I got up at five yesterday morning for the NO/AIDS Walk; which I worked for five hours. I also worked Saturday, so I gloriously have today off, and don’t have to go in until later tomorrow. I intend to go to the storage unit and retrieve some copies of the first two Scotty books, Bourbon Street Blues and Jackson Square Jazz, because I don’t have any copies in the Lost Apartment, and every once in a while people ask for copies, or I might be able to sell some, or something. In either case, it sucks not having copies on hand. I am a little worried they may be buried in the back of the unit, but I also need to start getting rid of the stuff stored in there anyway. I’m not going to get rid of it all, but obviously, there are things in there I don’t need to keep.
After I came home yesterday I was delighted to watch the Saints win, and we also finished watching Atypical, which is really a charming and funny show you can binge-watch on Netflix, and we also started watching Harlan Coben’s The Five, which is also very well done and interesting.
I also finished reading Linda Joffe Hull’s Eternally 21.
I didn’t think things could get much more for worse than the night my husband came home looking like his usual tall, dark, and handsome self but wearing a very unusual shade of I’m-really-sorry-but-I-lost-everything-in-a-Ponzi-scheme. Suffice it to say, the news was shocking, distressing, mortifying, terrifying, and any number of other disaster-relating –ings. Given my husband happens to be Channel Three’s wealth-management guru, it was also potentially career ending.
After all, who would watch his show, Frank Finance, if Frank “Finance” Michaels was broke?
I needed to help make ends meet, but there was no out-of-the-way bar where I could cocktail waitress in guaranteed anonymity. Not one where I was sure my husband’s face wouldn’t appear on the corner TV. Beside, Frank had to let his personal assistant go, so I stepped in at a salary of hopefully we’ll be able to keep the house.
Under strict gag orders about our financial bind and obligated to keep up the appearance of what was suddenly our former lifestyle, I did was any resourceful, close to middle-age, stay-at-home mom with a computer would do–after I finished crying and had consumed all the Rocky Road, Doritos, and Girl Scout cookies in the house: Welcome to http://www.mrsfrugalicious.com, the website devoted to all things savings!
Four months had passed since I posted those words and I, Mrs. Frugalicious, AKA Mrs. Frank Finance, AKA Maddie Michaels–still felt a little thrill.
Okay, a big thrill.
In that remarkably skillful opening, Linda Joffe Hull sets up her series: Maddie Michaels is our erstwhile heroine; she runs a website devoted to tips saving money; and she explains not only who she is, but why she runs that website. This is also an incredibly, incredibly clever opening, and a mini-master class is defining character: because you see exactly how Maddie sees herself–she is a wife and mother and partner first and foremost, a person second. She even lists, towards the end there, how she sees herself, in order–Mrs. Frugalicious, Mrs. Frank Finance, Maddie Michaels. She herself doesn’t even realize how important being Mrs. Frugalicious is to her; it’s a career and persona she has created herself, by herself, for herself; her second most important identity is as the wife of a television personality, and lastly, herself. And as you turn each addictive page, the real story of Eternally 21 isn’t necessarily the murder mystery itself, but the story of a woman who has long subsumed herself in the identity of being supportive wife and loving mother, slowly coming to terms with, and accepting, her own power.
This isn’t to say that the murder mystery–a horrible store manager at the local mall Maddie frequents dies right in front of her–isn’t interesting and compelling, full of twists and turns, with some big surprises at the end I frankly didn’t see coming. It’s very deftly plotted, and of course, the most important part of any amateur sleuth novel is coming up with a believable way for the amateur to get involved in the case, and want to try to solve it. And as she solves the mystery, struggles to keep her secret identity secret, continues to be the glue holding her family and household together, and pull off keeping her website going, it quickly becomes clear that Maddie Michaels is a force to be reckoned with. Maddie is someone the reader can identify with and root for, and her twin sons are also incredibly likable…and you begin to wonder why, precisely, she puts up with her narcissistic husband.
It’s a lot of fun. Published by Midnight Ink, an excellent press primarily focused on crime fiction–they also publish Jess Lourey and Catriona MacPherson’s terrific stand-alones and R. Jean Reid’s (J. M. Redmann’s pseudonym) new series–the book is compelling and a lot of fun; there are times when I smiled, others when I laughed out loud.
I do look forward to reading more in this series.