Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior by Charlotte Rains Dixon is an appropriately titled romp opening with best-selling author Emma Jean Sullivan pitching her latest novel, “The Winemaker’s Wife.” Readers quickly get a sense of Emma Jean’s self-centered character during a book signing. She alternately gushes to fans in her affected Southern accent or snaps at them, including turning on a customer with a crying child. Unfortunately, Emma’s newest novel isn't selling quite as robustly as her previous novels. This she attributes in part to an Oxford Review article that calls her narrative snarky, among other less charitable adjectives. Her “bad behavior”—rudeness to staff, store patrons, and fans—takes a turn for the worse when she falls at first sight for a fan’s husband, who is buying the book for his wife. A brief but torrid affair follows, which forces Emma Jean to reconsider her long-held “baby hater” reputation.
Emma Jean’s “bad behavior” isn’t limited to rudeness and unfaithfulness to her husband. After determining that she should try to be kinder to people (in response to the snarkiness review) and that she should cultivate a best friend (after mentally polling her acquaintances and discovering that none of them currently qualified), she turns on a writing student while under the influence of a few glasses of complimentary wine on her plane home. Unfortunately, her sharing that the student’s memoir was likely fabricated leads to an expose that beleaguers Emma Jean’s student, whose book has topped the best-seller list.
As Emma Jean’s idyllic life unravels spectacularly—her book sales flounder, she learns that she’s pregnant by her lover and not her husband, her bank account is dwindling as her soon-to-be-ex-husband spends her money for his new wine business, and her lover leaves her—she flails about for help. Emma turns to her Aunt Cleo, who raised her after her mother was killed running with the bulls, and relocates to help her aunt in her art gallery business. New characters are introduced into her life who seem willing to reach out to Emma Jean—something she is unaccustomed to. As Emma Jean learns to give more than to receive, Emma Jean’s good behavior brings her healing and reunion with the people she loves.
Dixon has written more than a spicy romance. Emma Jean is smart, with colorful analogies, and a redemptive story line for a character that readers may not like very much in the first few chapters. After all, she does demonstrate astoundingly bad behavior and has character flaws galore. However, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” is a suitable theme for this work, since Emma seems to fall short of the high standards she continuously set for those around her, and when she was finally able to forgive herself and others for their faults, Emma found herself surrounded by the people she valued most.
Emma Jean's Bad Behavior was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press.