Monday, June 10, 2013

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank- One of my favorite authors!

Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley’s wildly successful Atlanta social set. His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish—’til death did them part—for tanned and toned young Barbie brides.

If losing the social life and close friends she adored wasn’t painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les’s world and push her to the edge. She’s had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he’s doing her a favor by keeping her around. She’s not going to waste another minute on people she doesn’t care to know. Now, she’s going to take some time for herself—in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. In her brother’s stately historic home, she’s going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers sharing steamy kisses with her first love on Sullivans Island. Along Charleston’s live oak- and palmetto-lined cobblestone streets, under the Lowcountry’s dazzling blue sky, Les will indulge herself with icy cocktails, warm laughter, divine temptation and bittersweet memories. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she’s always dreamed.

4.5 hearts

When a woman falls and spends 45 minutes in an empty catch basin on a trip to Scotland, you know that things are not going to well in her life. Leslie Carter has seen her friends get cast off by their husbands for wife 2.0 until she feels like she is the LAST original wife.  She has had to put up with dinners and events with these younger women and then finds herself on vacation with the replacement wife for her best friend. Her husband, Wesley has dreamt all of his life about golfing at St. Andrews and off the foursome goes to Scotland.  When Les has her accident, the rest of the group keeps walking back to the hotel and doesn’t even realize she is missing. After she is located, Wes leaves her at the hospital so he doesn’t miss his tee time.
Back home, Les realizes that her life has not turned out to be what she expected it to be. Yes, she is still married but it’s a marriage by rote not of passion or caring. Her two adult children are irresponsible and users.  Wes is a controlling guy and has no appreciation for what Les has done for him over the years.  She discovers that financially they are in a much better situation than she was aware of and this is the impetus for her to take a trip to Charleston to visit her brother.   Les has time to think and really assess what her life means and what she really wants to do with her future.
So many books lately feature the discarded wife being screwed by her cheating ex and having to rebuild her life on nothing but pluck.  Then she gets financial revenge and a new man and everything is great.  I love a good revenge plot as well as the next person, (Note: Pawley’s Island by this author is one of the absolute best of that genre) but this book is different. Les decides to take a break from her marriage after a period of reflection and increased self-awareness. She does meet up with an old flame but that is not the answer to her problems. Les needs to see what it is about herself that put her in the position she is presently in.  How did she become ok with settling for less than she deserved? Why does she let other people make her feel that her wants and needs are less important than her husband’s and children’s? Is fear of what your life will be without your marriage a good enough reason to stay?
Wes is not really a bad guy, just self-absorbed and oblivious.   When the couple goes to counseling, the real difference between them is highlighted.  Les wants to find out if this marriage can be saved and Wes just wants his old life back with no changes on his end.
There is an interesting side story about a woman writer from earlier times in Charleston in whose story Les becomes interested. The descriptions of the “Barbie” wives are funny and pathetic at the same time. One of Ms. Frank’s skills is how she defines her characters and integrates the Southern mystique into her books. I thought that this book was a little less South-centric than some of her other books.   That said, I enjoyed reading this book but I expected no less from one of my favorite authors.

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