Another laugh-out-loud romp through Pasadena by Lian Dolan (author of Vroman’s all-time best seller Helen of Pasadena) that oh-so-gently sends up institutions beloved (and sometimes berated) by us all, while keeping the plot moving and the characters familiar, believable, and relatable.
Elizabeth Lancaster is a divorced professor of Shakespeare at PCC. She lives in a vintage adobe inherited from her grandmother, but the rest of her tight-knit, intrusive family isn’t doing her many favors. Her mother is the Chair of the Showcase House, scheming to get Elizabeth, if not married, at least a decent hair cut and a better job. Her father, the Caltech professor/Nobel Laureate, relates to her mostly on the tennis court. Sister #1, a successful physician, is the sympathetic one, while Sister #2, whose husband is considering running for governor, is perennially trying to set Elizabeth up with unsuitable suits. Elizabeth is a freer spirit who is puttering around with a book proposal, mulling over a kitchen remodel, and finally getting over her ex-husband while vaguely wondering “Is this all there is?”
Enter the ex-husband, the ultra-famous sex-god movie star FX Fahey, who has signed on to do an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Ashland, Oregon (under the direction of impresario Taz Buchanan). FX prevails on Elizabeth to help him return to the stage, offering her a summer in idyllic Ashland. She sees it as an opportunity to prove herself in many ways: can she move on from FX? Can she finally write a book? Can she separate from her family?
I won’t spoil the plot, but Elizabeth CAN keep us laughing as she juggles relatives, career, and a love-life. She brings her niece along to Ashland as an assistant, acquires a stray dog, gets caught up in the production and manages to help her house-sitter light her old Wedgwood stove via Skype. The witty Shakespeare pages — excerpts from Elizabeth’s book fusing Shakespeare and pop culture — are worth the price of admission (Power Couple #3: The Macbeths, Most Likely To Hold Office; Team Romeo Vs. Team Hamlet Vs. Team Twilight), but you’ll want to stay with Elizabeth the First Wife until the curtain call.