On her fortieth birthday, housewife Wanda Jo Ashton is expecting her husband’s standard gift of an E and E from T—that being Elegant and Expensive from Tiffany’s. However, what she gets is the news that her formerly successful, dependable, corporate attorney husband is leaving her to pursue the rich life of a kept man.
Left with nothing, she has no choice but to escape the San Francisco area with her sixteen-year-old daughter in tow and head toward the mountains of West Virginia and the embarrassingly quirky family she left behind twenty years ago. Here, Wanda Jo must carve out a future, complete with career and home, in the midst of family feuds, computer phobias, and the occasional home-brewing explosion.
Only the presence of her daughter and a few good friends, including her old buddy Sam Branson, make life bearable at all. Can it be true that the good life begins at forty?
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Present day, San Francisco
Darlings, the day will come when you realize your rescue by Valiant Knight is complete and you are now living your dreamed-of happily ever after. This is the time to celebrate your success. Revel in the true love you have made yourself worthy to receive.
Andre unfastened the cape and whipped it off with a flourish. "Très magnifique!" he declared with a kiss of his fingertips and then offered me an oversized hand mirror.
I took a quick peek at my now exquisitely tinted champagne blonde and expertly styled, sleek, chin-length bob. Perfect. Andre was a god amongst hairdressers. I switched my gaze to my complexion. Elasticity good, pores minimized, smallish laugh lines, tastefully applied cosmetics — all very elegant, just as Reed always insisted.
La Praire cosmetics. Why use anything else?
And I could honestly say I hadn't touched a drop of Visine in years.
I extended the mirror toward Andre and cast a look downward. I rotated my foot while admiring my new bone-colored Manolo pumps. Ashton Trews, you have arrived.
I stood, smoothing the slight wrinkles of my Albert Nippon cream-colored linen skirt suit, and took one last glance in the gilt-framed mirror above Andre's station. I think it's both a Yes and, at the same time, a great resounding No.
Yes, Corporate Wife is a very good look for me.
And No, as in No One would ever connect me with Wanda Jo Ashton from Buckston County, West Virginia. Thank Goodness.
Now that twenty-two years had passed, I figured it was safe to assume no one would ever realize what a failure I had been or really care where I'd come from. I could relax now. Wanda Jo Ashton, former hillbilly and abject failure, was dead and buried. And Ashton Trews, successful wife to an even more successful corporate attorney, was alive and well.
And looking pretty darned good on her fortieth birthday, even if I did say it myself.
Andre offered his hand, and I accepted it, as he led the way through the exclusive, patchouli-scented, tastefully furnished salon toward the impressive marble reception desk. I nodded politely as he chattered away in his usual mix of French and English. Once we arrived, Andre busied himself assembling my usual monthly take-home package of first rate, hideously expensive grooming products. I cringed inwardly at the prices but justified the expense by reasoning that I had gotten up extra early and cleaned the house from top to bottom, thus saving an equally hideous charge from a cleaning service.
I opened my wallet and extracted a Platinum Visa — another cringe here, but Reed did insist on my using it — and offered it to the exquisitely groomed receptionist. She booked me for the next month quickly, returned my card, and produced a bill for me to sign. After adding a generous tip for Andre (but for the grace of Madame Elegance, there went I) and after receiving a few air kisses from a delighted Andre in the vicinity of my cheek, I was on my way.
Stepping from the salon, I took a look around, admiring the lovely early spring afternoon in San Francisco. A wonderful place, not too hot and not too cold. And in the evenings just chilly enough for those glamorous gowns with wraps that Reed, my husband, preferred me to wear when we socialized. It was a wonderfully eclectic city, where business people in Armani silk shared the walkways with offbeat artists and Tarot card readers, in colorful costumes, who set up shop on street corners.
It was a busy place, but not in that claustrophobic, scurrying way some large cities thrive on. It was more an atmosphere of creativity, a gentle pulse propelling one through the day.
I made my way in a leisurely manner to the Auto Park to retrieve my new — and completely paid for, although I nearly choked on the price tag — Lexus. It was the end of another Made It Day celebration. And tonight would bring my romantic, if slightly short, birthday celebration with my incredible husband.
Odd how those two things fell together, but that's how life is sometimes. Twenty-two years ago today, on my eighteenth birthday, I'd arrived in this wonderful city with a suitcase, a used sewing machine, a very special book, and lots of big dreams. And two years later I'd made each and every one of those dreams come true.
Now, at forty, a very great distance from eighteen and an even greater distance from Buckston County, I could look back and feel very proud. My transformation was not only complete — it was completely permanent.
With a smooth turn of the wheel I pulled the Lexus onto our drive and silenced the motor. Looking up at the house my husband, our beautiful daughter, and I shared, I was once again filled with awe at the wonder of my life.
I'd been blessed with a wonderful husband who was devoted, stable, and dependable, and an incredible sixteen-year-old daughter who was as brilliant as she was beautiful. Reed, bless his family dedication and career sense, had seen to it we'd never gone wanting for anything.
Oh, yes, I was one very fortunate woman.
Reed had chosen this neighborhood, which was, in general, one of the most exclusive in the area, and our house, in particular, was one of the finest models — a spacious two-story colonial with a tasteful brick front and stone stairs leading to an impressive solid mahogany door boasting a brightly polished, solid brass knocker.
The interior was just as impressive as the exterior, even if I said so myself. I'd spent hours researching and choosing only the best, at Reed's insistence, from the furniture to the custom-made window treatments. The results were a stunning blend of subtle color suitably posh for entertaining the other members of Reed's firm, as we frequently did.
I let out a sigh of complete contentment. This had been by far my best Made It Day celebration. The morning had been spent shopping for Reed at Nieman Marcus, followed by a quick cup of my favorite Starbuck's blend. And then I'd finished off with a retouch at my salon, another necessary stop for Reed's business get-together at our house tonight. Reed always insisted I look my best for these things.
Oh, yes, it had been a wonderful day. And it was all set to become an even better evening, even though the personal part would be a bit short, since Reed's associates were due fairly early.
Tonight would be my official birthday celebration with my wonderful husband of twenty years. Make that twenty supremely wonderful years. But then again, I'd have expected nothing less from my very own Valiant Knight, Reed Trews.
It had only taken a moment for me to fall hopelessly in love with Reed. The night when he'd proposed, presenting me with the small box bearing the Tiffany's name, had been magical. And Tiffany's had been Reed's standard gift, no matter the occasion, ever since.
I'd privately dubbed them the E and E from T Collection. That being Expensive and Elegant from Tiffany's.
I held out my left hand and gave the third finger a waggle, admiring Reed's first, and still very impressive, E and E from T. It was lovely, a full-carat, flawless diamond set in a distinctive swirl of gold. It still shone with the same brilliance as it had the night Reed slipped it on my finger — just as my love for him still shone.
Yes, I thought once again. Life had been good. And time had proven Reed to be an excellent husband. Really, he was everything I could have asked for and more. Reliable, devoted, brilliant, hard working, a good father and wonderful provider in every way.
Well, maybe not every way. Or at least not in that way lately. But it was understandable. Reed had a terribly heavy caseload, very stressful. Not to mention the fact that at eight years my senior, he was nearing the Big Five-Oh. These things took a toll on a man's vigor.
However, I had taken the situation firmly in hand with a small detour to the pharmacy earlier this afternoon. I patted my Prada clutch. Viagra, truly a wonder drug. Yes, indeed, tonight was going to be a wonderful night, perfect from beginning to end.
I shifted my shopping bags and unlocked the front door.
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. Ah, I sighed as the fresh scent of a perfectly clean house filled my lungs. I'd never used a service, as so many of my friends did, and Reed always seemed so pleased with the job I did. And thanks to the do-ahead gourmet tips I'd mastered, Reed's associates would be pleased with the buffet I planned to offer along with cocktails this evening.
Once inside our bedroom, I checked the time, surprised to find I had nearly an hour before Reed would arrive, and almost twice that before his associates were due. It would give me just enough time to take care of a few loose strings involving the latest fundraiser I was pulling together for Reed's firm and double-check the flower arrangements I'd made earlier. Ah, the work of a corporate wife never ends — and I loved every second of it.
I opened the door to what Reed jokingly referred to as the Holy Shrine, more commonly known as my closet. He'd complained long and loud over its size and how I'd had it customized, but I hadn't minded his well-intentioned grousing. After all, a lady does need to be organized to look good — a fact men just don't understand. But oddly enough, those same men, Reed included, are completely put out if a lady doesn't look her best.
And the Holy Shrine was nothing if not organized, section by section, and housed most of my closest friends. Albert Nippon shared the space between Anne Klein and Donna Karan — each of whom kept me looking my daily best. And then there was a section devoted to L.L. Bean, strictly for those rustic getaway weekends spent with Reed's colleagues from Burn and Wainright.
Along the back wall was a custom-built rack that Reed called the Imelda Altar, a cunningly crafted shelving system for a few other dear friends, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, and Manolo Blahnik. Reed just didn't understand Imelda, but then, most men didn't. When her shoe collection had been tallied and the numbers reported, the men were practically apoplectic. Little veins popped out at their temples and began to throb in unison. Meanwhile, the women, myself included, simply shrugged and said, "Well, so would I, if I had the closet space."
I'd simply taken that very profound reasoning a step further by ensuring I did indeed have the proper closet space.
I quickly hid the ceramic horse I'd bought for Reed earlier today, a surprise addition to his collection, which I planned to present him with after the guests left. Now all that remained was my one personal purchase for the day, a La Perla set. I gently laid the scrumptious gown and robe out on the bed and removed the tags, my hands lingering over the sheer decadence of the black silk.
Oh, yes. This elegant silk number, with the addition of one small blue pill, was going to equal a fabulous night.
My heart fluttered in anticipation as I spotted the tastefully gift-wrapped package on top of the television. What a wonderful man I'd married — truly a Valiant Knight. Odd, I thought as I picked up the thin rectangular package. It wasn't standard E and E from T size. And it felt awfully light. I smiled. Reed must have gone the gift certificate route for this year.
I pulled off the wrapping in a split second, heart pounding wildly. And then it stopped in mid-beat. A DVD? Or was this a CD? I could never keep the two straight; technology was still not my friend even now when most of the population was glued to some kind of a screen. No one knew this tidbit better than Reed, so why would he have left me such a thing? I popped the flimsy disc from its plastic case. "Talk! Pre-recorded segment," the label announced.
Before I could fully wonder how Reed would have gotten a recorded segment of my favorite afternoon show, I deposited the disc into the slot and perched myself on the corner of our king-sized bed.
Instantly the screen filled with the set I'd come to recognize so well. A long, curved, beige sectional seating unit, a glass-topped coffee table before it, and an oak desk to the left, where the host, Maxine Rushton, was seated.
What in the world? I wondered, scanning the assembled men and women seated on the sectional. There were three women — I'm sorry to say it — way past their prime and clearly not interested in doing anything about it. Seated next to each was a man — Oh My God. Reed?
Or at least I thought it was.
I recognized the Armani suit I'd recently bought him, but other than that he bore little resemblance to the man I'd been married to for the last two decades.
The shirt Reed wore was one I'd never seen before, silky and almost plum in color. It also wasn't fully buttoned and exposed a gracious bit more graying chest hair than it should have. His conservatively cut, dark brown, thinning hair had been moussed into wild short spikes about his scalp. It gave him the unfortunate look of a middle-aged porcupine gone punk.
My jaw dropped open farther as I watched my husband drape an arm across the shoulders of the pudgy old woman seated next to him. She responded with a simpering grin and an adolescent batting of eyelashes that was positively revolting to witness in a woman of her advanced years.
I stabbed at the volume button on the remote control and was rewarded with Maxine Rushton's voice as the camera brought her into view.
"Welcome to today's episode of Talk!" The audience applauded heartily. "Our topic today is younger men who fall for older women: Is it love or greed?"
My stomach clenched into a tight little ball of pure acid, and my mind shut down, save for one question which throbbed in neon lights: What in the hell was Reed doing with a woman old enough to be his mother? Bafflement and shock battled for the supremacy of my emotions.
Maxine turned to Reed, whose chest hair was currently being ruffled by the obese crone sitting next to him. "We have prominent San Francisco corporate attorney Reed Trews with us today, and he's going to start us off." Maxine leaned closer. "So, Mr. Trews, is it love?"
"Call me Reed, Maxine." He smiled the smile I'd privately dubbed Lawshark. "Absolutely." He pressed a kiss to the crone's iron-gray poodle curls. "How could it be anything else?"
Maxine's brows rose slightly above the rims of her wire-framed glasses. "There's quite a difference in age. What do you two have in common?"
"Sixteen years isn't such a great gap. Why, it's barely anything. A blink of an eye."
My oddly detached brain quickly did the calculations. That put this woman at sixty-four compared to Reed's forty-eight. I felt ill as I contemplated that a woman old enough to be my mother was the possible reason behind the current lack of sex in my marriage.
The senior citizen unabashedly plastered to my husband's side shifted toward Maxine. "Nothing more than silly little numbers. How could such a trivial thing matter in the face of true love?" She exhaled the last two words as though she were revealing divine prophecy.
"Absolutely," Reed, still grinning like Jaws, agreed.
"And naturally your love for Miss Kilgreen has nothing whatsoever to do with her considerable interests?"
"Of course not," Reed confirmed.
Maxine pulled a paper from a sheaf on her desk. She began ticking off a list of Miss Kilgreen's financial interests. My jaw dropped farther with each item mentioned. Good Lord, the old bat was wealthy enough to wipe out the National Debt with her pocket change.
Maxine laid down the paper. "So, Reed, your decision to leave your successful law practice and your family has nothing to do with any of this?"
"Leave!" I squealed at the television. "What in the hell are you talking about?"
Reed continued, "Absolutely not. When a man's in love, he simply can't help himself." He paused to look adoringly down into the simpering crone's eyes. "And I'm completely in love with Trixie."
"Trixie!" I screeched. My husband was dumping me on national television, destroying our family, ruining our daughter's life, and ending his successful career. And he was doing all this for a woman with a name that typically belonged to a Chihuahua?
This couldn't be happening. This just simply couldn't be real. Stable, devoted, dependable men like Reed didn't walk out on the families and careers they'd taken a lifetime to build.
Then it hit me. It was a joke. Of course. Why hadn't I thought of that before? It wasn't really national television, it was only a DVD. For all I knew, Reed could have had some computer techie friend from the firm set the whole thing up.
I heaved a sigh of relief. This was nothing more than some sort of weird attempt at humor on Reed's part. A gag gift for my Big Four-Oh.
Reed was speaking again. "You know, Maxine, the whole concept of marrying for money wasn't created by a man."
"Is that right?"
Excerpted from "Relatively Crazy"
Copyright © 2017 Ellen Dye.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Where do I start. Poor Wanda Jo leaves her home town with plans for a better life. Taking with her a self help book called 'Marrying Up' that she plans will change her life. 'Marrying Up' paves the way out of the home town and a better life for awhile. After being married for 20 years in what she thinks is the perfect marriage to the perfect man. Poor Wanda Jo . . . that is now going by Ashton's world is turned upside down when her husband of 20 years leave her for another woman. A woman that is his senior by 15 or more years! Not only does he leave her; he tells the world on national television. O.K. so he's a bit of a jerk. O.K. so he thinks he's getting back at her because of the whole 'Marrying Up' scheme. But 'Hello' the two have a 16 year old daughter! Wanda Jo aka Ashton and their daughter returns to her home town almost penniless. Hello again. What a jerk. It was hard for me to get past all the jerkiness. Man she should have been happy to be rid of him! Ashton's return home is anything but simple. She returns to a quirky family and a bit of romance. Relatively Crazy is a crazy ride that keeps the reader turning the pages all the way to the end. I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more! I received a complimentary copy.
Wanda Jo Ashton grew up in a small town in West Virginia with one goal in mind: to get as far away from her penny-pinching life as she could. Twenty years later, on her 40th birthday, Wanda Jo, who now calls herself Ashton and lives in San Francisco, is expecting an expensive birthday gift from her attorney husband, Reed, only to be rejected by him on a popular TV talk show. Reed, choosing to assume the role of boy toy to a wealthy elderly woman, leaves Wanda Jo destitute and desperate. With her 16-year-old daughter in tow, Wanda Jo returns to her hometown and eccentric family, where she tries to figure out what to do with her life while expecting her husband to eventually rescue her. But what Wanda Jo thinks she wants may not be what she actually gets. Relatively Crazy is, as we say in the South, a hoot and a half. Filled with fun characters and witty dialogue, it starts off with a bang and doesn't let up. This humorous tale of a woman's journey as she deals with a broken marriage while beginning a new and completely different life than the one she led is heart-warming and thoroughly entertaining. There's a touch of romance, which spices up the story, along with a refreshing dose of camaraderie among some of the women characters. A book readers will truly enjoy (and not want to put down).