As a young California girl growing up in a blue collar neighborhood, Taylor Young dreamed of being popular, beautiful, and acquiring a wardrobe to die for. Not to mention marrying a handsome, successful man and living happily ever after in a gorgeous house with three wonderful children. Now, at 36, Taylor has reached the pinnacle of her dreams, but is it all about to unravel? As the new school year approaches, Taylor prepares herself for playing the perfect alpha mom: organizing class activities, fund-raising, and chairing the school auction. But the horror! Her archrival, bohemian mom Marta Zinsser, is named Head Room Mom of Taylor's daughter's fifth grade class. As tensions rise at committee meetings and school activities, the two rivals seem to be destined for a final confrontation. But as Taylor plans her next move, she is floored by a more serious blow at home-her husband has been secretly unemployed for the past six months. With her posh lifestyle crumbling, Taylor struggles to maintain her alpha image-but could Marta, who cares little about appearances, be her only true friend?
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About the Author
Jane Porter lives in Seattle, Washington, with her two children. You can find out more about her at www.janeporter.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Jane Porter
Spiegel & Grau Copyright © 2008 Jane Porter
All right reserved.
Chapter One Zooming into the country club parking lot, I snag a spot close to the club pool. Okay, technically it's not a spot, but there's nothing else close and I'm late.
Nathan says I run late often, and yes, sometimes I do, but not always. It's just that my schedule all summer has been ungodly. I've always been busy, but in the past year I have taken on way too much, sat on far too many committees, agreed to assist too many organizations.
The problem is, everyone needs help, and I hate inefficiency, I really do, which is how I got to be on so many committees in the first place.
I know how to get things done. I've always known how to get things done, and for me, it's relatively easy organizing functions and raising money. And as we all know, everything these days is about raising money. As well as improving the quality of life for the kids.
It really is about the kids, isn't it?
I sign in quickly at the poolhouse's front desk and wave at a passing mother-never do remember her name, though-and emerge into the late afternoon light that already streaks the pool.
Scanning the area for my girls, I tug my top over the waist of my white tennis skirt. I wish I'd showered and changed before heading to the pool, but I was afraid of being even later. It's Friday, Labor Day weekend, and my nanny hoped to leave early today to go camping with her boyfriend.
I feel bad that Annika, our Finnish nanny, didn't get to leave at three-thirty as requested (it's nearly five now), but today was hellacious. Morning Pilates, two-hour auction committee meeting, afternoon on the tennis court before quick grocery shop. Then it was a rush home to get the salmon steaks into the bourbon marinade for dinner before another rush out to pick up the girls from the club.
Pulling my sunglasses off, I spot the girls. Tori's in the baby pool, Brooke's lying on her towel on the lawn, and my eldest, ten-year-old Jemma, swims in the deep end with her friends. Annika sits in the shade near the baby pool, her purse on her lap. She's ready to go, which annoys me.
I don't like being disapproving, but I do resent being made to rush and then feel guilty. It's Labor Day weekend. She has Monday off. It's not as if she won't have three full days of vacation.
Annika spots me. I lift a hand, letting her know she can go. She leans down, kisses Tori, and, with a nod at me, leaves. Quickly.
It's Patti calling my name. I turn, spot her and a cluster of women at one of the pool's round tables, and indicate that I'll join them in just a moment. First, I have to get something cold to drink.
Something preferably with alcohol.
A few minutes later, I collapse in the poolside chair with my gin and tonic. Nice. Sliding my sunglasses on top of my head, I sip my drink appreciatively. Day's almost over. I'm almost free.
Suddenly Annika reappears on the pool deck, dashes to a table near the baby pool, and rifles through the stack of beach towels they brought earlier. She's looking for something, and it's got to be her car keys or her cell phone# she couldn't survive without either.
It's her cell phone.
I'm not surprised. What twenty-two-year-old girl doesn't live on her cell?
Annika leaves again, and I watch her dash back out. She's worked for me for over a year now, and we almost never talk. I leave her to-do lists, and when she goes home at night she leaves the lists behind, everything done, all the chores checked off.
Sometimes I feel a little guilty for not ever having a proper chat, but what would we talk about? My girls? My house? My laundry? No, thank you. I have enough on my mind without having to discuss the above with a foreign teenager.
What a day. Not bad, just long and busy. Pilates nearly killed me, I killed my opponent in tennis, and the committee meeting ... well, that went so much better than I expected.
"Have you been here long?" I ask the group at large, dropping my sunglasses back onto my nose.
"An hour," Patti answers.
Monica grimaces. "Since two."
"Noon," Kate adds.
Noon? I make a face. I can't imagine sitting here for five hours. My God, doesn't she have anything else to do?
"You should have gotten a sitter," I say, glancing at my children, praying they'll be content for another half hour at least, an hour if I buy them an ice cream. Tonight I would buy them ice cream, too, if it meant I could just leave my feet up for a while and relax.
Kate sees my grimace. "I couldn't get a sitter," she explains. "Labor Day weekend. Everyone's going away."
True. We were going away, too, and then Nathan begged off at the last minute, said all he wanted to do was stay home, enjoy the girls, and maybe get in a round of golf.
"Actually," Kate continues, crossing her legs, tugging down her straight twill skirt that looks like Eddie Bauer but I know is Ralph Lauren, "I feel like I got off easy. The kids really wanted to go to Wild Waves, but I convinced them they'd be better off just spending the day here and saving the money."
Saving money? Kate?
I struggle to keep a straight face. Kate Finch is loaded, one of the area's old money, and then she married Microsoft money-and not one of the little Microsoft millionaires who pop up everywhere, but Bill Finch, head of the games division-so the Finches are set for life.
"How did you convince the kids to do that?" Patti asks, leaning forward to get out of the sun's rays. Petite and brunette, Patti Wickham has endless energy, a vivacious personality, and the inability to take no for an answer.
"Bribed them." Kate sniffs. "Told them I'd give them the cost of the admission ticket and what I would have spent on gas if we could just come here. Worked like a charm."
Thank God for money.
Hate to admit it, but I'd do the exact same thing. Who'd want to make the drive from Bellevue to Federal Way-what is that, forty minutes each way?-and then spend hours worrying about the kids getting lost or abducted before driving back home in rush-hour traffic? No, Kate's right. Far better to take advantage of the Points Country Club pool before it closes for the summer.
My youngest daughter, Tori, who has just recently turned four, remembers I'm at the pool and comes running over to give me a wet hug. "Mama, Mama, Mama! I missed you!"
I hug and kiss her back. "Having fun?" I ask, rubbing her bare tummy.
She nods, her blond curly ponytails like piggy corkscrews in the sky. "I'm hungry."
"We're having dinner soon." "Can I have some French fries?" "We're going home in twenty minutes-"
"I want French fries."
"I'm starving." Her lower lip thrusts out. "Starving."
Oh, why not? It's Friday. Labor Day weekend. I'm tired and don't want to get up. If French fries will keep her happy, let her have them. "Tell Brooke to go with you to order. She's right there, in the shallow end."
Tori runs off in her pink two- piece, her still chubby thighs making little slapping noises. "Is that bad?" I ask, looking at my friends. "French fries right before dinner?"
"It's the end of summer," Patti answers with a shrug.
Exactly. Kids will be back in school in just days, and it'll only get harder, what with homework and sports and meetings. Being a mother is a full-time job. I couldn't work outside the home even if I wanted to.
"Mom! Mom! Taylor Young!" My middle daughter, Brooke, shouts at me from the pool, resorting to using my name when I take too long to answer.
I put a finger to my lips, indicating she's too loud. "Come here if you want to talk to me," I stage-whisper. "Don't shout across the pool."
With a sigh, Brooke drags herself out of the pool and splashes her way to our table. "Did you tell Tori I had to go order her French fries?"
"She's hungry." I'm not in the mood to deal with Brooke's attitude now. For a middle child, Brooke is extremely strong-willed. "You can share her fries."
"I don't want fries."
"What do you want?"
"Ben and Jerry's ice-cream bar."
"You said." She gives me her "I'm seven and going into first grade" look. "You did, Mom."
"What about a Popsicle?"
"Why does Tori get fries and I have to have a Popsicle? Why does she always get everything she wants? Because she's the baby? When I was her age I could order my own fries-"
"Fine. Get your ice cream." I give up. I just can't do this today. Not without another drink. "Help Tori and get what you want."
She flounces away, and I see the face she makes at me. I don't call her on it, though. I'm too tired, and as the parenting experts all say, you have to pick your battles. I want them to get good grades, so I suppose I've picked mine. Besides, they're not as lippy with Nathan. They wouldn't be. He doesn't put up with it, not like I do.
"Good meeting today, Taylor," Patti says as Brooke grabs Tori by the shoulder to haul her into line at the snack bar.
Patti is co-chair with me for the Points Elementary School auction, and we held our first meeting of the year this morning at Tully's on Points Drive.
I was worried about the meeting, but I needn't have been. Our committee of seven is amazing. We've got the best parents this year, the best moms hands down.
"I heard so many great ideas during our brainstorm session," I say, squeezing the rest of my lime wedge into my gin and tonic. "I have a hunch that this year's auction is going to just blow everyone out of the water."
And it will with what we're planning.
We've got some spectacular live-auction items already lined up, including a trip to Paris-first-class on Air France-and a week on Paul Allen's private yacht ... in Greece, no less. I suppress a shiver of excitement. Corny as it is, I get goose bumps just thinking about it. "Patti, we can make this happen."
"We are making it happen," Patti corrects. She might be tiny and pretty, but she's a workhorse. "We've already got chairs for each committee, and everyone's experienced-"
"On the ball," I add.
"And as we know, experience makes all the difference."
Isn't that the truth? I just love Patti. We're on the same wavelength. It's not just that we're friends, but we've served on practically every school committee possible, and there's no way I would have tackled the school auction if Patti hadn't suggested we co-chair it together.
The school auction is Points Elementary's biggest annual fundraiser. The phone-a-thon, walk-a-thon, and wrapping paper sales all bring in money, but they don't come close to generating the kind of money the auction does.
A strong auction nets a quarter million dollars. A fabulous auction nets a hundred thousand more.
Patti and I think we can hit four hundred thousand this year. At least that's our goal.
"Anything juicy happen at the meeting?" Kate asks, pulling up another white chair to stretch her legs on. Her legs are thin and tan, but they're always tan. Kate plays a lot of golf, and she and Bill routinely sneak off to Cabo.
Patti and I look at each other, try to think. There wasn't a lot of chitchat. We were pretty organized, and the auction meeting isn't the place for gossip. It would look bad. Unprofessional.
"I know something juicy," Monica chimes in eagerly.
I shoot Patti a "here we go again" look. Monica Tallman irritates me. She isn't poor, and she's not unattractive, but she's pathetically insecure and compensates for her feelings of inferiority by trying too hard.
The truth is, Monica needs a life. And she needs to stop copying my hairstyle.
Monica throws a hand into her hair, showing off her most recent highlights, which are nearly identical to mine. "The Wellsleys separated this summer," she announces loudly.
"The Wellsleys?" Kate gasps.
Monica nods, sips her wine cooler, pleased to be the bearer of horrible news. "Apparently Lucy was having an affair."
"What?" We all turn, shocked, to stare at Monica.
Patti frowns, a deep furrow between dark eyebrows. At least I know she doesn't do Botox. "I don't believe it," she says. "I can't believe it. Lucy would never do that. I've known her for years-"
"She's on the altar guild at St. Thomas," Kate adds.
Monica shrugs, lips curving. "Jesus loves a sinner."
Unbelievable. I drain the rest of my gin and tonic and immediately crave another. Too bad I can't send one of my girls for the drink, but they don't sell liquor to minors here.
Monica gives her wine cooler a twirl. "Pete's going after custody."
"No." Now this is going too far. It really is. I know Lucy, too, and she's a great mother, a good wife, and it would destroy her not to have the kids. Kids need to be with their mother, too.
Well, unless their mother's a nutcase.
Like mine was.
"Pete thinks he's got a case." Monica sounds smug.
I hate it when she's so smug. I really think she needs to work out with her personal trainer a bit less and volunteer a lot more.
"You can't take children from their mother," I defend. "Courts don't do that. I know it for a fact. Are you sure she's having an affair?"
"I imagine it's over now that Pete found out, but Pete's embarrassed. He paid for her lipo, the implants, the tummy tuck, the eye job, the laser skin treatments, and now he finds out it wasn't even for him? Fifty thousand later he feels a little cheated."
Patti's outraged. "Lucy didn't even need the work. She did it for him. He's never been happy, especially with her."
I nod my head in agreement. Lucy was really attractive, even before all the surgeries, and you know, you couldn't tell she had that much work done because it was subtle. We knew, because she'd told us, highly recommending her plastic surgeon to us. And in the plastic surgeon's defense, he was very, very good, and the only way I knew Lucy had done her eyes (before we knew about the plastic surgery) was because she just looked happier.
Apparently, she was happier.
She was getting laid by someone who wasn't her fat husband.
That's not a nice thought, and I shouldn't think thoughts like that, but Pete is big. He's gained at least thirty-five or forty pounds in the last year or so. Maybe more. When I saw him at brunch a couple of weeks ago, I almost didn't recognize him. Nathan, who never notices anything like that, leaned over to me and said Pete was a heart attack waiting to happen.
Did that stop Pete from filling up his plate at the buffet? No. In fact, he went back for seconds and thirds-piles of sausages, cream cheese Danishes, eggs Benedict, blueberry-and-sour-cream crepes, strawberries covered in whipped cream. You could hear his arteries hardening as he lumbered back to his table.
I can't blame Lucy if she didn't want to sleep with Pete. I wouldn't want to eat with him, much less do the down and dirty, but an affair ...?
I wonder if the sex was good.
God, I hope it was, especially if she's going to lose the kids.
Shaking my empty glass, I listen to the ice cubes rattle. I want another drink but can't make myself move. Not just because I'm tired (which I am), but because if I go get another drink, it's more calories.
I weigh the pros and cons of another drink, knowing that I'm in good shape, but it's something I work at. Image is important, and the closer I get to forty (oh God), the more I care about my appearance. It's not enough to be fit. You've got to look young, and that's some serious time and money.
Lately, I've been thinking about getting some work done. Nathan says he loves me as I am, thinks I'm perfect, and doesn't want any artificial bits of me, but if it'd make me better, wouldn't the pain be worth it?
I tune back in and realize they're still discussing Lucy and Peter.
"-says he feels like she humiliated him in front of the whole community."
"Well, I didn't know until now," Kate says.
Me either, and my fingers itch to take my phone and call Nathan and see if he's heard. He used to be in Rotary with Pete. They were both in the Friday morning group that met for breakfast at the golf course across town.
Patti's frowning. "She's like us, a stay-at-home mom. So who could she be sleeping with? A UW student? A pool boy? Who?"
"Someone's husband." Monica looks like a cat. She's so pleased with herself that even her ears and eyes are smiling. "Apparently Pete has told the wife, too, and so that's two families wrecked."
The very word conjures up horrible memories, and I suddenly touch my stomach, checking to see if it's flat. It is. I can feel my hipbones. Good.
The thing to know about me is that I hate fat almost as much as inefficiency, which is why I'm always hungry. I want to eat, but I don't. Nathan thinks I'm too thin, but he doesn't know what it's like always having women look at you, compare themselves with you.
Excerpted from Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter Copyright © 2008 by Jane Porter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another great read from Jane Porter! I love Jane's work, so I wasn't surprised to enjoy Mrs. Perfect. This is one of my favorite of her single title contemporaries, though. I love how she managed to make the unlikeable (to me, at least) Taylor Young so sympathetic to the reader. Jane created a story in which a woman's life crumbles around her, her children are unhappy, her marriage is in trouble, and she has to do the unthinkable, turn to her enemy for help. Instead of gleefully watching her get her comeuppance, though, it's written in such a way that we feel that Taylor has grown, that she will adapt, and we root for her. It's one of my favorite Jane Porter titles, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who loves women's fiction. Mrs. Perfect would be especially enjoyable if you read Odd Mom Out.
I didn’t want to like this book, but felt I needed to read it since I had read the other 3 books in this series (I did not read them in the right order which didn’t matter.) I didn’t think that I could relate to Taylor at all. Porter pleasantly surprised me, and by the end of the book I cheering for Taylor and had a much better understanding of her. I should have known that Porter would surprise me and make me love the book and Taylor the way I do all her books. Once again I have learned to never judge a book by the cover.
I truly enjoyed this book. Life isn't always what it seems for a lot of us. We try to live the perfect life and hold up the image. But, sometimes, only you know what's really going on at home. Taylor has it or, or so it seems, until her husband loses his job. They have many struggles along the way, but it all works out because love overrules everything.
And it was TRUELY a great book. I know that I will read it again! ;)
This was another amazing story! If you are a woman between 30-50 years old--you can relate to SOME part of this book. The characters and topic were very real. I love Jane's writing style!~It is funny, sad, and romantic all in one!
I bought this book not really knowing what to expect. I don't normally read anything like it but decided to give it a try. It was a breath of fresh air! At first, I didn't think I'd be able to identify with the characters or their way of living but within a few chapters I was hooked. I came to love the main character. She was a real woman and learned to rely on her internal strengths to support her family when they needed it. This was truely a book about learning how strong you can be even when you think you don't have it in you. I can't wait to read other books by Jane Porter.
Being perfect is hard. I wouldn't know, but according to Taylor Young, Mrs. Perfect, it is hard work Mrs. Perfect was the first Jane Porter book that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed her writing. She writes intelligent and interesting characters. At first, I was not sure that I could stomach Taylor's shallow ways, but the more I read, the more I could see that Taylor was far from Mrs. Perfect. She was human. Mrs. Perfect was an enjoying read. Perfect for the beach or the airport. I will certainly be looking for more of Ms. Porter's work.
Mrs. Perfect was the first book I had read of Jane Porter's and I loved it! Since reading it, I have read every one of her books and am waiting eagerly for her to put out new books all stemming from Odd Mom Out.
This is pretty good mommy lit right here. Her writing style is easy, comfortable and she has 'mommy chapters' which give you a great feeling of success even when you can only read in the short intervals between going to bed and falling asleep.
Every girl dreams of growing up to be a beautiful woman with a great husband, amazing children and living in a picture perfect house. Taylor Young is no different. She not only wanted all of that, she achieved it. However, her perfect life is about to change. She finds out that her husband has been secretly unemployed for months and the person that she considered her rival, Marta Zinsser, may just end up being a close friend after all. This is a great story of wanting the fairy tale life, getting the fairy tale life and watching in diminish before your eyes. It also renews your faith in friends and makes you realize that what you see on the outside isn't always what's going on in the inside.
I loved this book! Jane Porter is an amazing character driven author who writes books that I love to read.
Somehow, the you begin to root for who you once thought of as the villian. Fun "mom lit".... still love Marta's character. An enjoyable read about how people can change, or how being your true self is always the best bet. Would love to see a 3rd in this series, that also addresses the children and how they evolve... but bring back more Marta and Luke!