REVIEW: Window Dressing by Nikki Rivers

Dear Ms Rivers,

When a heroine starts out so needy and dependent, I hope that the only way she’ll go from there is up. I have to say that since Lauren Campbell really did need to get herself a life, I’m happy that she improved over the course of “Window Dressing” instead of remaining the type of heroine who drives me batty.

Lauren and her slightly eccentric neighbor Moira actually have fun dropping Lauren’s 18 year old son Gordy off at college. During the six hour drive home, they pig out on junk food while Lauren tries to start getting used to the idea that her baby is gone. Over the next month, she lunches with friends, putters around the house baking cookies to send to Gordy, orders some catalogs from local colleges and tries to decide what she wants to study so that she’ll be able to support herself once her ex-husband stops paying the mortgage and alimony. Thinking she has the four years that Gordy will be in school to make up her mind, it comes as a shock to discover that she should have paid more attention to the terms of her divorce settlement. Roger informs her that not only is the house now up for sale but when it sells, she’s on her own.

Stunned by the news, Lauren confirms with her lawyer what she should have realized ten years ago. Then she gets a list from the real estate agent of what the house needs to make it salable and starts to negotiate with Roger. If he’ll let her stay in the house while the repairs/updates are done, he won’t have to oversee the work. With that agreed on, her next item is to find a job, any job. And it’s then that Lauren realizes dropping out of college to marry Roger then raise their son has left her with no job skills. At all. Getting on her feet while dealing with her nasty ex, her son’s independence problems, her hypercritical mother and maybe finding a little romance turns out to lead Lauren in directions she never anticipated.

Lauren’s whole life is a window dressing. She married for wrong reasons then spends the next 18 years trying to orchestrate the perfect life she wishes she’d had as a child. It takes a rude awakening to make her see that she was living in a fantasy world of denial. The change in Lauren over course of the book is gradual and believable. But I have a hard time seeing how she could have screwed up her divorce settlement so badly. And the fact that she makes no effort for ten years to ready herself for the future boggles my mind.

Does she ever come up with the answer for why she doesn’t hold her father to blame for abandoning her as a child? You show a brief glimpse of why Lauren’s mother has her own issues and believe it or not I can see why it takes Lauren so long to confront her mother over her mother’s treatment of her. I guess subconsciously, Lauren didn’t want to risk her mother leaving her too so she put up with a lot. It also explains why Lauren settled for the husband she did.

Moira is a scream. I don’t know if I’d want to be a married woman living on the same suburban block with her but she’s fun to watch in slinky action.

I like that Lauren doesn’t rush gung-ho into another relationship. She likes what she sees so far and what she hopes might happen but she’s going to take this one slowly. I was cheering her on with the unconventional romance with a hot younger man. I can’t recall seeing that in a romance book lately!

Gordy comes across realistically. His anger at the changes in his life and his mother’s life make sense. His experience at college is something I remember seeing. I like that we get to see how Lauren makes mistakes in her relationship with her son. She worries about smothering him yet her love as a mother shines through. She wants to protect him and has to fight with herself to realize he needs to be let go to grow up, to make his mistakes, realize what he’s doing and own up to them. Ultimately in his confession of his troubles and his willingness to make them right and fix his life we see that Lauren did raise him right.

While I don’t understand everything about Lauren, I did enjoy watching her learn to be independent and discover who she is and what she wants in life. B- for “Window Dressing.”



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