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Readers & Writers Ink Reviews
LISA MARIA'S GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
By Susan Hubbard
Red Dress Ink
Lisa Maria Marino has once again managed to fall in love, fall out of love and lose her job in the process. She never seems to learn that mixing business and pleasure doesn't work when the pleasure is found with men in her place of employment. Thoroughly disillusioned, she returns to her hometown of New Sparta, New York, and retreats to her childhood bedroom.
Tired of the nine-to-five office hours and sick of falling for men she works with, Lisa Maria decides to become a household assistant (a nice term for a maid). Performing manual labor for other women seems comparatively interesting and much safer emotionally. She pictures herself waltzing into the lives of grateful strangers and making them over. As a sideline, she writes an advice column for the local alternative paper.
Although Lisa Maria's own life is a certified mess, she quickly sets about straightening out the lives of others. She spends more time exploring the cabinets, cupboards and secret vices of her wealthy clients than she does cleaning their homes, but they don't seem to notice and each comes to feel they rely heavily on Lisa Maria, who is more often the boss than employee, although the clients don't realize it.
Her grand scheme begins to unravel when she agrees to clean for and organize a local reclusive novelist, who often dresses up as his characters. True to form, Lisa Maria finds herself falling for the man, despite the best of intentions, and begins taking drastic steps to remove herself from his influence and attraction. As determined as she is to avoid McAlister, her mother is even more determined to bring the two of them together and McAlister is siding with her mom.
In the midst of this, Lisa Maria writes an advice column that generates an avalanche of mail from a nearby small town, most of it denouncing her directives to one of their local population. To make life more interesting, Cindy, Lisa Maria's "good" sister, is suddenly seeing another man, a married man, leaving her own husband on his own and her baby in the care of her parents. Half the people Lisa Maria cleans for are having affairs and dull old New Sparta is beginning to look like a rival to Peyton Place.
Lisa Maria can't seem to straighten out her own life, but is determined to get the rest of the town back on the straight and narrow, although it may require engineering a lot of curves. Even if she can accomplish this goal, can she get her own life back on track?
LISA MARIA'S GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED is an entertaining story of one woman's quest to figure out her future by returning to her past and observing the follies of those who are considered to be well adjusted and "normal". The cast of characters is well drawn and the reader may see many people they know hiding behind public facades erected as protection. Susan Hubbard writes with open humor, combined with a dry wit and a periodic touch of cynicism that make this book a fun read. Perfect for the beach.
-- Reviewed by DanaRae Pomeroy
Readers & Writers Ink Reviews
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