The Divining Wand

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Laura Dave and The First Husband

May 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


With witty, wise, storytelling regarding the complexities of modern love — complemented by her elegantly honest prose –, Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America) offfers readers her third novel, The First Husband, available Thursday, May 12, 2011.

How good is it really? In its May 2011 issue, Marie Claire designated The First Husband as a “NEED TO READ” decadent novel noting: “What distinguishes Dave from her peers are her keen observations about the difficulty of creating lasting love in a freedom-obsesses society, and her willingness to follow her characters into the grayest areas of their emotional lives…”

The author accomplishes just that by first introducing Annie Adams, a thirtysomething travel columnist, who watches her five-year committed relationship dissolve within an hour. After five years with someone she loved and thought would be her life partner, what does Annie do? Well that was the question that inspired the novel — how do we not live our lives in reaction? Also how do we operate from a place of agency?

As for the title, Laura explains: “In today’s age, I feel like many of my friends have such serious relationships before marriage (decade long relationships) that in some ways this person they end up parting with is a first husband. I liked that the title could speak to that a bit.”

Indeed it does and the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

A savvy, page-turning novel about a woman torn between her husband and the man she thought she’d marry.

Annie Adams is days away from her thirty-second birthday and thinks she has finally found some happiness. She visits the world’s most interesting places for her syndicated travel column and she’s happily cohabiting with her movie director boyfriend Nick in Los Angeles. But when Nick comes home from a meeting with his therapist (aka “futures counselor”) and announces that he’s taking a break from their relationship so he can pursue a woman from his past, the place Annie had come to call home is shattered. Reeling, Annie stumbles into her neighborhood bar and finds Griffin-a grounded, charming chef who seems to be everything Annie didn’t know she was looking for. Within three months, Griffin is Annie’s husband and Annie finds herself trying to restart her life in rural Massachusetts.

A wry observer of modern love, Laura Dave “steers clear of easy answers to explore the romantic choices we make” (USA Today). Her third novel is packed with humor, empathy, and psychological insight about the power of love and home.

After three months Annie is married and starting over in rural Massachusetts?! Granted, Griffin seems to be wonderful and his small town, though isolated, is quaint and charming, albeit a bit off the beaten path. But is Annie being impulsive or reactive to finding “a ready made life” there? Because the truth is that this world travel columnist has a lack of self-worth baggage that she’s been dragging around though her mother’s numerous marriages and divorces. In other words, Annie has never had the stability to prove to herself that she deserved stability. This is one of the major themes of the novel and it’s also an issue that Laura Dave shows a brilliant take on as she says:

“I think she was deeply scared to even hope for it or ask for it — because then she would have to acknowledge how much she had longed for it. Watching Annie start to trust herself and gain a sense of self-worth (and choose a man who honored who she truly was) was a great joy for me as a writer.”

Perhaps the simple fact that Annie realizes she enjoys being with someone completely different than she’s used to –even loves him enough to marry him — makes The First Husband both insightful, delightful, and fresh. And all that likely comes from the author’s writing process. Because, when writing, Laura doesn’t know what’s going to happen….at times. Although she doesn’t follow a major outline, there are mental ideas as to where her characters are headed. However how they get there is both poignant and fun, creating a naturally human flawed storyline.

Without giving away *spoilers*, The Divining Wand asked the writer if she knew when, where, and how Annie would meet Griffin? And Laura admitted:

“I knew Annie was going to meet someone that night, and at some point I decided certain things about Griffin. But the joy for me is letting the characters talk to each other and say crazy things and be surprised myself as that meeting transpires on the page. When I feel surprised myself, I know my readers will feel that surprise too.”

Not only will there be that feeling of surprise, there will be “Aha,” and even “too close for comfort” feelings as well. For Laura Dave’s goal is to present her best possible writing by putting it first, the story second. Believing that good writing is rewriting, after the first draft, she often writes a dozen more. It’s in these drafts that the author finds what puzzle pieces are missing, what changes are needed, and what interesting bits of the story deserve more attention.

During the past decade, hundreds of novels have been written about twenty/thirtysomething women searching for happiness in quest of “Mr. Right.” TRUTH: The First Husband is not one of those novels. Instead it’s a tale of a thirtysomething woman searching for love within herself and the happiness that comes from learning where she can grow and belong. Modern love may throw in complications but it remains a universal story of self-acceptance. Which is why The First Husbandis a stunning, thoughtful, hopeful read for all ages because loving oneself is a lifelong journey. Enjoy!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Melissa Senate and
The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

October 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the book’s front cover:
There’s no recipe to
follow when it comes
to love. . . .

Bestselling author Melissa Senate (The Secret of Joy, The Mosts YA, the rest in Bibliography) will have her latest book, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, released next Tuesday, October 26, 2010, and its title alone is certain to categorize it as a romance novel. However, in the author’s guest post — Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit” made a cook out of me –, Melissa reveals that the idea for the book came from having her 6 year old son cooking (and wishing) beside her. Romantic? Actually this novel can best be described as a multi-generational, universal love story of discovering where one belongs in the world.

Selected as an Indie Next List Notable for November, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School first and foremost explores how deeply one’s past affects their present. Often taken for granted, Melissa explains how much her heritage means to her and the novel:

“A big part of the inspiration for Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, was my own grandmother, who died several years ago. I spent many weekends of my childhood in her tiny Queens, New York, apartment, in the kitchen, where I found she did most of her talking. She didn’t love talking about herself, but I was so interested in her not-so-easy early life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and her two marriages and I got an earful at the sink while scrubbing potatoes. I have this vivid memory of her funeral, of standing at the grave and holding my then toddler son in my arms, and something about that incredible stretch of generations stuck with me. What can your grandmother’s long life teach you about yourself, teach you want to want to know? How does your grandmother’s and your mother’s life affect who you are, your path? I had a lot of questions and found myself poking at that in all the family relationships in the book.”

As those questions were answered, the tale evolved into the following synopsis:

Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces daily. Benvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Also Simon and Schuster offers a taste sampling of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by providing an Excerpt: Chapter 1.

Although the novel may initially feel reminiscent of other chick lit books about a single young woman trying to find Mr. Right, it’s not. Instead — and in addition to the already mentioned issues that comprise the storyline — the romance is adult, mature, and complicated. For example, male characters with a past of failed marriages, divorce and shared parenthood are realistically showcased, juggling what’s best for their daughters as well as for themselves. Yes, here the children come first and that’s very important as Melissa says:

“The relationship between parent and daughter is such a huge part of the book, from Liam’s and Simon’s relationship as single fathers with their young daughters, to Tamara’s relationship as single woman with an overbearing mother, to Holly’s with her mother, and her mother with her grandmother, and Juliet’s with her grief. I’ve found I like to explore the effect of loss and divorce—and I like to write about fathers, single or otherwise, who’d go to the ends of the earth for their kids.”

Yet even caring, sensitive parents cannot protect their children from “mean girls” and bullying that range as far back to affect Holly’s mother. For the author will agree that what the novel is truly about is pressure. No matter what one’s age or whether it’s peer or family pressure, the consequences of pressure need to be confronted and dealt with.

Of course The Love Goddess’ Cooking School is also a most savory read filled with romance, pasta, and chicken alla Milanese. But, while spending months perfecting the recipes for the cooking class scenes, the author thought about what would make Holly feel like she belonged in her own life. Was it her own self-identity or other people’s expectations and acceptance?

With insightful clarity, Melissa found that the answer came down to having enough inner strength to hold one’s own against outside pressure, as she says:

“The character of Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, didn’t belong, and yet she made herself belong whether anyone liked it or not. I wanted to explore that strength. And I wanted Holly to find it for herself. I wanted everyone to find it. Then you get to choose; you get to decide.”

TRUTH: Sign-up for The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by pre-ordering or purchasing the book next week Tuesday and you’ll discover the best recipe for life and love is entirely up to the real you.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.