The Perfect Man by Sheila O’Flanagan has more substance than its title implies and is less heavy on the romance than one might think.


When Britt McDonagh’s literary agent can’t join her on a Caribbean cruise which she convinced Britt to do in order to promote her best-selling novel The Perfect Man, Britt enlists the help of her sister, Mia. Britt is assumed to be an expert on love based on the success of her romance novel, but since the breakup of her marriage she is certain that the perfect man is just a myth.

Single mother, Mia, does believe in soul mates. Still secretly in love with her old flame, she’s barely aware of other men. As the two sisters spend more time together than they have in years, there’s a danger that interfering in each other’s lives will push them apart forever.

This book has everything a girl looks for in a beach read: a Caribbean cruise, two single sisters ready to hit the seas together even if they don’t see eye-to-eye and a hint of impending romance.

Reading the back cover and knowing the subject of the book, I was ready to dive right in for an exciting and light read, but it turns out that O’Flanagan had different plans in this book and perhaps another title would have been more fitting.

Britt and Mia can’t stand each other at the beginning of the novel. Britt is an uptight divorce lawyer who is bitter and everything she says is cynical. She takes the fun right out of being on the all-expense paid cruise Mia needs being a single mother who hadn’t had a vacation in years. Britt brings Mia along as moral support since she dreads discussing romance and writing with the ship’s passengers and employs Mia as her assistant. The two girls come head-to-head not about Britt giving Mia too many things to do, but they bicker back and forth about romance, love, men, and even whether to relax or focus on work while aboard the ship.

In addition to the negativity between the two main characters, there are about 100 pages of back story at the beginning. I was surprised to read all this back story (which is a no-no in writing fiction 101) from a novelist who has written over 10 books, most of them being bestsellers.  After having read the book through, the back story would have been more powerful if the characters had revealed it to each other or the reader found out piece by piece.

Mia and Britt meet a few men aboard the ship, but the story focuses more on Britt and how uncomfortable she is being a best selling author and having to talk about romance. And there is lots of introspection for each character. There are a sprinkling of conversations between the female characters and the two single men on the ship. It would have been nice to see more interaction between the characters, more dialogue and action, rather than focusing on the characters’ struggles through introspection.

Mia being outgoing, appreciative and warm helps Britt to break out of her hard shell and become more relatable through the book. The book continues after the cruise when Britt goes back the Dublin and Mia to Spain. The story becomes deeper after they return to their normal lives and also gets more enjoyable. I became involved with Britt and Mia when they got home and I started to wonder what was going to happen to them.

The last third of the book was by far the best. The Perfect Man is worth a read if you’re willing to wait for it the story to pick up. Overall I did enjoy it and the going with the characters to the different locations throughout the story.