Cousin Myrtle - P.J. McCalla (General Fiction)
Released October 2010
Seeing friends struggle to make ends meet and eventually divorce, twenty-four-year-old Jessie knows her ticket in life was to meet and marry a rich old man. When she meets seventy-four-year-old Sam Sharpe, owner of a number of gas stations and body shops, Jessie knows he is her ticket to her desired lifestyle. Jessie does what she pleases and Sam seems to dote on her every movie. She never expects him to open their new home to his elderly cousin Myrtle though. As time passes, Jessie's resentment towards being Myrtle's caregiver grows.
Meanwhile, Myrtle realizes that Jessie's simply after a sugar daddy and definitely not the right woman for her cousin. Myrtle's been evicted from her home and sees Sam as gullible enough to taking her in for good, especially if she acts bedridden. She begins to plot to get him to see the light and remove Jessie from his life before it's too late. Myrtle's running a con of her own and she doesn't want Jessie to get in the way of her goal.
From the get-go, Myrtle is a despicable character. There is nothing redeeming about this woman. Jessie's not much better, however. I honestly hoped Sam would smarten up and kick both women out and find a gentler, kinder soul for himself.
By chapter 14, Cousin Myrtle reaches its big moment. I thoroughly believe the story could have ended there. However, it doesn't. Cousin Myrtle then continues on and deviates into Jessie's conflict between finding friends and companionship with those closer to her own age. Eventually, she makes a decision that forces her to realize she must make a choice, if it's not too late.
Cousin Myrtle's not a bad story. It is a good study into the highs and lows of large age gaps between spouses. I'm still not sure it needed the second conflict added, but that's the path the author chose.