BOOK CLUB: How to be Second Best

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Author: Jessica Dettman
ISBN: 9781460755969
RRP: $32.99
Publication Date: 1st January 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

How to Be Second Best is the debut of Jessica Dettman, a modern comedy about the way we compete in our every day lives.

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.

Modern parenting and blended families definitely set the scene for some great comedic moments, and some tugging on the heartstrings both to warm and break. It sounds like this could be quite a relatable story and packed with entertainment. I look forward to reading it.

In the meantime, thanks to Harper Collins 30 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading How to Be Second Best and you can read what they thought in the comments below. Please be aware there may be spoilers.

How to Be Second Best is published by Harper Collins and is available now where all good books are sold.

30 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: How to be Second Best

  1. “How To Be Second Best” is a novel that successfully walks the fine line between realistically funny and completely disconnected from the real world. Many readers are going to recognise pieces of themselves in this book; in particular, mothers, regardless of their relationship status, will find a lot that resonates.

    Emma’s second child is only a few weeks old when her husband Troy admits he’s got another daughter, also only a few weeks old, and a few suburbs away. He swiftly leaves Emma and their children for Helen and their daughter. Before long Helen and Troy move in only three doors up from Emma; and even faster than that, Emma finds she’s somehow doing most of the parenting for all three children.

    Three years later, Emma is fed up, but doesn’t know how to change the situation without making things awful for the kids. The novel follows Emma as she tries to protect the kids, make the parenting arrangements fairer, re-establish her career, and tentatively re-enter the world of dating. Naturally, not much goes smoothly.

    Although a fair bit of the humor is derived from the kids, I’d call this a novel about relationships rather than parenting. There’s a relatability to Emma’s insecurities and attempts to do the right thing that most people will recognise. And although I laughed a lot, I also empathised with Emma’s worries and her day to day challenges.

    Although the situations in the novel are heightened, this takes a look at some of the challenges of co-parenting, new spouses, and step children. It also takes a passing interest in parenting dilemmas and extended family. Overall, though, Dettmann seems most interested in Emma’s internal life and feelings.

    This was a hugely enjoyable novel. It’s well written and easy to devour; the gloss of humor doesn’t hide the fact there’s some real substance to the novel. The characters are well drawn and believable. You’ve probably met someone similar to all of them. Frankly, there was nothing I disliked about this novel – it was just a fun read with a little to think about.

  2. I absolutely love how this book is written by Jessica Dettmann, full of gusto and humour. I cant wait for her next book.
    It is definitely heart-warming, real life drama mixed with a lot of laughs as well.
    This novel looks into the life of modern parenting and how we try to keep up with society and put on a brave front.
    Emma, whom is the main character, is thrown in to massive turmoil and it is a matter of showing everyone how good she can be. But what she realises is that it is ok to be second best.
    Thanks B&L and Harper Collins for another ripper book.

  3. Emma is a divorced single mother of 3 years. Emma has patience and love and a strength driven by a need to do what she can for her two children, Tim and Freya. She is however in an unusual situation with her ex-husband Troy, his new wife Helen and daughter Lola. Emma does what she can to keep the new family dynamics running smoothly, however in doing this Emma is being taken advantage of and not being appreciated for all her help.

    This book follows Emma’s realisation that her and Troy her ex-husband is not getting back together, and it follows her through all kinds of amusing trouble (adventures) while sorting out the mess that is her life.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins Books for the opportunity to read ‘How to be second best’ By Jessica Dettmann. I loved this book. I loved the main character Emma. I loved the light, realistic and humorous approach of the book. I could see myself in both Emma’s character and I could easily relate to her story.

    I also love Emma’s family. Even though it can be hard to hear the truth at times I think we all need a blunt (out of love) talking sister and a caring, but also not afraid to tell it like it is Dad.

  4. How to be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann is a light-hearted, funny book that I could not put down. From the very first chapter where Emma finds out that her newborn daughter has a sister the same age because of her cheating husband, to where Emma ends up being the main caregiver when her ex-husband & his new wife move in 3 doors down to when Emma, 3 years later, realises that her life is actually a complete mess. The whole thing had me smiling. I’ve really enjoyed this debut novel & I look foward to upcoming books by the author.

    Thanks Beauty & Lace & Harper Collins !

  5. How to be Second Best is the first novel by Jessica Dettmann. and is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Emma finds out her husband has fathered another child born around the same time as her daughter Freya. Her husband Troy leaves her to live with Helen and their daughter Lola. They eventually move to 3 houses away from Emma, who ends up providing an almost permanent child minding service for Lola.

    The story is an amusing look at how Emma finally realises to step back from being so helpful, and takes her first steps towards making a new life for herself.

    An entertaining look at modern blended families.

  6. Thankyou to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read How to be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann.

    I thouroughly enjoyed this book. Emma tells her story in a hilarious way. Her life is in turmoil! Her husband had an affair during Emma’s second pregnancy and fathers a child. He leaves Emma for his new family. Emma has become a single mum with 2 kids.

    Three years on she realises that she can’t be every thing to every body and it is OK to be second best !

    The characters are likeable and entertaining. Emma herself, her children, her ex, his new wife and child. Her sister, Dad, and new male friends.
    It is such fun enjoyable read, thouroughly recommend it!

    Look forward to her next book, definitely a 5 star read!

  7. Thankyou Beautyand lace and HarperCollins for the opportunity to review ‘How to be Secnd Best’ by Jessica Dettman.
    This was such a funny book, wonderful humour and wit, I really, really enjoyed it.

    Emma is own her own with two small children, Tim, (at school) and Freya (three). Her ex husband Troy and his new wife Helen just live a few doors away.
    Troy left Emma over three years ago to be with Helen who was pregrant to him with Lola their daughter born just before Freya.
    Troy and Helen have an arrangement which means Emma is practically bringing up Lola having to take her to preschool with Freya as well as ballet, gymnastics, swimming, karate and french..
    Emma seems happy to have Lola and with the arrangement, however, everybody tries to tell her she’s being taken advantage of, convincing her she’s a doormat..
    The humour is so clever, Emma is a delightful character, with warts and all.
    5 stars from me!

  8. Thank you Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to review “How to be second best” by Jessica Dettman.

    I devoured this book from beginning to end! It was so refreshing to read a chick lit that was both having me giggle and relate one minute, to feeling like I needed to wipe a tear away.

    The main character ‘Emma’ is written in the first person and she comes across as very personable and the way the author uses great turns of phrases makes you connect with all of Emma’s plights, whether that be relating or feeling for her or being frustrated with her!

    I absolutely loved this book and thoroughly recommend this book as a good, lovely, lighthearted read.

  9. Jessica Dettmann has written a splendid narrative about the whacky situations families can turn into in todays world. Although the situation in the story seems super crazy and totally beyond the realm of reality it creates a fabulous backdrop for the drama that unfolds within Dettmann’s book.
    Emma is a warm, bright and intetesting character who dedicates herself to her children, others children, ex partners/husbands and inlaws. She doesn’t know how to move on, how to rebuild her life and how to create her own unique family situation which does not leave her a slave go regret, psdt loves, children and doing what others believe is the right thing to do.
    it was a light, funny, and charming story which pulled at my heartstrings.
    A delightfully charming perspective created from emotions and chaos, a terrible divorce, betrail, changes in perspectives and adding the winding road of new relationships and moving forward into life.
    Thankyou for allowing me the chance to read this delightful novel.
    I feel if I write more I will give way the plot of the narrative. Read and enjoy it.

  10. I love this novel! ‘How to be Second Best’ is anything but second best.

    This story will take you through the highs and lows of parenthood and the dramas of modern relationships. Emmas story of mangled relationships, the love of her children (and her ex-husbands daughter) and her relationship with her sister and father make for an amazing read! Her journey of self discovery is heartwarming.

    Some parts are so funny (the party at Troys house and the impact on the stairs made me laugh out loud) and other parts a little sad, but this novel is always entertaining.

    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this novel – a must read for anyone and everyone! I look forward to future novels from Jessica Dettman!

  11. Jessica Dettman’s debut novel “How To Be Second Best” is so delightful, humorous and heartwarming, that I easily read it cover-to-cover. The book is a wonderful celebration of the craziness, joys and drama of various forms of relationships with a great cast of characters and a charming and relatable main protagonist in Emma.

    As Emma navigates her way through modern parenting, blended families, romance, friendships and familial relationships it is easy to identify with her experiences and to sympathise with her insecurities, hopes and fears. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for me and I thoroughly enjoyed How to Be Second Best and I’m sure it will resonate with many readers.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and HarperCollins Australia!

  12. Thank you for the opportunity to read How to be Second Best!

    I absolutely loved this book! I highly recommend reading this book as I just couldn’t put it down and will definitely be looking out for more books by Jessica Dettman.

  13. This book is different to the genre I usually read. It delves into modern life which the reader can readily relate to. We have all been through some of the things that the main characters are experiencing. It is told through the eyes of Emma, a single mother of 2 children, her ex-husband and his new wife and their child, and the dilemmas of co-parenting. She wants to prove that she is in control of any situation even when going through utter turmoil and thinks she has pulled it all off. and is handling everything perfectly. Or is she?

    Jessica Dettmann writes this novel with extreme wit, deprecating humour and utter reality for the reader. I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one. Thank you to Beauty and Lace, Harper Collins and Jessica Dettmann for allowing me the pleasure of reading this novel

  14. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for allowing me to review “How to be Second Best” by Jessica Dettmann.

    The story of Emma who has her second child Freya only to find out her husband has just had a child, also the same age as Freya, with another woman. Her life is thrown out from that moment. Her ex husband, Troy moves out, marries and decides to live only a few houses down from Emma, with his new wife Helen and child, Lola.

    Emma becomes almost a part time mother to Lola, taking her to all her appointments, classes etc and also trying to be the best ex-wife she can be as well and single mother to her own two children. But after 3 years of trying to keep up she ends up realising her ex-husband is not coming back and she need to move on.

    She gets back into editing, which she once did before having children, and starts to find her feet and realise she doesn’t always have to be second best. She starts to live a bit more for herself and stands up for herself more. She has a very honest sister in Laura and I think it is just what Emma needs at times, having lost her mother at a young age.

    I really enjoyed this book and there were times I think I could relate to the motherhood side of things. It had some good witty fun parts. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I could have read it quicker than I did. All in all, it was a nice, fun, real story.

  15. My copy of ‘How to be second best’ got lost in the mail, but I am so happy that it managed to find its way to me two days ago. In two days I’ve read the whole thing! I loved this story. It was funny and very relatable to a lot of people who deal with similar issues in blended families. I only wished that there was a little part at the end – one year later – or something like that to just finish the story off absolutely perfectly.

    I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for any more books by Jessica Dettmann. Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me review this wonderful book >:o)

  16. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read How to Be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann.
    I really enjoyed reading this modern day story about parenting and the complicated relationships that couples have with their ex-partners and when co-parenting your ex’s love child is involved it has another layer of complexity!

    We all have such busy hectic lives and the pressures we put on ourselves to be the perfect wife and mother, having a career, trying to fit in with the school mums etc, it’s never ending! Emma, is trying to juggle her life and find level of normality in this unusual partnership and some of the situations she ties herself up with are both funny, heartwarming and sad in parts.

    I really enjoyed reading this witty, funny book and there was so many motherhood scenarios I could easily relate to, I had good giggle in parts.
    At the end of the day, you do the best that you can ……and sometimes second best is good enough!

  17. Emma is 36 years-old and has two young children, Tim, aged 6, and 3 year-old Freya.
    She is also a step-mum to Lola, also aged 3. She loves all of them dearly and always puts them before her own needs.
    Her ex-husband Troy left her when he fell in love with his Pilates instructor, Helen, 14 years his junior, and together they had Lola.
    Unfortunately, Emma only found out about his affair when Freya was just a few weeks old.
    She was left to raise her two children on her own, and not only that, but has also helped co-parent Lola, and over the years, she has become more involved in Lola’s life and sees her more than what her own parents do.
    Put simply, Emma is being taken advantage of by Troy and Helen, and one day she realises that she needs to stop making things so convenient for the happy couple.
    Instead of trying to be the best of everything, she is going to try and move on and start to rediscover the woman she once was.
    This journey finds her thrown into some hilarious situations; I laughed out loud at so many parts of this book.
    It was fabulous and funny, and totally relatable. I found myself nodding along to quite a few things that I could relate to.
    I absolutely adored How To Be Second Best by Jessica Dettman, and was so surprised to find out that this was a debut novel. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to Harper Collins Australia and Bauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  18. I finished this book in one sitting!

    Emma, is a perfect example a woman not wanting people to think badly of you no matter what life throws at you. Practically being a second mother to the child of her ex husband and his new wife. All the while juggling single motherhood with a career. Until she realises she needs to stop being so accommodating and think of herself and her own happiness. Sometimes second best isn’t the worst thing in the world.

    Jessica has written such great characters whom you are cheering for. There were parts where I laughed out loud (embarrassingly when I was on the train) and so many “me too” moments.

  19. At different times both humorous and heartbreaking, How to Be Second Best is a great read. My favourite thing about the book was the fantastic characters. Emma is likeable and relateable and the children sweet and funny. Troy clearly is a jerk who has no idea, but the combination with Helen, Emma’s sister and father, and Phillip the emotional support peacock (!) is fabulous. Will definitely recommend!

  20. I cannot recommend “How to be Second Best” by Jessica Dettman, enough. This light-hearted, comedic saga of Emma’s account of her daily life and struggles, modern relationships and family dynamics, explodes on the pages in a relatable and humorous style that implores the reader to keep reading.
    The story follows Emma’s journey as she navigates a broken marriage, blended and extended families, her career, discovering new love and, most of all, finding out that it is ok to be second best!
    The characters are well developed and realistic. The plot is easy to follow and exciting. Pick up a copy of this book and you will not be disappointed!

  21. I really enjoyed this book. An easy read, a story that makes you think, a main character who I’d love to have as a friend and, at times, I laughed out loud. I’m looking forward to reading Jessica Dettman’s next novel

  22. How to best second best best is a light hearted easy read. It is about s mother who is always trying g to do her best for her children, often forgetting herself. She has to learn that she can’t be the best at everything and it’s OK to be second best.
    It touches on some really current issues about being a perfect mum and step-mom.
    It made me reflect on how I parent and try to be OK with not being perfect.
    Loved it, shared it with family and looking forward to getting it back to read again!

  23. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review How to be Second Best, the debut novel of Jessica Dettman which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Shortly after the birth of her second child, Freya, Emma discovers that her husband Troy has been having an affair with his Pilates instructor, Helen. The discovery is made when Troy calls their new baby Lola and admits that this is the name of his and Helen’s daughter born just a couple of weeks earlier.

    While most of us would react strongly, and probably quite negatively, to this news, Emma decides to accept her husband’s assertions that he still loves her, but needs to live with Helen because she is a first time mother and he knows how strong Emma is and that she will be okay without him!

    Somehow this morphs into Emma looking after Lola, well, an awful lot, and even on the days she registers that perhaps, maybe, she is being taken advantage of, she finds herself powerless to do anything about it because Freya and Lola have bonded so strongly.

    As we follow Emma’s story, alternately laughing and cringing at the situation, it becomes abundantly clear that this is not the way to manage an amicable breakup/divorce.

    This is a beautifully written book about the roles we play, the concessions we make, and the justifications we state in order to make ourselves feel better about the situations we are in, and about what happens when we decide to challenge who we think we are, in order to become the person we know we should be.

    Highly recommended 4.5 stars.

  24. How To Be Second Best is a light-hearted and charming novel about Emma, a divorced mother of two. Emma’s ex fathered a baby with another woman at the same time that Emma fell pregnant, and subsequently he left Emma to move into a house down the street with his new wife. In her quest to be seen as a better mother, Emma looks after her ex’s little girl while juggling her work around her own kids’ schedules.

    Eventually Emma realises that it is time to stop being a door mat and to move on, and to accept being second best as she navigates motherhood, new love and other parents in her neighbourhood.

    An accomplished debut novel that is engaging, humorous, and totally relatable as a mother myself.

    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and HarperCollins for the chance to read and review How To Be Second Best!

  25. What a great book this was! I really enjoyed reading this. Jessica Dettmann writes with tongue in cheek humour which made me laugh. I could relate to some of the things that Emma went through with her kids. I even loved some of the referances to my past. For example the babycino cup with an interior like the Tardis (you have to be a Doctor Who fan to appreciate this reference).

    Do yourself a favour and read this book. You’ll be glad that you did!

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read this.

  26. Thank you Beauty and Lace & Harper Collins for the opportunity to review How to Be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann.
    This was an easy read with likeable characters, I had many laughs and tears from start to finish.
    A fantastic debut novel , I look forward to reading more novels from Jessica. A totally relatable book.
    4 /5 stars

  27. How to be Second Best by Jessica Dettmann is a light-hearted, funny book that I could not put down.
    Emma finds out, after she gives birth, that her children have a half sister the same age as her new daughter.
    Poor Emma is used by her ex-husband and his new wife to raise the child and then made to feel like they are doing her a favor. Till she realizes that she needs to stop being a doormat and start doing what is right for her.
    A great book by Jessica Dettmann.

  28. I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Jessica Dettmann.
    This is everyday life with all its challenges in a modern world. Where we mums try and juggle divorce, relationships, kids and work. This book made me laugh quite a bit. What a dysfunctional family, but also functional at a cost. taught me to stop and take a look at the general picture and put yourself first sometimes.
    A great light hearted story.

  29. How to be second best by Jessica Dettman is the first novel for Jessica and this book is really heart warming and captures modern day society with blended families and I especially loved the social media influencers who got a mention. I thought Emma’s take on influencers was very similar to mine and found it quite amusing.
    I really enjoyed how the book was written, in some parts I felt it was a bit slow but over all it was a good book. It left me feeling like I wanted more.
    Emma and her sisters relationship was special and enjoyed reading about their bond.
    I think Jessica has was very descriptive and felt I could picture the characters and how they would look in real life.
    Thank you beauty and lace for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

  30. I loved this book. At the start I was wondering how on earth Emma managed to get herself into such a crazy situation, but very quickly, as I got to know her, I realised that the book was a brilliant demonstration of how easy it is for good intentions to result in unintended consequences, and how trying to do your best by everybody can lead to no-one being happy. The book was highly engaging – both very funny and poignant, and I enjoyed the small insights into the behind-the-scenes life of an editor, being written by an editor about an editor. I highly recommend it, and look forward to more books by Jessica Dettman!

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this book.

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