Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough, writes: "Ask any 40-year-old single woman what she most longs for in life and she [will] probably tell you ... [it] is a husband [and, by extension, a child]."

No wonder Gottlieb has whipped up such a storm.

Give it a thought

My initial instinct was to laugh and agree with Gottlieb's vociferous detractors. It seems ludicrous that a woman should put up with, as Gottlieb suggests, a widower with nightmare children, still grieving for his dead wife, just for the sake of being able to call herself "Mrs". Yet, I wonder if she has a point.

I am talking about those women who have wanted marriage and children but missed out. Is it possible for women to "sell their soul" to someone who doesn't do it for them?

Well, dare I say it: "Yes we can!" Let's first dissect this idea of "settling". Many of us have failed to recognise a potential partner because we were too busy waiting for some Richard Gere lookalike to turn up and re-enact the final scene of An Officer and a Gentleman.

When I was in my forties, my partner of seven years left me. Then, at 45, I became pregnant by a man I had known for less than a year. I was not in a permanent relationship with the baby's father but I made a decision. I hate to use the word "settle" because it suggests the child's father was lacking in some way — he was not. I would say I managed my expectations of the man I would share my life with.

By waiting for a fantasy to materialise, I had probably ignored many desirable men right under my nose. Sometimes, I've felt a pang of regret as a man I had dismissed reappeared as a model husband, a beaming wife at his side.

Marriage material

Some of my married friends seem happy. A few have soldiered on in unhappy marriages. Others have persevered and found, to their surprise, that they have discovered a friend, if not a passionate lover, with whom they can share their life.

I think Gottlieb's fault is to use the term "settling". I think she is saying that if children and a conventional home are what you want, start dealing with the real men in front of you. Or it could be too late.