Chick-lit light with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and some love advice from the Bard thrown in, that’s Elizabeth the First Wife (Prospect Park, $15.95). Elizabeth Lancaster is a single community college instructor with a sexy, famous ex-husband and a Skype flirtation with a political campaigner. Author Lian Dolan (you might know her name from the Satellite Sisters podcast that’s been on NPR and ABC radio) tosses in a Nobel Laureate father, a need for home redecorating and a dog to pretty much guarantee something that everyone can relate to.
The book is a Los Angeles Times bestseller, and it’s not on that list because it’s a deep exploration of the themes of love and betrayal in Shakespeare; it’s there because it is a sweet exploration of why a smart single lady decides to change up her life. The word light keeps coming to mind — the pastel cover of the book, the chick-lit tone, the bright and sunny portrayal of Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival — this is the kind of book you read if you don’t want to think too hard, but you can’t deal with straight-up stupid when it comes to your summer reading.
The Shakespeare references, as Elizabeth works on in a book of her own that uses some of the Bard’s archetypal couples to give love advice, are sometimes a little labored but also amusing, and the non-Shakespearean types in Dolan’s readership won’t feel talked down to. And Elizabeth the First Wife drops in moments of humor as well as truly Oregon moments: “But despite those accusations and the rancor over a recent city ordinance outlawing public drumming, the mix of locals and tourists, new money and old hippies had clearly reached a happy détente at Paddy’s.”
If the light reading that is Elizabeth the First Wife whets your appetite for a trip to OSF, you may well be in luck — the publisher is offering a contest through June 30 in which readers can win a long weekend in Ashland with a hotel stay, dinner and tickets to the Aug. 9 performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; go to http://wkly.ws/1i2 to enter.