“Phoebe Fox makes us fall in love with an entire family, a whole cast of characters, and love itself. Painfully, hilariously relatable.” – Dr. Duana C. Welch, Author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do
“Out of Practice, carrying on the great tradition of the Breakup Doctor series, is the kind of book that will have you dialing your girlfriends so you can read sections out loud. Vivid, true, and frequently comedic. Goes down as a favorite finale.” – MM Finck, Women Writers, Women’s Books
“Fresh, funny, and real—I adored it!” – Beth Kendrick, author of The Cure for the Common Breakup
“As heartwarming as they are humorous—Fox’s books offer more than the usual chick lit fare, with a lot of heart and a smart, relatable heroine in Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden.” — Sarah Bird, Author of The Boyfriend School
“Phoebe Fox’s books are like a box of fine chocolates. Not to be eaten quickly but to be savored and enjoyed.” – Fresh Fiction
“Fox has given us characters that are lovably fallible, funny, and frazzled, and has proven that when it comes to love and relationships of any kind, even the sanest of us get a little crazy.” — Elisa Lorello, Bestselling Author of Why I Love Singlehood
“Therapist Brook Ogden is a genius when it comes to helping people push past the crazy stage and mend their broken hearts, but when Brook suffers her own heartbreak, will she take her own advice? (Answer: no, which is why this book is so funny.)” – Glamour (on The Breakup Doctor)
When your relationship is on life support, the Breakup Doctor is on call.
There’s no shortage of broken hearts in Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden’s successful breakup counseling practice—if love is a battlefield, then Brook is the cavalry. Luckily her own love life is in full recovery: after a long, tortuous road, she and Ben Garrett are finally headed down the aisle.
But when a local TV personality—and former frenemy—invites Brook onto her show, she’s blindsided live on the air when the interview turns into an act of long-delayed revenge meant to publicly humiliate her. Brook’s an expert at getting back on your feet when life knocks you down, but as the blows keep piling on—with a betrayal she never saw coming and a family crisis that threatens to pull the foundation out from under her—her confidence starts slinking away. With her clients dropping her faster than a one-night stand, suddenly the Breakup Doctor’s career is in critical care.
Brimming with both the sublime and ridiculous aspects of love—romantic and otherwise—Out of Practice is a funny and heartwarming tale about loss, grief, and failure that will resonate with all who have loved, lost…and dared to love again.
Related subjects include: book club recommendations, dating advice, women’s friendship and sisterhood, humorous fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit romantic comedy, rom com, funny romance.
Books in The Breakup Doctor Chick Lit Series:
- THE BREAKUP DOCTOR (#1)
- BEDSIDE MANNERS (#2)
- HEART CONDITIONS (#3)
- OUT OF PRACTICE (#4)
Part of the Henery Press Chick Lit Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...
Read an Excerpt
"For god's sake, Ashley — we can't have side boob on daytime TV."
The pretty blond wardrobe girl crouching in front of me with her hand in my cleavage frowned at the comment barked over at us from behind one of the cameras. I worried she'd pierce a lip on the open safety pin clenched in her teeth.
"Forty years of The Young and the Restless begs to differ, Rob," Ashley muttered under her breath. She drew together the opening of my silk blouse that wouldn't stay up under the weight of the lavalier mic attached to it, retrieving the pin and glancing up at me. "I'm going behind the placket, but I can do it with toupee tape if you're worried about a hole."
I managed a smile as she held the fabric over my modest C-cups that had caused all this ruckus two minutes before we were going live. "The pin is fine."
I was less afraid of a hole in my shirt than I was of the director calling "action" while Ashley was head-down in my chest. I was nervous enough about being on television — the last thing I needed was to look like a joke.
Ashley finished just as Melissa Overton, the host of Wake Up, Southwest Florida!, slid back into her chair on the soundstage from a quick huddle with Rob, the show's director, during the commercial break. She shot me a blinding Crest Whitestrips smile and a thumbs-up.
"You ready for this, Brook?" she asked.
I took a breath and worked a smile onto my face. "As I'm going to be. Hey, Melissa ... thanks again," I said.
"Brook, believe me, this is totally going to be my pleasure."
A shard of wariness shot through me, like the tingling of a phantom limb.
Melissa and I had a history. Both lifelong Fort Myers natives and homeroom classmates all throughout school by virtue of our alphabetical proximity, we'd had a falling-out in high school when she slept with my tenth-grade boyfriend while I was busy trying to decide whether to go all the way with him.
As it turned out, she'd done me a favor — Jack Andrews dropped her like a hot rock, with a public snubbing at the football game the very next day and a series of nasty rumors that had haunted Melissa our junior and senior years. She was convinced I'd started them, though everyone else knew it was Jack who'd kissed and told in the most graphic ways. Yet she'd blamed me for the whole business, and she'd been Public Frenemy Number One when we were younger.
I took another deep breath and shook off the flare of nerves. High school was a long time ago, and Melissa had been nothing but helpful and excited since her phone call a few weeks ago inviting me onto the local morning show she now hosted, for a feature on my Breakup Doctor practice.
She leaned close, putting a reassuring hand on mine as if reading my mind. "Don't worry. I'm just going to lob a couple of softballs and then we'll get into the practice, et cetera. Relax — this is going to be fun."
I nodded gratefully as she leaned back at the director's voice: "In five, four ..." As I'd watched him do after every commercial break, he broke off on "three" and counted the rest down with his fingers, pointing at Melissa on "one."
"Wake up, southwest Florida — we're back!" Melissa chirped into the camera, flashing that halogen smile again. "And hold on to your coffee cups; we've got a little something special for you this morning. You might've read her column in the Tropic Times; maybe you've heard her on the radio on her afternoon call-in program Fridays on KXAR. Brook Ogden calls herself the Breakup Doctor, a specialist in advice to the lovelorn, treating people when they're at their most vulnerable — fresh off of heartbreak. Brook, welcome to the show!"
I thought my weekly on-air advice show had prepared me for this, but radio, I found out when the red light lit up on the camera directly opposite me, was not nearly as stressful as TV. Hot lights shone down from every angle, two cameras trained their unblinking black eyes on me, and a dozen people stood around the soundstage staring directly at me as if I were about to do a trick. All the saliva fled my mouth like a retreating tide, and my smile shook at the edges.
"Morning, Melissa. It's actually a counseling practice; I'm a therapist, and I —"
"You help people 'shape up after a breakup'— isn't that your catchy tagline?" She was facing me, and winked with her upstage eye, out of range of the camera. I relaxed infinitesimally — she was the pro, and I could just follow her lead.
"That's right," I said. "I specialize in relationships."
Melissa nodded sagely. "Let's talk about that. What kind of training goes into that specialty?"
"Well, after my bachelor's degree I completed —"
Melissa held up one perfectly manicured hand with a smile. "No, no — I mean specifically for relationship counseling."
I stared at her. "All counseling is actually rela —"
"Brook," Melissa cut me off, "are you avoiding the question?"
"Of course not. It's just that —"
"Then can you just tell us where you received your official training specifically in counseling people through breakups?"
I spread my hands, palms up. "Melissa, there is no certified training specifically for that, as far as I know."
Her eyebrows lifted. "Are you saying you've never even looked into it? Or that you're just sort of making it up as you go along? Or both?"
I tried not to laugh. "Neither. I mean, that's not exactly —"
"Okay, well, let's leave that for now. I understand you've gone through some difficult breakups yourself?" Her face was full of sympathy.
I squelched a flare of annoyance. Melissa wasn't half the interviewer I knew Sasha to be. My best friend would have made this interview flow like silk if this were one of her articles.
But Melissa was just trying to dig for a juicy story, like any TV interviewer would. I mustered up a smile.
"That's right, Melissa. Like pretty much all of us, I've had my share of heartbreak. That's actually what led me to this line of work, and I think it's a big part of what makes me successful at what I do."
She leaned forward, looking fascinated. "Tell me about that — how so?"
"Well, for starters, it certainly creates a lot of empathy." I laughed, but Melissa didn't join in. "You know ... I think it makes me more able to understand what my clients are going through," I clarified. "And how it feels. How hard it can be to climb out of that pain on your own. How you sometimes can turn into someone you don't recognize, do things you would never imagine doing."
She nodded thoughtfully, hanging on my every word. "Right. Let's talk about that. You got left at the altar yourself, didn't you?"
Melissa had said we'd talk a little about my own relationship background, but I hadn't realized she'd go into specifics. "Not at the altar, no. But you're right, my former fiancé did end things fairly abruptly a month before our wedding. But that was a long time ago, and since then he and I have —"
"You got right back in the saddle, though, didn't you?"
Was she talking about Kendall? Kendall was a blip, a nothing, merely the final block that unbalanced my precarious Jenga psyche at the time. I wasn't going into that on television.
"If you mean that I recovered eventually and started dating again, yes, I did," I said, forcing myself to smile calmly at her. "In fact, at the moment I'm —"
Melissa turned away from me and smiled brightly into the camera. "We've actually got a picture of how that worked out ... Rob?"
The red light on my camera winked out and I spun to look behind me, trying to see what photo Melissa had dug up, but the curtained background was just as it had been when I sat down. I darted my gaze around the soundstage, and when I saw the group of people standing off-camera with their eyes trained in the same direction, I followed their line of sight to a monitor.
I remembered that night with a horrific clarity even without the awful picture of me now emblazoned on the screen. After my spectacular breakup breakdown when my rebound ex, Kendall, dumped me via text message, I finally chased him down and demanded answers. The picture showed the culmination of that ill-advised night: me flat on my ass on the bricked patio of a busy downtown bar, sitting where I'd fallen in a puddle of spilled drinks and broken glass after Kendall had literally pushed me away, my face contorted as I screamed at him in the middle of a crowd at the Bar Belle, who looked on with varying expressions of pity, horror, and amusement.
I looked insane.
I'd seen Melissa downtown that Friday night as I tore from bar to bar in my frenzied hunt.
She'd thrown her usual barbs my way, and in my precarious state of mind I'd lashed out with something cutting about the DUI that had lost her her last TV job. And then I didn't think another moment about her as I ran Kendall to ground.
But now I remembered seeing a glimpse of her hot-pink knit dress in the crowd at the Bar Belle as I was escorted off the premises. I remembered the smirk on her face. The way she'd held up her phone and waggled it at me with a smile as I scowled at her, uncomprehending.
She'd taken this photo.
I frantically searched the soundstage, wishing I'd brought someone with me so I'd have at least one friendly face amid the sea of eyes now staring flatly at me. Even Ashley the nice wardrobe girl had turned away.
Melissa was making a comically exaggerated "uh-oh" expression into the camera. "Whoopsie! I guess you weren't kidding about doing things you wouldn't usually do! At least, I hope not!" She tinkled a merry laugh.
I shook my head, reaching blindly to the lavalier mike clipped at the vee of my blouse. "This isn't what you —"
"Hang on now, Brook — don't run out on us just yet!" She smiled guilelessly in my direction, and when the red light flashed on I dropped my hand. Storming off the set was only going to make this worse. I was trapped, and Melissa knew it.
She swiveled and gave a plucky look to the camera, as if soldiering on despite grave setbacks. "Let's talk about your treatment with some of your patients."
I stared at her, hoping she could read the homicide in my eyes. "I call them clients," I said icily.
"Oh, like a call girl!" she said brightly, and tittered. "I understand you actually do little makeovers for them? Are you also a cosmetologist? An 'image consultant'?" She made air quotes around the term in a way that made it clear she thought such a thing was a joke.
"I don't do makeovers," I said tightly. "I have contacts who sometimes assist clients in looking and feeling their best. It can be a big help when people are at their lowest, and —"
"You really go well above and beyond, it sounds like." Melissa made sure that came out sounding nothing like a compliment. "We were actually able to find one of these 'clients'" — again with the mocking bunny fingers — "who's worked with you before — twice, actually, and in two different capacities, he says."
A sick, horrible feeling filled my belly.
"He came to you for 'Breakup Doctoring,' and also was a patient in your former legitimate counseling practice. Welcome, Chip Santana — thanks for joining us on air this morning."
"My pleasure, Melissa."
At the familiar rumble of that gravelly voice, I wished I'd listened to Sasha this morning when she advised me to eat a light breakfast, as my bacon and eggs flipped over with a nauseating lurch.
Chip Santana was the worst mistake I'd ever made, a walking hormone who'd plucked a primal animalistic chord in me the first time he'd walked into my old counseling practice for desperately needed anger management therapy, until I'd terminated his treatment. There was nothing good that he could possibly have to say.
"So, Chip, I understand that you've gone through counseling with Dr. Ogden?" Melissa asked the air with a rapacious grin.
"She's not a doctor," Chip's disembodied voice said, his voice overlapping mine as I automatically said the exact same thing.
Melissa made wide doe eyes. "She's not? Goodness."
"I'm a mental health counselor," I bit out. "As you already know. Fully licensed and trained and qualified to provide professional counseling."
I sounded defensive, and I heard it in the ringing silence that Melissa let fall as she looked at me with the kind of tragically disappointed expression I was used to receiving only from my mother.
"Tell us a little about your experiences, Chip. Was Brook able to help you?"
There was a long, slow inhalation that I knew from experience meant he'd taken a drag on a cigarette. "Well, at first, yeah — she's a great counselor, and I was making some progress with some, well, issues I was having."
Melissa frowned as if concerned. "I hate to pry or be insensitive" — really? — "but will you share with us what those were?"
"I don't mind, Melissa." Chip's tone implied something far more intimate, but then again, that was how he talked to almost every woman. I'd made the mistake of realizing that a little too late. "I had some temper issues. And like I said, the doc's great."
Melissa held up a hand. "She asked you to call her 'doc'?"
A chuckle, and then, "Nah, that's my nickname for her. Anyhow, it was going well till she cut off my treatment."
"Before you were ready?"
"And did she tell you why?"
I cringed as the heat of the dozen pairs of eyes on the soundstage crawled into me — along with those of however many viewers at home.
"Not at that time, no."
I couldn't let this go on. "Melissa, this is hardly on topic, and it's frankly a breach of privacy — both mine and my client's."
Melissa turned her sugar-sweet smile on me. "Now, Brook, Chip's talking to us of his own free will. And we're not discussing any of your other 'clients' specifically. And you're certainly free to end the interview if you're uncomfortable with some of these facts coming to light."
"There are no 'facts' here, Melissa," I said, my jaw tight. "This is pure sensationalism. The only fact is that you misled me as to the thrust of your interview and have tried to blindside me with what appears to be a premeditated smear campaign. That's bad journalism and bad ethics, and I trust your viewers, at least, are above it."
For one second I thought I'd gotten the better of her: Melissa's smug expression faltered. But just as quickly it reappeared with her catlike grin.
"So, Chip," she said, never breaking eye contact with me. "I understand you worked with the Breakup Doctor once more after your abruptly terminated treatment the first time?"
"Yep. We ran into each other at a club."
"A 'club'?" Melissa asked brightly. "You mean like a book club?"
"Sort of a nightclub. An adult club, if you know what I mean."
Melissa's eyebrows rose in a parody of shock. "You mean a sex club?"
"Well, that's not exactly what they call it." Chip's gravelly laugh echoed around the soundstage.
"I was there with a client," I clarified tightly — then realized what I'd said just as soon as Melissa turned her wide O of a mouth on me. "I followed her there. To stop her from ... to help her ..." I trailed off miserably as Chip went on.
Of course he told her about my helping him make amends to the exes he'd wronged. Of course he said it "turned personal." Of course Melissa widened her eyes and turned a horrified gaze to me.
"You dated a patient, Brook?"
I gripped the arms of the chair. This was TV; the inquisition couldn't last forever — just till the next commercial break. All I had to do was get through the next few minutes.
"I did not. I never formally took Mr. Santana on as a client the second time — simply agreed to help as a friend. And when his ..." I had to tread carefully here. Very specific others were watching too, and this was a charged area of my past.
"When he stated that his feelings had grown beyond the client/therapist relationship, I took that into consideration on a personal level, yes." I concentrated on trying to will away the memory of that one disastrous night with Chip — and the horrible morning after — but my hot face told me it was telltale red. "Which was a mistake that I freely admit now, for personal reasons. But not an ethical violation."
"Well, that's one opinion," she said with a blithe shrug.
"That's a fact," I gritted out.
But morning television — at least on Melissa Overton's show, I was fast finding out — wasn't overly concerned with facts.
Too bad I hadn't realized that sooner.
When I checked my phone after the interview, I couldn't believe only eleven minutes had elapsed since I'd looked at it last. It felt as if I'd lost hours.
As if I'd lost a lot more than that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Out Of Practice"
Copyright © 2016 Phoebe Fox.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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