BOOK REVIEW: 'The Best Laid Plans': What's a mother to do when she learns her husband has been fired: how about starting an 'escort' service?

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Best Laid Plans': What's a mother to do when she learns her husband has been fired: how about starting an 'escort' service?
"When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow."  —Veronica Franco (1546-1591)

Tru Newman, the central figure in Lynn Schnurnberger's "The Best Laid Plans" (Ballantine Books, 288 pages, $25.00) has it all, or so it seems as the collapse of the economy ripples through the high fliers who live in overpriced apartments in her Upper East Side Manhattan neighborhood.

Named Truman by her mother Naomi Finkelstein -- after Truman Capote of Black & White Ball fame, not after Harry Truman -- she has the perfect husband in handsome investment banker Peter Newman along with two wonderful daughters, 14-year-old  twins Paige and Molly. What could possibly go wrong?

At a charity benefit she's organized at the Metropolitan Museum of Art not far down Fifth Avenue from their condo, Tru Newman learns that the rich and poor have the same right to sleep under a bridge, as the hoary saying goes;   she learns that Peter Newman has been out of work for three months and hasn't told the love of his life how precarious their financial position is. They literally live in a house of cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard, all maxed out.

Suze Orman tells Tru to “Get a job ” But doing what? Her last job was decades ago, working in an art gallery. When Tru’s best friend, Sienna Post, loses her job as an anchor on the local nightly news, the two -- along with thirty-something tax lawyer Bill Murphy, who is attracted to Sienna and vice versa --  devise a profitable if illegal plan: They’ll open an escort service with “working girls” all over the age of forty. Modeling themselves on Carla Bruni (“after she married the president of France, not before, when she was dating Mick Jagger”), their smart, sexy, seasoned escorts become a big hit with a roster of thirty-year-old clients.

Bill Murphy has a large base of customers among his friends and acquaintances: successful, financially secure but socially insecure guys who will pay handsomely for the services of the Veronica Agency. Tru gets the name from a 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet named Veronica Franco, portrayed in a painting by Venetian painter Tintoretto (who says an art history background won't pay off in later years!).

If only Tru’s legit life could fall so easily into place: Her husband’s new job has him working side by side with  flirtatious celebutant Tiffany Glass, who  just bought an apartment in their building, marketing her line of cosmetics; Paige and Molly are competing over a would-be Casanova classmate named Brandon. After suffering a heart attack in her bodybuilding class, Tru’s  68-year-old mother Naomi moves in with her. Naomi is a former Miss Subways and is looking forward to a reunion of the women picked to encourage New Yorkers to ride the subways. Yes, this was an actual contest that ran in New York City from 1941 to 1976.



Thanks to Sienna's inveterate blogging habit (it may be hard to stop a train, but it's impossible to stop a journalist)  New York Post's Page 6 gossip column hints that Tru and Sienna’s “temp agency” isn’t on the up-and-up—and the DA, the father of  Brandon,  is on their case. 

Lynn Schnurnberger's novel is pure unabashed "chick lit," (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say) but it reveals some truths about relationships and, in the case of Naomi, how it's never too late to find true love. Truman Newman and Sienna Post also discover that it's possible to learn new tricks  -- er,  oops! -- new habits after the age of 40.

About the author

Lynn Schnurnberger is the author or co-author of five books, including "The Botox Diaries" and "Mine Are Spectacular!" and has written for the New York Times, People, Parade, New York and Reader's Digest, among other publications.  Her website: www.lynnschnurnberger.com.
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