Second Time Around: A Novel

Second Time Around: A Novel

3.6 24
by Beth Kendrick

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Every summer, four college friends hold a mini-reunion. They laugh, reminisce, and commiserate about their soul-sucking jobs. Maybe they should have listened to everyone who warned them to study something “practical.”

Then an unexpected windfall arrives—one million dollars, to be exact—with the stipulation that they use it to jump-start


Every summer, four college friends hold a mini-reunion. They laugh, reminisce, and commiserate about their soul-sucking jobs. Maybe they should have listened to everyone who warned them to study something “practical.”

Then an unexpected windfall arrives—one million dollars, to be exact—with the stipulation that they use it to jump-start their new careers. Almost overnight, a professor, a bartender, a copywriter, and an administrative assistant reinvent themselves as a novelist, an event planner, a pastry chef, and a bed-and-breakfast owner. But the changes in their professional roles create unexpected turbulence in their personal lives, and soon the secrets and scandals from their past start to resurface.

For anyone who has ever wondered “What if?,” this engaging novel provides a sweet, funny look at friendship, romance, and second chances. 

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kendrick (The Pre-Nup) revisits the notion of doing it all over again in her buoyant if uneven sixth novel. Best friends since college, Jamie, Arden, Brooke, Caitlin, and Anna get together for their 10th annual Fourth of July girls’ weekend at Arden’s vacation home to discuss what they should have done differently—except Arden, who is a successful lawyer. Two months later, Arden dies and leaves $1 million for her friends to divide amongst themselves, with the stipulation that they use the money to pursue their dreams. Brooke buys the ramshackle ex-dormitory they shared as college students, intent on turning it into a bed-and-breakfast, and the ladies move in to assist with the renovation and assess their own desires. As the women embark on their new enterprises, each discovers that Arden’s gift has led them into situations they hadn’t expected. Although some situations feel tacked-on or phoned-in, Kendrick is an undeniably practiced hand at depicting female bonds, and her insight eases this tale of wish-fulfillment to a gratifying and not entirely predictable conclusion. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A funny, charming story about the power of female friendship, and a must-read for all English majors, past and present."—Kim Gruenenfelder, author of Misery Loves Cabernet
"Smart and fun, this is my favorite book this year.  Beth Kendrick captures the hearts and lives of women perfectly." —Jane Porter, author of Easy on the Eyes

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Read an Excerpt

Second Time Around

A Novel
By Beth Kendrick


Copyright © 2010 Beth Kendrick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385342247

Chapter 1    

"The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it." --Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth   

  We all should have gone to law school." Jamie Burton plopped down on a white rattan rocking chair, kicked off her flip-flops, and gazed out at the lake. "I'm telling you. Everyone who warned me about majoring in English was right. If I'd gone to law school,I wouldn't be flashing my decolletage for tips. If I'd gone to law school, all my student loans would be paid off, and I'd be swanning around in the trinity of Christians: Dior, Lacroix, and Louboutin. If I'd gone to law school, I'd be--"  

"Careening down the slippery slope of insanity," said Arden Henley, who had a framed J.D. diploma from Georgetown and a plushly appointed office in a prestigious Manhattan law firm. She'd hosted a girls' weekend reunion here at her family's cottage inthe Adirondacks every Fourth of July weekend since they'd all graduated from college ten years ago. "You'd hate being an attorney. Trust me." 

  "You're probably right." Jamie stretched out her long, tanned legs and swatted away a mosquito. With her bleached blond hair, freckles, and disproportionately ample bustline, she wasn't classically beautiful, but she was so cockyand outspoken that beautywas beside the point. Jamie made it clear that she didn't care what anyone thought of her and so, paradoxically, most people fell all over themselves trying to earn her good opinion. "I'll admit that my brief foray into corporate America wasn't exactly a rousingsuccess. Just the thought of being stuck in a cubicle makes me break out in hives. But I'm sick of bartending and getting home from work at three a.m. and being ogled like some airhead model." She paused. "Okay, maybe that part's bearable. But the rest . .."  

Brooke Asplind stopped painting her toenails long enough to strike a match and light the citronella candle next to the chaise longue on the porch. The sharp citrusy fragrance mingled with the scent of the pine trees surrounding the cottage. "You're burnedout, that's all. This little vacation is perfect timing. Stop talking about how the glass is half empty and grab a cold drink."  

"Twist my arm." Jamie grinned. "What're we drinking? Microbrews? Wine?"  

"Wine coolers." Arden rummaged through a large metal washtub filled with ice and extracted a bottle of peach-flavored booze with a pastel label.   Jamie wrinkled her nose. "Are you serious? I haven't had a wine cooler since . . . last summer, when you lowbrow degenerates peer-pressured me. We're not twenty-one anymore, ladies."  

"No, we are not," Arden said. "We're more mature . . ."  

". . . more worldly and alluring . . ." Brooke added.   ". . . and still paying off those student loans," said Caitlin Johnson, who had leveraged her B.A. in literature all the way to a Ph.D. and an assistant professorship at tiny Shayland College in Connecticut. "But all that debt was worth it, don't you think?We had some good times in college."   "We're still having good times." Arden took a long swig from her wine cooler. '

  Brooke's forehead creased in concern. "Should you really be drinking that? Since you just took your pills an hour ago?"  

Arden tucked her feet up under her and settled back in her cushioned wicker chair. Her baggy beige cargo shorts and threadbare Thurwell College T-shirt only served to emphasize the gauntness of her frame. She had always been pale and petite, but now hercomplexion looked ashen and her cheeks had hollowed out underneath those huge hazel eyes and glossy black hair. "Don't you worry your pretty little head about me. If I gotta die young, at least I'm gonna die with a good buzz on."

   The four women lapsed into silence for a moment, watching the sun sink down toward the jagged silhouette of pine trees lining the lake. Then Jamie shook out all her long, yellow hair and said, "Give me a break, girl. You're not going to die."  

"Certainly not." Brooke waved her pedicure brush for emphasis, splattering tiny pink drops across her bare foot.   Caitlin, who had gotten a late-night phone call after Arden's latest round of doctors' appointments, said nothing.   "You caught me; I confess." Arden fanned her face with her hands. "I just made up the whole lupus thing to get attention and an extension on Professor Clayburn's final paper senior year." 

  The undertone of anxiety ebbed away as they started reminiscing about the professor they used to refer to as the Mr. Darcy of Thurwell's English department.  

"I just saw him last week," said Brooke, who still lived in the tiny town where they'd attended college and who worked as a coordinator for the school's alumni affairs department. "In the produce aisle at the grocery store."   "Is he still all swarthy and rough around the edges?" asked Cait. "Don't tell me he's turned into one of those pompous, sherry-swilling blowhards."  

Arden arched an eyebrow. "Sounds like someone's gone sour in the Ivory Tower."  

Jamie snorted. "Wouldn't you, if your dating pool were reduced to guys like Cheerio Charles?"  

Brooke and Arden dissolved into laughter along with Jamie. Cait clapped her palm over her eyes. "I so regret ever telling you guys that."  

"You have to admit it's the last word in pretension," Brooke said. "Breaking up via email is bad enough, but signing the breakup email with 'Cheerio, Charles' is--"  

"Acceptable only if you're a British aristocrat wearing an ascot," Jamie finished. "And your peers address you as 'old chap.'?" 

  "Judgy McJudgersons." Cait slathered on a fresh coat of bug repellent. "How quickly you forget what intellectual snobs we all used to be."  

"Yeah, but we grew out of it," Arden said.  

"I was never snobby to begin with," Brooke protested. "I'm the one who couldn't make it through Shakespeare's histories without CliffsNotes, remember?" 

  "And I'm the one who currently spends every night pouring tequila infusions for people who think Middlemarch is a war epic starring Gerard Butler and who could buy and sell me ten times over with their black AmExes." Jamie shrugged one shoulder. "We'renot being snobby; we're stating the facts. And the fact is, you were way too good for that old chap." 

  "Yeah. He was just distracting you from writing your novel," Brooke said. "Which you can now finish, publish, and rub in his face when you win the National Book Award."  

"Well, National Book Award might be a stretch," Cait hedged, but Arden waved this away.  

"All I know is, Professor Clayburn would never break off a relationship through such cold, impersonal means. He'd probably write a long, poetic letter suitable for framing and handing down to your grandchildren."  

"That he would." Brooke sighed. "Swoon. He's getting even better with age."   "That man was hott with two t's," Jamie declared. "Plus, he had ridiculous amounts of self-control. No matter how short my skirt was or how tight my top, he never even looked my way. Damn him." 

  "You're insatiable," Brooke said. "Every guy on that entire campus looked at you constantly. Even President Tait. And he was married."  

Jamie choked on her wine cooler and flushed bright red. "President Tait did not look at me! You're getting a contact high from nail polish fumes."  

Arden intervened. "Wait, wait, I'm not done with my interrogation of Professor Johnson. Spill it, Cait. Any promising new prospects on the horizon?" 

  "None whatsoever," Cait said. "Every eligible male I know on campus is either under twenty-one or over fifty. I'm so desperate, I'm considering reactivating my Internet dating account." 

  "Don't do it," Jamie advised. "That's how I met my second fiance, and we all know how that turned out."  

"I thought that was a blind date?" Brooke said. 

  "'Blind date' is code for 'We met online and don't want to talk about it.'"  

Caitlin tuned them out and focused on Arden, who had dropped out of the conversation and was trying to hide a wince of discomfort. Arden rubbed at her eyes with shaking hands, then gripped the wooden slats of her chair.  

Cait leaned in and whispered, "You okay?"  

Arden immediately unclenched her hands and jerked her face away. "Fine. My eyes are a little dry."  

"Do you want me to--" 

  "I'm fine. Can we please just have a good time?"  

The crunch of tires on a gravel road drowned out their whispering, and Arden glanced toward the driveway with evident relief. "Look who finally decided to grace us with her presence."  

Jamie let out a whoop. "Reunion weekend can officially begin--it's the late, great Anna McCauley!"  

They heard a car door slam and a quick succession of footfalls on the path. 

  "We're out on the deck!" Jamie hollered. "Hurry up; fireworks are starting as soon as the sun goes down."  

Anna rushed into view, bustling and breathless as usual. Short and plump with wild curly hair and an adorable snub nose, Anna combined an innate tendency to nurture with never-say-die tenacity. She started doling out hugs and compliments as soon as herfoot hit the porch.  

"Sorry, sorry, I meant to be here hours ago," she said. "We saw a new endocrinologist today and she could only squeeze us in at four forty-five and traffic on the Northway was a nightmare." 

  Brooke's eyes widened. "Endocrinologist?" 

  "Reproductive endocrinologist." 

  "Ah." Brooke paused. "May I ask how everything's going with that?" 

  "Here, I brought cupcakes," Anna said brightly. "Red, white, and blue for the Fourth. Ooh! Wine coolers!?" She deposited a platter of baked goods on the rickety table next to the chaise, then helped herself to a bottle from the ice bucket. "Ahh. Tasteslike youth and reckless abandon."  

Jamie grimaced. "It tastes like a wicked hangover in the making. That's it; I'm making mojitos. Who's in?"   "I'll have one," Arden said.  

Cait's vow to leave her friend in peace lasted less than two minutes. "Arden, seriously, don't you think--"  

Arden narrowed her eyes at Cait, then told Anna, "Throw your bag in the house, pull up a chair, and make yourself at home. We were just telling tales of the glory days. Namely, Professor Clayburn."  

"So dreamy." Anna clapped her hands over her heart. "But Cait was always his favorite."  

Cait blinked. "I was not!"  

"You totally were," Jamie said. "Life is so unfair."   "Mostly in your favor, blondie," Anna pointed out. "So what else is going on in our old stomping ground?"   "Not much, really," Brooke said. "The usual town-versus-gown drama. The grocery store finally started stocking organic produce and gourmet coffee . . ."   Arden cleared her throat. "The college is selling Henley House. To raise money for a new state-of-the-art fitness facility."  

Cries of outrage rang out through the twilight.  

"What? Shut yo' mouth!"  

"Blasphemy! How dare they?"  

"Not our Henley House!"  

"Yep. One of the deans called my dad last week," Arden said. "To break the news tactfully and to let us know that it was nothing personal and they appreciate our continued endowment."  

"But Henley House was our house," Brooke repeated. "Site of Primal Scream Thursdays! Site of Pack-a-flask Fridays!"   "Site of your deflowering," Arden added.  

Brooke flushed. "That, too. I'm an employee of the college, for goodness' sake. How have I not heard about this?"   "What a shame," said Cait. "What's going to become of the building?"  

"I have no idea," said Arden. "But now that they've finished construction on some new dorms, Residential Life decided it's not cost-efficient to maintain the off-campus houses."  

Brooke shook her head. "If I had any money, I'd buy it."  

"And do what with it?" Jamie scoffed. "It was built to house like fifteen students." 

  "I'd renovate it and open a bed-and-breakfast. I've always wanted to run a B and B. I'd decorate every room differently and serve tea every afternoon and homemade biscuits every morning." Brooke, a rosy-cheeked natural blonde who'd been raised in Alabama,had always been a firm believer in the restorative powers of hospitality and baking-powder biscuits. Fifteen years of living amongst the Yankees had eradicated all but a trace of her lilting Southern accent, but when the booze kicked in, so did her drawl.  

"Why a bed-and-breakfast?" Cait asked. 

  "Because I like making people feel at home."  

"Why?"   "Don't be a dream crusher," Arden admonished. "I think it's a lovely idea."  

"Yeah, don't let the misanthropes gang up on you, Brooke. I like people, too," Jamie chimed in. "Sometimes, I like 'em a little too much, actually. But, look, with age comes wisdom. Please note which finger is naked." She waggled her ringless left handat them.  

Anna nodded her approval. "Hearts must be broken all over Los Angeles."  

"Only those belonging to overpriced wedding planners, florists, and caterers," Jamie said. "In fact, if I had any money, that's what I'd do: start my own event-planning business. I can see my business cards now: Let Jamie Burton's three failed engagementsadd up to your one perfect day. Anna, you could be my cake supplier."  

"Oh, I'm not doing the birthday cakes anymore," Anna said.  

"Why not? Those were works of freaking art!" 

  "It just got to be a little too . . ." Anna's good cheer finally faltered. "Last month, one of the members of my book club asked me to do an Eiffel Tower cake with a pink poodle for her daughter's fourth birthday, and while I was finishing up the detailwork on the icing, I realized that I'd made a cake for this little girl every year since she turned one. Three years, three rounds with in vitro, enough fertility drugs to stock a pharmacy, a maxed-out home equity loan, and still nothing."   Brooke didn't hesitate for even a nanosecond. She looked Anna square in the eye and said, "It'll happen for you and Jonas."   Arden touched her elbow. "Absolutely."  

But Anna shook them off. "Maybe it won't. I'm so tired of people telling me to 'just relax' and 'it'll happen when you least expect it.' I'll probably never be able to have a baby, and eventually I'm going to have to face that fact. But right now, it killsme to spend my weekends making cakes for other families. Selfish, I know, but there it is." Cait nudged Anna's bare foot with her own. "It's not selfish at all."  

"It actually works out perfectly for my new fantasy career," Jamie said. "I need you to whip up the dessert trays for all my five-star shindigs." 

  "And I need you to make crumpets and watercress sandwiches for my B and B," Brooke said.  

"And what am I supposed to do while you're all colluding with crumpets?" Cait demanded. "Don't leave me stranded up in the Ivory Tower with Cheerio Charles and an angry mob of freshmen who're pissed because they've never gotten less than a B+ on a paperbefore in their lives."  

"We would never," Brooke said. "You'll be up in the B and B garret, plugging away at the Great American Novel. We'll keep you fully supplied with pastries and tea."

   Cait closed her eyes and indulged the fantasy for a moment.  


Excerpted from Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick Copyright © 2010 by Beth Kendrick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Beth Kendrick is the author of four previous novels, including Nearlyweds and Fashionably Late. She also writes teen fiction as Beth Killian. She lives near Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, son, and an assortment of badly behaved dogs.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Second Time Around 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
Set it the beautiful Adirondacks, Second Time Around, is a book that proves it is not too late to follow your dreams. The ten years following their college graduation have not been the easiest or the happiest for any of the girls. They are determined to get it right this time. When one of the girls buys their home during the college years, the girls discover that you can go home again. The money that Arden left them is just what they needed to get their lives back on track. Second Time Around is a well written novel with real and engaging characters. You learn to adore the girls and root for their success. Whether it be for their happy marriage or successful careers, you WANT to see them succeed. I thoroughly enjoyed Second Time Around. The camaraderie and friendship is something that Beth Kendrick writes well and all women can relate to. I look forward to reading more from Beth Kendrick.
poosie More than 1 year ago
There's a lot of soul-searching and decision making between five long-time best friends who have made a pact to get together once a year on July 4th ever since college. Their ten year reunion was celebrated at Arden's vacation home.(a successful attorney) where they got caught up in a deep discussion on the subject, "What if?" Arden dies within the following year and leaves each friend a boatload of money to rediscover themselves with and explore that question, "What if?" I love this one, not only because it's an exciting, humorous, meaningful peek into these women's interesting lives but the camaraderie, the heart-felt quests, the chance to start over and follow the DREAM, and the opportunity to realize what is truly important in life...A wonderful lesson in life that can't be touched on too often!! Another book with a similar lesson and a beautiful, meaningful non-put-downable book that I could read over and over again is EXPLOSION IN PARIS.I LOVE "What if" books!
harstan More than 1 year ago
The five females became BFFs in college and get together every July Fourth weekend since. Their tenth gala is at successful attorney Arden's vacation home where each discusses what they would have done differently if they were able to start over. Two months later, Arden is dead and her four compatriots (Jamie, , Brooke, Caitlin, and Anna) inherit $250,000 each to begin anew only if they seek the dreams they mentioned would make them happy. One buys a broken down dorm with plans to convert it into a B&B; another strives to be a chef; a third starts a novel; and the fourth becomes an event planner. However, dreaming and going for the dream are not the same as each finds roadblocks and detours, but have one another and the memory of Arden to help them achieve their goals. The women make this sister bonding contemporary a solid tale as each seems genuine although some of their problems feel forced as if each of the foursome has to have major tsuris to achieve their objective. Inspiring, fans will enjoy this fun character study as the women have a Second Time Around to go after what they failed to go after the first time. Harriet Klausner
bee-girl More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with the plot when I read the back of the book. I fell in love with the characters within the first two chapters. This book is a quick easy read. Great for rainy days or the beach!
bookloverfl12 More than 1 year ago
What a cute book about college best friends. I would love to be in a similar situation as the main characters but then I think about how independent I am, my girlfriends are, and what would we do with the kids. We just can't uproot the kids because of what one friend left and devised to us. But you never know the answer to "What if?" unless you are in the situation.
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love2read2much More than 1 year ago
i couldn't put this down...another fun, enjoyable, quick read. was so good i JUST HAD TO share it with my friends.
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pretty_inpink03 More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite book by beth kendrick. I love beth kendrick and have enjoyed all her books. This isnt my favorite. I felt there were too many characters and was hard to keep up with and a little rushed but worth reading! My favorie book by beth kendrick is nearlyweds or fashionable those books!! they are re-readers!!
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PACEastRutherford More than 1 year ago
It was a good book to read - characters are funny & cute. I did enjoy reading it.