Elizabeth the First Wife, by Lian Dolan. NOOK.
We spoke with author Lian Dolan in episode 081 of the Book Guys Show podcast, and I have mentioned her many times in this blog, from her podcasting to her prior novel. I have been a fan of hers for almost a decade, maybe more.
This book is not a sequel to Helen of Pasadena, but it does take place in the same universe. There are some fun references towards the end of the book that relate the two books together. In this book, community college professor Elizabeth Lancaster spends her summer with her movie star ex-husband, as they throw together a play for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The ex-husband sees this as a chance to raise his Oscar profile as a “real actor.” Elizabeth sees this as a chance to spend the summer a few hundred miles away from her sisters and parents.
Elizabeth’s family are a highly impressive lot, and even though she enjoys her job, she is nonetheless the least accomplished person in her family. And her mother is skilled in pointing out that fact. Her brother-in-law is a California Congressman launching a bid for the Governorship. And she finds herself attracted to the politician’s Chief of Staff.
The Hollywood director brought in to work on the play has outrageous ideas, including some tasteful nudity on the stage. The ex-husband’s celebrity status makes sure that word gets out about the nudity, and when the connection between the play and the politician become public, Elizabeth finds herself in a public relations firestorm.
This is a great smart read, with a sense of fun, characters whose actions make sense, and plot that moves at a great pace.
The only minor criticism I would have is that the stakes seemed low for Elizabeth. Yes, her burgeoning relationship with the Chief of Staff is at risk, but that was in its very earliest stages, and I don’t know that losing it would have been a tragedy.
Maybe it is because I usually read thrillers and fantasy and comic books, with lives or worlds routinely in the balance. And her family issues aside, Elizabeth seemed to have a pretty awesome life, and (no spoilers) things seemed to continually work out for her and all those around her, in just about the best ways possible.
That being said, Lian is a terrific writer, and her skill is at display throughout the novel. Her books have a breezy readability, and a sense of both fun and humor. While Elizabeth is clearly the central character, most of the supporting cast get their chances to shine.
I understand that there is a third book coming in this series, and I look forward to reading it.
Source: Purchased from the Nook store.