Elizabeth the First Wife - Lian Dolan

Release Date - May 2013

Lian Dolan
Prospect Park Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I admit to my hesitation when I started reading Elizabeth the First Wife. Clearly unlike the author, I can't stand Shakespeare's works. I hated having to read them over and over, Romeo and Juliet was clearly a favorite of all instructors. After three years running of Romeo and Juliet followed by Hamlet, followed by Macbeth, I vowed that once I was out of school, I'd never pick up Shakespeare again. Seeing that many chapters opened with Shakespeare insights, I wasn't certain I was about to have fun. Surprisingly, Lian Dolan intrigued me with her insights, enough so that there are some Shakespeare plays I wasn't tortured with in my teens and now want to give them a shot.

Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor with a profound love of Shakespeare, finds herself offered the chance of a lifetime. She can help her ex-husband nail his role in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. FX was once the love of Elizabeth's life, but his dreams were all about making a name for himself in Hollywood. They divorced after just over a year of marriage, and now he's back.

Elizabeth's sister is married to an aspiring politician who has a daughter from a previous marriage. When Elizabeth's sister and brother-in-law ask Elizabeth to bring the teen with her as an intern for the summer, she's happy she'll spend time with the girl, but also nervous about keeping watch over the politician's daughter. Suddenly, Elizabeth's summer is set to involve her trying to make sure FX nails his role, completing her book on Shakespeare, and keeping her teen niece out of trouble.

The minute I picked up Elizabeth the First Wife and read a page, I was hooked. There was no putting this book down. When I did, it kept calling me to come back and finish it. When paired with household chores that really needed to get down before the potential heatwave that's about to hit Vermont, it wasn't easy.

Elizabeth is a riot. I was rooting for her, especially when I started to learn more and more about FX and the other man Elizabeth meets during this book. I had my mind made up far before Elizabeth did.

The insights into Shakespeare clearly amused me. At one point there is a table ranking many of Shakespeare's "heroes" to today's vampire hero, Edward Cullan. I laughed out loud at some of those descriptions, leading my family to throw weird looks my way, but once my daughter looked at it, she also snickered, particularly at the breakdown of Edward.

All in all, this is a great beach read, an avoid-the-heat-inside-next-to-the-AC read, or an on-the-go and keep it in your purse read. Elizabeth the First Wife really did have me from hello!


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