Saturday, June 8, 2013

Excerpt from Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan

Romance, Comedy, Shakespeare! Elizabeth Lancaster is perfectly happy. Why shouldn’t she be? She teaches Shakespeare at a respectable community college. She’s got an impressive family that includes a Nobel Laureate father, an opinionated mother, one sister who’s curing cancer, and another go-getter who’s married to a Congressman. Plus she inherited a stunning Early California hacienda from her grandmother. Well, it will be stunning if she ever finds the capital to re-do just about everything.

So why does everyone keep telling her she needs a more prestigious job, upgraded countertops, and, most of all, a better man than her famous ex-husband, movie star FX Fahey? Elizabeth silences her family and surprises herself when she joins her ex to work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Over the course of the summer, she discovers that men can change, politics can be sexy, dogs rule and William Shakespeare has a thing or two to teach her about modern relationships.


This is where the class gets good, I thought. Where I, Elizabeth Lancaster, community college English teacher and theater enthusiast, feel most in my element. “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s read it together, Nico. You and me. Like I always say, Shakespeare’s words are meant to be spoken, not studied at arm’s length. It’s living, breathing dialogue. And in this scene, the sexist pig is trying to convince the cold-hearted be-yotch that the sun is actually the moon. It’s his way of exerting power, and she is employing her own manipulative techniques to shut him down. Raise your hand if you’ve done this in your own relationships. Who’s played mind games in a romantic relationship?”

All the hands went up except Sahil’s, whose closest personal relationship has probably been with his PlayStation controller. “That’s what I thought. Get up, Nico. You’re Petruchio and I’m Kate. Let’s go.”
He heaved his squat body out of the chair, as his classmates hooted. His buddy from high school, Aron, hissed, “Duuude.” Nico’s reluctance was skin deep. He was a ham at heart. “Please, don’t make me do this.”

I took a swig of Diet Coke and did my best faux-ghetto “Oh, it’s on.” The students whooped, like I knew they would.

Nico began haltingly, adding several more syllables than in the original. “Come on, a’ God’s name. Once more, um, um, toward our father’s. Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!” He inserted a dramatic hand gesture for emphasis, then gave me a triumphant look.

Oh, it was on. I tapped into my Inner Shrew, which wasn’t hard. I was a single, mid-30s woman with emerging bunions, a leaking roof, and a love life that had been in decline since the early Aughts. Not to mention that I had a mother who kept setting me up with every divorced dad in Pasadena and a sister who insisted I needed to keep “putting myself out there” even though she has no idea how rough it is “out there.” Why couldn’t they just leave me alone with my books, my vegetable garden, and my growing collection of European comfort shoes? I happened to like my life. Why didn’t my family? Oh, yes, at that particularly moment in time, I was feeling extremely shrewish. Watch out, Nico. “The moon! The sun—it is not light now.”

Nico rose to the challenge, playing his Petruchio with a touch of Jersey Shore. “I say it is the moon that shines so bright.”

The classroom door cracked as it opened. I didn’t bother to turn to see who’d arrived thirty minutes late to class. Besides, the audible gasp from a dozen young women told me it was Jordan. He was easily the best-looking boy in the room and a star baseball player who was hoping for a decent transfer offer. Jordan slid in late most days, hoping for attendance credit and a chance to flirt with Shiree. But I paid no attention to the rumble from the other students, because I was in the zone. “I know it is the sun that shines so bright.”

Nico’s jaw dropped open, apparently stunned silent by my confidence. But the scene wasn’t nearly over, so I gave him the universal “it’s your turn” sign with my hands. He stammered, unable to get out the next line. And then I heard the next lines come from behind me. “Now by my mother’s son, and that’s myself, It shall be the moon, or star, or what I list…”
I turned to face the owner of the familiar voice. Good God, just what I needed.
No wonder the girls gasped. There, resplendent in jeans and a black T-shirt that probably cost more than my car, was Francis Fahey. Or as the world knew him, FX Fahey, the third-highest-grossing action star behind Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. His “Icarus” franchise had spawned video games, fast food tie-ins, and a legion of fans that believed the laid-back actor to actually be the futuristic cop hero. Clearly, FX was used to being the center of attention, and he owned the classroom the minute he entered. He strode up the center aisle, grinning effortlessly, like he was just returning from the grocery store with a six-pack of beer instead of invading my workplace after a decade of no face-to-face contact. Oh, he was enjoying the moment. “Or ere I journey to your father’s house. Go on and fetch our horses back again. Evermore cross’d and cross’d, nothing but cross’d.”

Lian Dolan is a writer, producer, talk show host, podcast pioneer and social media consultant. She writes the blog and produces the weekly podcast “The Chaos Chronicles,” a humorous look at modern motherhood. She writes for as a parenting expert. A decade ago, Lian created Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show, blog and website, with her four real sisters. Her writing has appeared in many national magazines, including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother and essays in such anthologies as Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul. TV appearances have included The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a popular speaker for groups and corporations, always using humor as hook. Her previous books include Helen of Pasadena and The Satellite Sisters’ Uncommon Senses.

Visit Lian online at

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