Lehr turns out a frothy escape novel that examines a cross-section of contemporary Los Angeles divorcées who become fast friends despite themselves. There's Diane, a mom of two whose husband's gambling led to bankruptcy and divorce. Then there's Lana, the former wife of a Hollywood heartthrob whose public breakup became a national punch line and led her to change her name and find work at a furniture store. Rounding out the cast is sweet-as-sugar Bonnie, a former homecoming queen now saddled with two children and an overbearing husband, and icy divorce attorney Annette, whose husband left her for another man. After a chance encounter in Lana's furniture store, Diane discovers Annette is living in the house she lost, and Bonnie has a mini-breakdown while choosing a coffee table; the four eventually find themselves looking to each other for support, insight and favors. Although occasionally veering toward the implausible or clichéd-such as when Lana spurns her ex on national television-Lehr keeps the plot moving with madcap hijinks and tender moments. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Wife Goes On
By LESLIE LEHR KENSINGTON BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Leslie Joyce Lehr
All right reserved.
Chapter One DIANE
... you wish you had married for money.
"I hate you," Diane said. She sat down on the velvet settee her husband had proposed to her on eighteen years earlier. She would miss her grandma's antique furniture even more than this beautiful Brentwood estate, sold on the verge of foreclosure.
Steve yanked her white cotton briefs down her unshaven legs and over her feet, then tossed them over his shoulder. The flat circle of a poker chip pressed against the straining denim of his pants pocket. "A deal's a deal."
"You would know," she said. He was an asshole, but it was nice to see him on his knees. Plus, she hadn't had sex in two years. She dropped the legal documents and leaned back until all she could see was the chandelier. At least she wouldn't have to clean those crystals again, she thought, as his gray head lowered out of sight between her legs. She flinched. A jolt of electricity surged down her naked thigh and burned the sole of her left foot, making her toes cramp.
Her Volvo horn honked from the driveway. She opened her eyes and struggled up to peek out the living room window. The sky above the palm trees was nearly dark.
"The kids are fine," Steve said.
Diane hesitated, then reached for the collar of his Hawaiian shirt and pulled him up on top of her. He was a little heavier than she remembered, but he still had all the right parts. She yanked down his zipper. What harm was there in a quickie? Then his mouth was on hers and he was inside her and it felt so damn good. They had made love 1,999 times in this house. Might as well go for a record before she reset the counter to zero. According to those books at Barnes & Noble, she could be there for a very long time. Right now she had an itch the size of Disneyland, and who could resist the Happiest Place on Earth? A sheen of sweat broke out beneath her T-shirt. She felt the warm flush of blood inside her chest.
The car horn faded behind the sound of her panting. This was the true meaning of wedded bliss. Steve knew exactly how she liked it: how hard, how fast, even how to make her ears ring.
No, that was her cell phone. Her hand automatically groped for it on the floor.
"Mother," fifteen-year-old Quinn whined from the car. "What's taking so long?"
"I'm ... coming," Diane said.
What a woman will do to get her divorce papers signed.
Two minutes and a gulp of water from the kitchen faucet later, Diane dragged a potted palm out the front door of the house. She felt dizzy, but not from the sex. She couldn't believe this was really happening. That could not possibly be her shaky hand locking the double door for the last time. That was, however, her key chain with the kids' pictures and the Ralph's club card attached. Diane wiped her fingers on her sweatpants and pried the house key off. Perfect. Now she had a complete set of broken nails to go with her broken family.
She kissed the happy face house key good-bye and put it under the welcome mat for the new owner. Then she looked across the overgrown yard to make sure the kids were okay. They were still waiting in the filthy Volvo station wagon parked in the driveway next to the Brentwood Realty sign. The sign was already surrounded by weeds. Diane had felt awful when she let the gardener go last month, but to hell with the Homeowners' Association. Diane was no longer a homeowner.
In the car, Quinn and her nine-year-old brother, Cody, were pinned between moving boxes. Cody was engrossed in his Wii, thank God. Quinn was painting on lip gloss as if she had a date, which she sort of did, with a whole new life in a tiny rent-controlled apartment a few blocks away in Santa Monica.
The wrought-iron gate next door clanged open. Diane jumped behind a square porch column as headlights swept past. The last thing she wanted was for her neighbor, Olivia, to come home from the neighborhood picnic-if you could call a catered barbecue a picnic-and spot Diane fleeing in the dark of night like a criminal. The T-shirt sticking to her back might as well be an orange jumpsuit stenciled with the number 16,000,001. Diane might be a statistic now, but she was not one of them ... those walking clichés, those bitter divorcées. Diane was not a quitter. She was a starter, that's all. Starting over. With a mountain of debt, two kids, and a deadbeat ex who had fucked her in more ways than one.
Diane pushed a lock of faded bottle-brown hair behind her ear and prayed for Olivia's gate to close. The kids were restless and they were already late "vacating the premises," but if Olivia saw Diane, she'd run out to say good-bye. And if that woman brought over another plate of those god-awful crème de menthe brownies, Diane might have to run her over. She was tired of hearing how a reliable maid could save a marriage. A reliable husband would be a better bet. Not that she was the betting kind; she left that to Asshole.
Diane knew what people like Olivia thought: that Diane was one of those brides who got married with their fingers crossed behind her back. But that wasn't true. Diane had not eloped, planned a prenup, or shouted her vows while jumping out of an airplane. She had a proper church wedding-except for the usual obscenities exchanged between her mother and stepmother whenever they were on the same side of the Rockies. Which was why Diane truly meant it when she swore "till death us do part." Unfortunately, her husband refused to keel over on his own accord.
Ex-husband, she reminded herself, now that the papers were signed and sealed in the envelope in her hand. Or did she have to suffer the name Kowalski until the L.A. County Court recorded her failure for posterity? She used to think divorce was the easy way out-that people got lazy and didn't try hard enough. When other couples bit the dust, she and Steve used to feel superior, as if sticking it out were the key to happiness. But now, after eighteen months of torture from fancy lawyers and forensic accountants, she knew differently. Happiness was the key to sticking it out.
The blare of the Volvo's horn shook Diane from her reverie. She saw an upstairs light flash on at the colonial across the street. Faces peeked between the curtains above a jumbo American flag. She knew what they were thinking: the Kowalskis are at it again. At least the screaming was over. Diane waved to the kids to lay off the horn, but who was she to demand loyalty? If there were only her life to consider, she would have split a long time ago. And her stomach wouldn't be cramping like a permanent state of PMS.
Diane glanced at the plastic Cinderella watch she had borrowed from her daughter. Time to move. She hurried to the custom-made oversized mailbox and pulled out her last pile of mail at this address. Aside from the bills she couldn't pay and the catalogs she could no longer order from, there was a padded envelope from London, the home of her old business school roommate. A belated forty-second birthday present? Or had her friend read between the cheerful lines of Diane's e-mails? She pinched the bulge. Didn't feel like a self-help book, thank goodness; Diane had read them all.
Diane pinned the mail under her arm, picked up the potted palm, and hurried across the front yard toward the car-just as the sprinklers went on. Oh hell, she knew she had forgotten something. Besides her panties.
Diane shoved Scout, the black Lab, to the backseat and wedged the plant into the front next to the pet crate. Inside, their black cat, Boo, was hissing at a bottle of red wine that Diane had swiped from the otherwise fully stocked, climate-controlled wine cellar. It would be Two-Buck Chuck from here on out, so what the hell. Let the new owner sue her over a missing bottle of Montrachet. The bright side of bankruptcy is that no one can touch you. Still, she didn't want to set a bad example for the kids. One criminal in the family was enough. Scout barked again and nearly trampled Cody to get to the window. Diane couldn't pull the dog back from smothering her son. She tapped her daughter's sunburned shoulder. "I need your help, Quinn."
"Ouch. Okay, but don't get me wet." Quinn dropped her copy of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and opened the back door. A sleeping bag rolled out onto the driveway.
"I meant help with the dog."
"Can't Daddy take Scout?" Quinn asked. She retrieved the sleeping bag and climbed back in, tugging Scout's tail until the beast sat. "I want a purse poodle."
"You know Daddy's apartment doesn't take pets." Theirs didn't either, until she pawned her Cartier watch for the extra cleaning deposit.
"Isn't Daddy coming with us?" Cody asked.
Diane shook her head and toyed with her wedding rings. Asshole offered to have them cleaned just before the end, but she had wised up by then. He would have pawned them and claimed they were stolen to get the insurance money. Still, she couldn't take them off; her finger felt naked without them. "He said he'll pick you up for a barbecue tomorrow." Diane wrung the excess water from the hem of her sweatpants and climbed into the driver's seat. "Seat belts."
"Can you turn on KROQ?"
"I'm hungry," Cody wheezed.
Diane dug his inhaler out of her purse and tossed it back. "Give me a minute, you guys. It's been a long day."
"I am so sick of this whole divorce," Quinn said.
Diane met her daughter's eyes in the rearview mirror. She looked just like her father back when he had long hair and played the drums. Diane smiled at her, but Quinn was back to bickering with her brother as they pushed the dog back and forth between them. The cat hissed in her crate. Diane sighed. She was sick of the divorce, too, and it was only the beginning.
Diane tilted the mirror back from where the palm frond had tweaked it. Who was that scrawny woman in the mirror? Diane's hair was a frizzy cloud and her eyes were ringed with circles as dark as Quinn's mascara. And how long had she had that smudge of dirt on her forehead? It looked like a "D"-like the scarlet letter, announcing her failure to the world. Diane was marked for life. A long, lonely life.
Diane caught a glimpse of Olivia coming out of the gate next door. She jammed her key in the ignition. Diane was in no mood to make nice with a woman who had no idea what she was going through. The truth was, Diane had been lonely for a very long time.
A moving truck lumbered up to the curb. The night air seemed to thicken and settle over the car like a blanket. Everyone quieted down, even the animals. Diane took one last look at the only home the kids had ever known, and blinked back her tears. She had to set a good example. Act like this was an adventure. She lifted the collar of her T-shirt and rubbed the smudge off her forehead. Then she revved the engine. "Say: good-bye, house."
"Good-bye, house!" The three of them waved.
There was no turning back now; she had to make the best of it. In L.A., that only meant one thing.
"Who wants IN-N-OUT burgers?"
The kids shouted, "I do! I do!"
Diane laughed at those two little words. She hadn't had an appetite in months, but now her stomach was growling. She cranked the radio to the classic rock station. Then she hit the gas and sped off into ... she had no idea what.
Chapter Two LANA
... you avoid men who are too good-looking.
Lana loved salsa dancing. She loved how the red lights made her skin glow, how the clavé beat showed off her years of ballet, and how the short flippy skirts flashed her long legs. La Bamba was the best salsa club in L.A., more than worth the trek downtown through the Fourth of July traffic. Here, you were twenty-nine forever and all you had to do was dance. Most of all, Lana loved the touch of a stranger's hand on her hip, the intimacy without the emotion, 1-2-3, 5-6-7. It was like disco without the drugs, like sex with your clothes on. A total rush.
Friday was Ladies' Night, so the room was full of muscular men in tight black pants and shiny shirts. Lana towered over the shorter ones, so she was visible from every angle. Her glossy hair-dyed black this month-brushed her bare shoulders. She held it up to cool her long neck as she chose her next partner. Lana had danced with five different men tonight, but young Raul had the strongest hands and the smoothest moves. He also had the smoothest head. Lana's ex-husband had spent so much time fussing over his long locks in the mirror that she was now only hot for the hirsute. Plus, she had just read a study proving that the testosterone missing from a man's hairline tended to collect below the belt. Lana suspected there was even more to their machismo: bald men tried harder.
Raul spun her left and right, forward and back, but as he steered her by the hips, it stung. During her Hollywood days, Lana had endured chemical peels and fat injections, high heels and hair removal, but nothing compared to this lingering burn from getting her tattoo removed.
She blew Raul a kiss-he admitted his real name was Richard-and headed to the bar, squeezing past heavily perfumed tables filled with women of all shapes and colors, a democracy of dancers. A meritocracy, rather; you couldn't fake the footwork. Lana waved the hem of her spangled black skirt to get some air. The bartender poured her a martini with five olives before refilling a wineglass for the divorcée next to her.
At this point, Lana could spot them without checking for rings. They were the ones trying too hard. This one was costumed in head-to-toe black with the requisite funky earrings and eyeglasses of an Intellectual. Lana tugged at her red bra strap and toyed with the idea of referring her to Dr. Levine, her cosmetic surgeon. There was practically a law about looking forty in L.A., and this babe was breaking it. Lana was already twenty-nine-and she planned to stay that way forever.
A harried waitress squeezed by with a plate of beef taquitos. She scanned the noisy crowd and raised her eyebrows at Lana, who cringed and shook her head. Lana's body was her temple, and she would never defile it with fried food.
Another divorcée-a new one, by the looks of her turquoise sequined skirt and perfectly matching shoes-fumed as she joined her friend. "He called me a tease. Said I shouldn't wear a dance skirt until I learn how to dance."
Lana laughed and nearly choked on an olive. Widows got it together right away, maybe since they were single by accident, but divorcées, handicapped by guilt, were slow learners. And these women were everywhere, wearing designer duds to yoga class, then struggling to do a down dog; spending hours studying upholstery fabric, then settling for beige canvas. When Skirtwoman glared at her, Lana apologized and mentioned the free salsa classes the club offered on Sunday nights. What this woman really needed was a class on How to Have a Life. She turned away, but both women glanced back at her. Lana knew what was coming.
Intellectual passed her friend the wine, then signaled the bartender for another. Skirtwoman turned to Lana. "You look familiar. Any relation to that actress who-"
"No," Lana interrupted. "But I get that a lot." Fortunately, the half-life of actors was shorter than that of shooting stars. You could flame and burn out and no one would remember that you even existed. Unless you were married to another star, that is. Then it was like planets colliding, the debris drifted for eternity. She smiled and glanced in the mirror over the bar to tame her $300 bob. It was expensive to hide in plain sight, but it was easier than going home to Boston a complete failure. Besides, Lana loved L.A. "I work at a furniture store. Ever been to Mecca?"
"Sure," Skirtwoman said. "That must be it."
"Wonder what happened to that actress," Intellectual mused. "It's like she dropped off the face of the earth. Not that you can blame her."
Lana tried to maintain the friendly smile, one of dozens in her repertoire, but she was tired, and her hip hurt. She needed something to dull the pain, or better yet, something even more painful. Lana knocked back the rest of her martini, waved at the bartender, and ordered a shot of ouzo. Two years and eighty-one days since she fired her film agent. There should be a twelve-step program for recovering actresses.
The band slowed to a mambo, and Raul tapped her hip. Lana yelped, but no one could hear her over the conga drum. Maybe the wound was infected. She suggested that Raul ask Skirtwoman for a dance. When he whirled the woman away into the crowd, Lana gulped down the shot. Then she reached up beneath her skirt to smooth the bandage on her hip.
Excerpted from Wife Goes On by LESLIE LEHR Copyright © 2008 by Leslie Joyce Lehr. 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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A friend told me about this book, and gave me an idea of what it was about. Apparently, it is about a group of divorcees who become friends. Unfortunately, that is not the book that I downloaded. It is the same title and author, but not the right book. I ordered this and downloaded it and it turned out to be a book about baseball...no idea how b&n screwed that one up.
Leslie Lehr has created a captivating, beautifully-written story of love, friendship and hope for the future. Set in Los Angeles, it tells the story of four dissimilar women in failing/failed marriages who meet by chance. After sharing many poignant moments, a heartwarming, supportive friendship develops. Together, they learn how to survive the heartache and ultimately, live that happy ending. Ms. Lehr brilliantly intertwines the lives of these four women to bring them together. Amusing antics provide many laugh-out-loud moments. Her surprizing choice for the womens' business venture was a clever, amusing addition! This charming story serves as a wonderful inspiration to all women learning how to persevere and move on towards a new beginning. I really loved this extremely entertaining page-turner. I could easily understand and relate to these amazing women in many ways. Also, this wonderfully engaging story served as an excellent reminder of the necessity and importance of female friendships. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you and your friends grab a copy of this book and start reading!!
I loved how this author develops the plot, the characters and all of a sudden, you realize you finished the book, great read.
This book is a must read for anyone who's ever been in a relationship. It's a funny and touching story about the bonds of four women that are created during their divorces. It is empowering and breaks the stigma that surrounds divorced women. This book does for divorced women what Sex In the City did for single women in their 30s.
In Los Angeles four women who share in common failed marriages meet for the first time at a furniture store. They become close friends. In spite of two young children, Diane ended her marriage due to her spouse¿s gambling addiction. Lana¿s relationship to a Hollywood hunk died while the tabloids and late night TV turned her into a dumb joke as he publicly cheated on her. Former homecoming queen Bonnie remains married to a martinet husband still reliving his football glory days until he bucks their marriage leaving her with two children in holy singleness.------------ Diane learns that Annette resides in the house her ex gambled away. Bonnie nearly emotionally collapses while choosing a coffee table with Lana¿s help. Soon the foursome turns to one another for mental support and little favors. ------------------ WIFE GOES ON is a compassionate look at female survivors of the divorce war forming a bond of sisters. Each member of the quartet is unique with divergent issues, but is there for one another. Although the selfish childish husbands come across as one dimensional deserving of being raw meat at a vampire convention, fans will enjoy this often amusing but always deep look at the aftermath of ending a for worse only relationship as life for the ex wife goes on.--------------- Harriet Klausner