Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, fills her days with books, tending her garden and growing her collection of European comfort shoes. But that all changes when her ex-husband and A-list action movie star FX Fahey unexpectedly shows up with a job offer that she can’t refuse. Now, instead of grading papers, Elizabeth packs for a summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where her role is to provide artistic support and make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s house sitter back in Pasadena is her Congressman brother-in-law’s dreamy chief of staff, whose calls regarding how to work the washing machine and stovetop slowly cross the line into much more personal territory. Witty, relatable and incredibly funny, ELIZABETH THE FIRST WIFE is about the unexpected turns that life sometimes takes and how one woman handles those turns with the cynical humor and unfaltering poise of a Shakespearean heroine.
Today, I’m going to share an excerpt from the book, Elizabeth The First Wife.
This is a contemporary romance, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading the excerpt.
Elizabeth The First Wife
By Lian Dolan
from Chapter Three
“What you need is a husband or a dog,” my sister Sarah offered the next day while tossing her yoga mat into the back of her Volvo.
Our weekly Saturday-afternoon class at Yoga Haus had managed to fully relax her and fully rile me up. I’d filled her in on the FX situation and the aftermath. “You need a distraction so Mom doesn’t focus on your work. Bumble and I have other people in our lives that she can criticize, so it’s like a career-discussion buffer. She never comments on my work choices because….”
“Because she’s so busy commenting on the twins’ footwear choices,” I finished. “Or the fact that your children attend an inferior version of Hogwarts.”
Sarah laughed. “Exactly. Sometimes I do that stuff on purpose to throw her off. Like the paper napkins at family dinners. I know that makes her nuts, but I do it anyway so she doesn’t talk about my mediocre cooking.” Sarah had the right amount of perspective. I felt I was losing mine on almost all fronts. “You know, you don’t have to go to Ashland just because you panicked and told Mom and Dad that you were. You are a grownup, Elizabeth.”
That was the problem. Ever since FX had shown up uninvited and put the Ashland offer on the table, I felt my emotional age regress to about twenty-two. An age, I might add, at which I made some spectacularly bad decisions, like getting married. The outburst at lunch with my parents was just another example of my maturity regression. I hadn’t felt the need to prove myself to my mother in years, and then all of a sudden, boom! Look at me! I’m going to Ashland. I’m writing a book! What was next? A repeat of the Rachel haircut?
“What do you think I should do?” I asked with all sincerity. Sarah always had good solid advice. She was a good-solid-advice machine. Sign the divorce papers and come home, she’d told me. And that’s exactly what I did. Teach what you love wherever you can get work, she’d said. The next month, I landed a gig at PCC teaching Shakespeare. Stop drinking all that diet soda or you’ll pay for it in twenty years. I switched to green tea and have never felt better. Sarah would know what I should do.
“About Mom? Or FX?”
“You said you’d already decided not to do it, then you had lunch with Mom. So you’ve made your decision, right?”
Had I? I had, but it didn’t feel quite certain anymore. When I told my parents about my mostly fictional groundbreaking Midsummer/book deal, I’d failed to mention FX. As a result, I’d started to get excited about the prospect of actually working on a groundbreaking Shakespeare production and possibly getting a book deal. It all sounded so good in the FX-free version that I felt my resolve wavering.
“Elizabeth, if you want to go to Ashland, go to Ashland. You’re a totally different person now than you were when you lost your mind and married your college boyfriend. You’re a professor, your students love you, you have tons of friends and family who care about you. You can handle FX.” Sarah rattled her keys in her signature I’ve-got- to-go-and-cure-cancer move, signaling the end of the conversation.
“So you think I should do it? Take the job and go to Ashland?”
“I don’t think you’re as vulnerable as you think you are.” See, there was that super-solid Sarah advice. So I felt compelled to confess, “I had a dream last night and FX was in it. And he was naked.”
“Oh, that’s not good. Maybe you should just stay home and get a dog.”
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