Today marks the release of my new historical novel, Lies in White Dresses, which tells the story of three women who travel to Reno in the 1950s for “quickie” divorces, only to test the bounds of their friendships and the bonds of family. My editor says it’s her favorite of my novels so far, which is probably like telling you that my dad liked it (both are true!)—but if you’d like to hear from more objective sources, read on for some of my reviews.
I’ve also written about dedications this month, below. Have you ever wondered how an author decides who to name in her book’s dedication? The choice was easy for me this time. I’m really enjoying writing these chatty little essays; it’s my way of connecting with readers I may never meet in person.
Speaking of connecting with readers, I did a random drawing of two newsletter subscribers to receive signed copies of all three of my historical novels. Congratulations to winners Heather Madison and Alexandra Jamison.
Here’s wishing you lovely autumn days and captivating reads….
“A memorable, atmospheric tale to savor with a friend and a rum-ginger fizz.”
—Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Edge of Lost
“Lies in White Dresses presents one of the most unique plots I’ve seen in women-friendship fiction. Immersive characters bond during a greatly unknown and intriguing slice of American history. It’s a novel that is so hard to put down.”
—Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of American Duchess
“Part coming of age, part mystery, [Lies In White Dresses is] a rich and evocative story about the unshakable bonds of female friendship.”
—Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time
I am the mother of two beautiful children who have brought me more joy than I could ever have asked for. Motherhood has not only fulfilled me, it has made me a far better person and continues to teach and enrich me every day.
By the time my kids reached adulthood, I had learned a few things about family, the most important lesson being that we can choose it. I’ve got two great siblings, lovely cousins, and I’m lucky that my wonderful dad and his wife are healthy and active, but I’ve also got many sisters-by-choice (and un-chose my ex-husband.)
And to my great surprise, the year I turned 50, fate made a surprise delivery of two more kids when I met a man with two high-school aged daughters. I was crazy about this man and wanted very much to make a good impression, but I was full of trepidation—I’d heard so many stories of petulant kids who did their best to undermine their parents’ new and unwelcome love interests, who defied and undermined and mocked like only teens can do. And I also knew I had it coming: when my dad met Judy almost four decades ago, I made it clear that I resented her presence. (Luckily, she forgave me.)
I showed up at my new boyfriend’s house on a chilly December night, carefully dressed to look as mom-ish and unthreatening as possible, my heart in my throat. The tall, dark-haired girl who opened the door gave me a big grin and told me she was happy to meet me—and then another tall beauty bounded into the foyer and shook my hand with unbridled enthusiasm and…I was smitten. They never once made me feel anything but welcome.
There followed four years of getting to be a high school parent all over again. There were talent shows, softball and football games, back-to-school nights, drama performances, cheer tournaments, camping trips, and vacations to Disney and Tahoe. I got to chaperone house parties, tour colleges, make late-night runs for tampons and ice cream, check homework, and talk about boys and friend drama. I had loved all of this the first time around and I loved it this time. One year for Christmas the girls gave me a photo collage of all of us in a frame printed with the word FAMILY. By the time I attended each of their high school graduations, the pride I felt was a mother’s pride.
Things changed the way they do. Their father and I split up; he found a new love and everyone moved to new towns. By then I had gotten to know the girls’ mother, and in an act of amazing generosity, she and her fiancé opened her heart and home to me and invite me to visit the girls whenever they are in town. They too are part of my extended family now.
Caitlin, the elder girl, attended the University of Nevada, and after visiting Reno several times I knew I had to set a book there. Caitlin and I explored the colorful history of the town and characters almost came to life on their own. The result is Lies in White Dresses, and of course, there was only one person I wanted to dedicate the book to!
At the same time I was writing Lies, I had begun another project, my first co-authored novel. That’s What Frenemies Are For is an exploration of the socially competitive world of the Upper East Side, a fun story full of friendship and gossip and fashion and wine. The protagonist is a woman who gets swept under the riptide of social warfare, and is saved in the end by her true heart. In this way she reminded me of Lauren, the younger sister, who survived the treacherous waters of high school society, even when she got her heart broken, even when the mean girls turned their lasers on her. Those who knew her only as a bubbly senior cheer captain missed out: the same girl who spent more time texting than studying spent hours and hours making elaborate valentines and snuggling with the dog, murmuring into his silky ears to remind him what a good boy he was.
Dedications are a funny thing, especially for a private person like myself. It feels weird to broadcast my love in print when the people concerned already know I’m crazy about them. But I’ve come to realize that dedications to dear ones serve another purpose when a book has been shaped and shaded with their presence in my life, deliberately or not. My dedication to Caitlin is a way to tell her that without her, Reno would be just another town; my dedication to Lauren is meant to convey my gratitude to her for bringing me along as she dove headlong into crushes and friendships, emerging with bruises and wisdom and building the foundation for a lifetime of love.
I think two of my greatest gifts are an eye for disguised blessings and a willingness to seize them, like a prospector discovering gold in a dirt patch that others passed over. I didn’t know, that winter night so long ago, the magnitude of the gift I was being offered—but I thank my lucky stars I was smart enough to cherish it.