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Looking for a Love Story    by Louise Shaffer order for
Looking for a Love Story
by Louise Shaffer
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Louise Shaffer, whose previous works include Family Acts and Serendipity, brings readers another delightful and amusing read, with vulnerable characters who feel like friends and neighbors, in Looking for a Love Story. As always, actors and artists are central to her novel.

The lead is a young woman, Francesca, who has long struggled with her weight; her Feminist Icon of a mother; her parents' divorce (despite a good relationship with her stepmother Sheryl); and with her architect brother Pete's genius and the success that always seemed to come easily to him. After her father's unexpected death, Francesca takes a Write Your Bestseller! adult-ed class and writes a novel, Love, Max, about divorce from a dog's perspective. It's a huge success and changes her life and that of her beloved dog, Annie.

When a book jacket picture is needed, Francesca's agent sends her to gorgeous photographer Jake Morris. They have a hot romance, a quick wedding, and Francesca tries to make herself into the kind of woman the admittedly shallow Jake wants. But she can't write when she's not true to herself. She falls into a slump, gains weight, gets depressed and is hardly surprised when she discover that Jake has been having an affair with TV producer Andrea Grace. She lets them know she knows in a dramatic - and very public - fashion. It will not be a 'happy divorce'.

The slump continues until a severe lack of funds sends Francesca online in search of freelance work, leading her to a meeting with Chicky Masters. This feisty Swinging Great-Grandma, who resides in the Yorkville House for Senior Living, calls her Doll Face, and wants Francesca to pen a memoir of her parents, Joe and Ellie Masters, who toured the vaudeville circuit in the early 1920s. Words flow freely as Francesca writes their story, based on information from tapes recorded by Chicky. We read along as it's written, and the surprise ending shocks Francesca as much as readers.

Louise Shaffer gives us a witty, charming read in Looking for a Love Story, incorporating a history of vaudeville along the way. Joe and Ellie's tale is an old-style romance, centered on true love and sacrifice. In writing it, Francesca learns more about herself than she ever would have expected, and grows in important ways. This is Shaffer's best novel to date.

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