Slotting neatly into Tulipe Pascere’s ‘reality-based’ multiverse and influenced by frank TV dramas like “Sex and the City” or “The L-Word” (this novel name-checks the latter), Urban Marriage Volume 8 takes a look at love and dating for the nervous.
Where other volumes of the series focus on later-life lesbian Katie, her wife Della and her unhappy daughter, Urban Marriage 8 follows an anxious ‘Atlanta Girl’ Aubrey through the trials of online and offline dating.
With raucous, open-hearted coaching from more experienced girlfriends Charlee and Sherri, Aubrey navigates the scene, male expectations and the ‘superstitions and suppositions…stuck in our brains’.
Splicing breezy fiction with a manual of sorts for professional Christian singletons, Pascere (pseudonym for a prolific mother-daughter writing team and ‘women of faith’) strikes a brisk, matter-of-fact tone, respectful of belief and modern mores. Through its central trio’s experiences, Urban Marriage 8 places importance on female pleasure, both partnered and ‘flying solo’, without squeamishness or judgment, as well as delivering a realistic take on sexual assault and generational traumas.
Urban Marriage also offers robust advice for readers on ‘refining expectations’ in straightforward prose. Audrey proves an effective reader proxy, as she examines the reasons to embark on internet dating. Aubrey’s adventures also take in the inevitable disappointment of profile pictures set against real life, money matters, and her tendency to self-sabotage. Her coaches’ point of view proves bracingly unsentimental throughout, even for net-savvy daters well versed in the pitfalls of mismatched priorities.
As with other novels in the series, though Aubrey connects with the wider network of female characters and their relationships, Urban Marriage 8 works as a solid, stand-alone story. It also doesn’t shy away from poking at established stereotypes, or from an ambiguous ending for Aubrey: in life, in marriage and fiction, a happy ending is by no means guaranteed.