Nora Goes Off Script

Have you ever flipped the script on your life? Instead of behaving as usual you suddenly veer off, uncaring, allowing life to happen instead of trying to manage it?

Nora does it in the laugh-out-loud funny Nora Goes Off Script, which is like a burst of sunshine on a cloudy day and exactly what I needed right now.

This is the story of Nora, romance channel scriptwriter, and Leo the smoldering actor playing her ex-husband in the movie version of her life. Isn’t that the way it goes? The painter’s house needs a fresh coat and the romance writer’s love life is in shambles since her husband left her.

Nora usually writes formulaic romances – she actually has a formula, plugging in locations, professions, and community events (where the lovers come together after a misunderstanding) to create each new story. But after her husband left she wrote something a little more real that turned out to be a hit. Instead of a romance channel tv-movie The Tea House is major, with the hottest stars playing her and her ex.

To her annoyance, they’re coming to film for a few days at her house, in the tea house in her backyard, the one where she writes and the one the movie is named for. Nora loves her house: the forest behind it, the trees and flowers all around, and especially the sunrises. Her upstate New York porch has a front row seat for the most spectacular sunrises…

You can see where this is going, right? Even without knowing the specifics you see that Leo and Nora click; Leo stays; they fall. But then something happens. There’s a misunderstanding! Will it be resolved?!

I love Annabel Monaghan’s style of writing. Her Nora is modern and realistic; weary and a total scream. Her running commentary on herself and her life will have you nodding your head and giggling out loud. The children are scene-stealers; adorable and precocious, sometimes moody but never obnoxious. Monaghan is clearly observant and has the ability to get to the human heart of the matter. She reminds me of Jean Hanff Korelitz at times, with her subtle humor and commentary.

Nora is doing just fine (kinda) raising her two kids by herself. She’s not very upset about it – if her husband didn’t want to be around why would she want him? She’s so pragmatic that you start thinking, for a romance writer, she’s not very romantic. But the way she allows herself to fall for Leo, the way she just lets it happen without overthinking is terribly romantic.

Leo is a great character and I had young Brad Pitt in mind as I read the story. He’s smart and self-absorbed but also super-observant and great with Nora’s kids – Bernadette has a crush and Arthur gets acting tips for the school play. Arthur has the lead in Oliver Twist and Leo ends up co-directing it. Their scenes together are ridiculously cute.

You think you know where the story is going but there’s a twist or two. I never guessed the ending but then again I never do…

I hope you try this book; it’s a different kind of romance, more savory than sweet; more real than make-believe. Just right.

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