Suddenly single, in her forties, and eager to do what it takes to start over, Elaina Samuels meets three women with similar circumstances at a cash-for-gold event. They quickly become friends and form the No Sweat Pants Allowed – Wine Club. This newly found alliance brings about some humorous escapades, a few tears, and a bond so strong no man can break as they try to cling to the past and finally step out of their comfort zones to find a happiness they thought they’d never feel again.
Discover Elaina Samuels, Tawny Westerfield, Stephanie Mathews, and Grace Cordray.
What is No Sweat Pants Allowed- Wine Club about?
This book is about a group of women in their forties discovering new bonds of friendship and moving forward after the seeming collapse of their lives. Divorce, death, drama, all of these factors are bringing perfect storms into the lives of Elaina, Tawny, Steph, and Grace. The four meet at the strangest of crossroads: a pawn shop. From there, they form a friendship.
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Lit
I’m not sure I like the genre label “women’s lit” but that is for sure what this book falls into. It’s contemporarily set and 100% written for an older audience of women.
Tropes: Friendship Cures All (But also dates)
Pretty much all of the conflict in the novel is set up to be solved by the power of friendship, which is kind of a fun trope in this case! But of course, by the end of the book, romantic relationships are back on the scene.
Plot: The Lonely Ex-Housewives of Cherry Ridge
The whole plot of the story is primarily focused on Elaina, the narrator, but also on her new friends. The four of them are lonely, alone, and in need of a change. By forming a friendship, and the progression of their friendship and wine club, they pull themselves out of deepening holes of depression.
I thought that the concept–four women in their forties coming together to be roommates and good friends–was a great one. It promotes the idea that even later in life a shift in lifestyle is sometimes the right choice, and I liked that the initial direction of the book was to reaffirm platonic friendship and the idea of having roommates later in life.
There was a lot of preaching in this book. The main character, Elaina, owns a gym/fitness studio and promotes her version of a healthy lifestyle throughout the book. One of the other characters does want to change her lifestyle to be healthier, and while Elaina does try to work with her to change her mindset to focus on health rather than factors like weight, there’s still a lot of preachy “my way or the highway” bits. Also, at one point they all go to church and act like that’s a huge revelation in having better lives, which didn’t sit well with me.
I was disappointed that romance was part of all of their stories. Each woman is facing a different issue with romance at the start: divorce, widowing, etc. The only character whose romantic subplot I really liked was Grace’s, as her mourning period for her husband had gone on so long she was forgetting to enjoy life. Her plot was about moving forward towards new happiness, and so I was happy to see her begin to dip her toes into romance. The rest of the characters really didn’t need to be rushing towards new men, though, and it felt kind of contradictory to start the story in a place of “we just need each other” and end with each of the women neatly paired off.
Altogether this wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely took a direction I didn’t enjoy. I liked the premise well enough because it’s not often you read about women in their forties becoming roommates and that being positive. I enjoyed the parts of the story that focused on how the women challenged each other to grow and make positive change in their lives. However, the constant preachy nature of the diet and exercise routines and the end result of the pairing off with men was disappointing. It felt like I’d been promised a story of independence and growth only to be told “lose weight and get a man, you’ll be set!” Which is also disappointing when you consider that those things did not solve all the characters’ problems.