the author I grew up immersed in Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones,  I made so many highlights throughout the book as there were so many ”pearlers” .  Here is just one example:

‘Well here’s a tip for the future,’ I spat back at him. ‘If you have to describe your relationship with a woman who’s not your wife as “this amazing thing” and you wonder if it’s okay or not, then it’s probably not f...... okay.’

If you are looking for a funny, well written, easy read on Modern life, relationships and putting yourself first this may just be the perfect book. 

Thank you for this wonderful book.
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How To Be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann gets a solid 4 stars from me!

I got this book as an ARC and I’m obsessed. I highlighted so many passages in this book, probably because I so identified with the story. Emma is trying to do the modern mom thing - raise kids, have a job, find a relationship - and all of this after a divorce from her husband that cheated and fathered a child with his new partner. Oh and then they move just a few houses down from Emma, ha! Emma is trying to be the perfect ex-partner, bending over backwards to do everything for everyone.

This book was heartwarming, funny, and authentic. I wanted more from the ending, but no major complaints!

One of my favorite passages: “Or the girls will spot another child who has a milkshake and then they set up a two-kid lobby group to be allowed to upgrade their babycinnos to chocolate shakes. That’s always successful because by the time I’ve ordered my long black I will do almost anything to remain sitting down until I’ve drunk it. Maybe if I drank lattes I would have more power in this equation, because you can knock back a latte in eight seconds, if required. But try that with a long black and you end up with a scalded oesophagus.

So in the past I’ve found myself sitting at a table, with two toddlers armed with chocolate milkshakes as big as themselves, who then ask for toast, which is a build-up to asking for Nutella on toast, and before I know it I’ve spent twenty-five dollars and the two of them are laughing maniacally, drunk on a heady cocktail of sugar and power.”
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DNF at 29%. How To Be Second Best is a combo of light chick lit (humorous reflections on life as a mother of small children) and slightly more serious women's fiction (commentary on the tricky business of blended families, life in the suburbs, work/life balance) but I didn't find the humor amusing, and wasn't interested in the (obvious) social commentary on the messiness of modern blended family life, etc.
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How To Be Second Best by Jessica Dettman - what a great book.  It had me laughing, wanting to cry and relating to scenarios that the characters got themselves into.  I love a good light hearted read - even better when it is written by an Aussie.  It was a fun book, with characters that felt real .  Really enjoyed reading this one.

Emma's family is complicated.  She has 2 children with her ex-husband Troy.  He is now married to the glamourous pilates instructor Helen, with who he also has a child - born at the same time as his and Emma's second child. And Troy and Helen live 3 doors down.  Helen and Troy have taken advantage of Emma for the last 3 years, receiving free babysitting for their daughter because Emma wants to kids to be close (as they are half siblings) But Emma has let her life slip past her and things are starting to change.  This is a great story of family, friendships, love and moving on. Things are not always easy for Emma, but she never gives up.

Thanks to Harper Collins AU and Netgalley for my copy of this book to read. All opinions are my own and are in no way biased.
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Great story about family, and relationships. Characters that you liked and wanted to see how they developed. This made it a "cant put down" book. Would recommend !
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I haven’t read a decent chick lit for a while but I’ve kick started the year with this excellent little debut novel by Aussie Jessica Dettmann. 

The book is written in the first person point of view of Emma, a recently divorced mother of two. For the man-did-her-wrong plot, Emma’s ex, Troy, has a daughter the same age as his and Emma’s with his new wife, the Insta-glamorous Pilates instructor, Helen. To add to the tangled web, Emma not only lives in the same street as Helen and Troy but, as she juggles her work as a book editor already around her kids' schedules, she also provides free childcare for their daughter, allowing them to return to work. 

The book follows Emma’s realisation that she and Troy are not getting back together and by being so accommodating with this unconventional childcare arrangement, she is subconsciously trying to be a better mother/wife than Helen. She decides she needs to learn to be second best.  

Along the way Emma inadvertently gets into all kinds of hilarious trouble, usually in the most ordinary of places such as family birthday parties/barbeques, parent/teacher nights, public swimming pools and school camping trips. Importantly for the romantics amongst us, she also has time to squeeze in meeting two handsome potential new boyfriends.

Yes, the book is romantic but mostly it’s funny. Dettmann’s observations on parenthood especially made me laugh out loud several times. If you’ve had children and had anything to do with other parents in your local community, you’ll definitely appreciate every single scene. 

The humour was very Australian. I hope readers from other countries understand all the jokes. (I must admit the time I laughed the most was when Emma’s father took the kids to Bunnings to buy some timber and a sausage whilst she dealt with a crisis.)

I loved Emma. She’s a great character, mature despite the way she keeps landing herself in strife, and so so funny. I really enjoyed cheering her on and crossing my fingers that she reached her happy ending. 

All the supporting characters were well-written. Troy and Helen were often selfish idiots but never the complete villains. Emma’s dad and sister were great; as were both of the new men in Emma’s life. (I admit to preferring one of the men over the other but I think that was the idea.)

This is where I usually say, ‘the one thing that annoyed me was...’ but I can’t actually think of one gripe I had with this book. In fact, Dettmann and I are both hitting the ground running with this 5 out of 5.
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This was a hilarious take on one woman's life with kids after her husband leaves her for another woman.  I found myself laughing out loud at some of the little details that only a gifted writer could make funny!  I loved the evolution of Emma from doormat to a woman that is independent and capable of sticking up for herself.  This was a light and fun read!
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wow, what a fun, laugh out loud read. I loved this book way beyond what i thought i would. 
Emma is trying to navigate a pretty uniquely messy life- kids, ex husband, ex husbands new kid and wife. 
Emma is to obliging (even with her jerk of an ex husband), trying to keep her childrens lives as normal as possible and is basically a people pleaser...where most people would have distanced themselves from their ex's new family. 
This is the hilariously written story of how she handles these every day challenges and starts to come to reacquaint herself with the strong independent women she is ( with a little pushing from her family and friends) 
A fun,witty read- will definetly recommend to all my friends.
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