Lessons in Duck Hunting: A Novel by Jayne Buxton, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Lessons in Duck Hunting: A Novel

Lessons in Duck Hunting: A Novel

by Jayne Buxton

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A harried single mother of two young children in London, Ally James is less than thrilled with her lackluster life. Her job marketing marmalade is a yawn fest and the domestic front seems to streak by in a flash of fish sticks and school runs. To top it all off, Ally’s ex-husband David seems to have a never-ending roulette wheel of rotating girlfriends, while


A harried single mother of two young children in London, Ally James is less than thrilled with her lackluster life. Her job marketing marmalade is a yawn fest and the domestic front seems to streak by in a flash of fish sticks and school runs. To top it all off, Ally’s ex-husband David seems to have a never-ending roulette wheel of rotating girlfriends, while Ally has endured two meager (and disastrous) dates in as many years.

Then there’s David’s newest arm-candy, Chantal, who is the first flavor-of-the-month to ever meet the kids–that must mean it’s serious. Ally’s friend Mel is sure she has the solution to the malaise: a Market Yourself dating seminar. It’s either the perfect way to find a new man or the first sign of the apocalypse–Ally isn’t sure which, but she decides to give it a whirl. What happens next is stranger, and more invigorating, than Ally could ever have imagined.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The entertaining story of a woman balancing kids and career–who takes on the new job of finding a husband. Hope for single moms everywhere!”
–Janice Kaplan & Lynn Schnurnberger, authors of Mine Are Spectacular!

“Lessons in Duck Hunting is no decoy. Jayne Buxton has written a novel worthy of a long-term love affair.”
–Liza Palmer, author of Conversations with the Fat Girl

“Wonderful, witty, real, wise, and so much fun to read. One of those rare books that deals with the realities of single motherhood and the dating game, yet makes you smile as you compulsively turn every delightful page.”
–Nancy Thayer, author of The Hot Flash Club

Publishers Weekly
Like the uberbook its title calls to mind, Buxton's debut is intelligent chick lit with a literary audience in mind. Ally, a 37-year-old divorced mother of two with a less-than-glamorous job marketing marmalade, reluctantly signs up for a dating workshop when her best friend, Mel, a woman's magazine writer, begs her for help on a story. The subject is the "Proactive Partnership Program" for finding a partner, which embraces the four P's: Product, Packaging, Place and Promotion. Among other assignments, Ally must seek out three "Duck Decoy," or practice dates. These result in liaisons with her older brother's fireplace installer (nice guy, no chemistry), her electrician (plenty of chemistry, along with a kinky offer) and an attractive widowed neighbor, Tom. She also assembles her friends for her own packaging and branding seminar, at which they critique her overall style and coin a slogan to sell her to prospective suitors. But as Ally learns she's great the way she is, her ex-husband, David, takes notice and her connection with Tom deepens. How will Ally balance (Super)motherhood and a demanding boss? How will she decide between the father of her children and a genuine chance at love? Buxton's laugh-out-loud debut will captivate readers. Agent, Fletcher & Parry. (Jan. 31) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Can a marketing strategy help a 37-year-old Londoner find love the second time around?Ally James works in marmalade. Perhaps not as exciting as her previous job at Chanel, but given the shorter hours and higher pay, she's willing to exchange a bit of glamour for more time with her two young children, Millie and Jack. Since divorcing David, a dashing photographer who loves women a bit too much, Ally has led a slightly hum-drum existence-her idea of a special night is nachos with tuna fish accompanied by another viewing of Sleepless in Seattle. All this changes when, as a favor for best friend Mel, Ally attends a series of relationship seminars held by Marian Boyd, who promises that applying marketing schemes to dating will lead to wedded bliss. Mel works for a women's magazine and needs Ally as an undercover participant, but really, Mel thinks it's not a bad way to get Ally out of her rut. After following the dictums of the seminar (and getting a make-over), Ally lassos in three "Duck Decoys." These Ducks are to be men Ally has no real interest in (or are unsuitable in some way) but can be both good practice material and morale boosters. There's Alan, a fireplace salesman who is kind but frumpy, electrician Gary and Tom, who doesn't seem like a Decoy at all. Tom is charming, sweet and dotes on his three-year-old, Grace, but may be too recently widowed to consider a relationship. Ally lures him in anyway, and sparks fly, but someone else has entered the picture: David, repentant and ready to come back to his family. Should Ally take back the father of her children? What about Tom? Can telemarketing and direct-mail campaigns work for love? Maybe, but Buxton's tale is too familiar todistinguish it from the genre it's part of. Amiable-with some useful advice for meeting men-but predictable. Agent: Christy Fletcher/Fletcher & Parry

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.79(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The queue in the post office is twelve people deep. Having expected to sail straight up to the counter, I am reduced to making frenzied calculations about just how late I will be if I wait. Twelve people times approximately one and a half minutes each, divided by three counter assistants–no wait, one has just closed her window so that makes two. I’ll be here for at least six minutes. Probably ten.

I decide that, on balance, it is worth being a few minutes late at the school gates rather than another entire week late with my nephew’s birthday gift (which is what will surely be the case if I miss this opportunity). So I shift from foot to foot and try to pass the time without appearing overly irritated.

To my left is a shelf full of brightly-colored leaflets. Their titles are difficult to decipher, as someone has obviously disturbed them and replaced them in a great hurry, and with complete disregard for the original leaflet stacker’s carefully considered system. I can see The Family Tax Credit Made Simple, and a pile of what look to be motoring-related documents. At the far end of the shelf, partially obscured by some leaflets on housing benefits, I spot one that asks, rather nosily I think, Are you raising children on your own?

Casting a sideways glance to make sure that no one is paying particular attention, I reach out to take the leaflet for single parents, grabbing one on tax disks at the same time to put any casual observers off the scent. Leaflet safely in hand, I take a second to regain my composure, avoiding the eyes of the filth-splattered builder ahead of me, who has turned around to identify the source of all the rustling.

On the cover of the leaflet is a photo of a family, I suppose, though it’s not like any family I’ve ever seen. There is a youngish woman surrounded by four children, each one from a different racial background, all beaming into the camera in apparent delight at the political correctness of their multiracial single-parent family. Boy, she must have been busy, I think, looking for some sign in the woman’s eyes. Tired yet determined. Resigned. Desperate for a lie-in. Anything would do really, other than the bright-as-a-button smile she actually proffers.

With five people still ahead of me in the queue, I open the leaflet to find a series of headings. I can see immediately that the most important ones are missing. A quick scan reveals that there is plenty of advice about what money is available, and how to collect it, but where, for instance, is the bit about how to adjust to the sudden, vast emptiness of your bed? And the long, hollow days of every second weekend? Where does it tell you how to train yourself not to reach out for that hand you’ve held a thousand times, or about all the different ways you’re going to have to find to say to your children This is not your fault? And where’s the advice about how to fix a blocked shower drain or a malfunctioning waste disposal unit once the person who used to do these things has left home?

But the most glaring omission is the section about how you ever find another man. Where’s that one? Nowhere, that’s where. Because you’re not going to find one. Unless you are Elizabeth Hurley, with best mates like Elton and David, you’re not going to be invited to parties heaving with handsome men seeking out the singular charms of a single mother. And even Liz didn’t have too easy a time of it at first, if the pages of Hello! are anything to go by.

No. Once a divorced mother of two, likely always a divorced mother of two. I fold the leaflet in half and stuff it into my bag, just as the bespectacled woman at the counter beckons to me. I would have put it back on the shelf where it belongs, but I don’t want anyone to take me for a desperate single mother on the make.

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