This story is about Frances, who is trying to discover herself, while opening up to love. We enter the story with Frances sitting in a café, after another intense therapy session. She's now contemplating the fact that she's almost 40 and has had two marriages end in divorce. Due to her not-so-great luck with men, she's giving up on love, at least in the romantic sense of the word. Not only does she have a horrible past with men, but she also has a college-aged, sexually confused daughter (Janice) that, despite her efforts, is distant.
Click here to see the rest of this review
While at the café, Frances gets the odd feeling that her waiter – John – is flirting with her. She dismisses the possibility because he is much younger than she is. He has to be in his early twenties and is probably in LA to become an actor, like most of the men his age.
As a sub-contract production designer, Frances is often working on a new design or layout. Her current employer and good friend, Ronald, often turns to Frances for advice on his long-distance relationship. He sometimes even calls on her at the last minute, needing a friendly shoulder. She always obliges.
Her current project, a too-difficult-to-understand play, is not a very easy task. The leading role belongs to a woman, who has more unresolved issues than any normal person can deal with. So whenever Frances sits down to tackle this project, she comes up with more questions than answers.
While working on the sketches for this play one day, Frances gets so frustrated that she calls her therapist for an emergency meeting. After hashing out the details of her current project, Frances realizes what her problem is. She's in a rut, bored with her life.
Where does she end up, but the old, reliable café. The hot waiter, once again, pays her special attention. She wonders if he's that way with all of his customers. Out of curiosity, she slips her business card in the menu.
During a mental meltdown, after over-analyzing the situation with John and boldly supplying her business card, she is distracted by a younger couple sitting nearby. They appear to be having an argument, when the lady suddenly storms out. The young gentleman—Martin—after being left on his own, makes eye contact with Frances and eventually asks to join her.
Frances and Martin commence into easy conversation. Turns out, Martin is trying out online dating, but only to find a date to his ex-girlfriend's wedding. The two are so comfortable with one another, despite the 14 year age difference, that Frances offers to be his “date” at the wedding and Martin happily accepts.
While working on her latest project, Frances gets a call from Ronald. He mentions them attending a work party together. They make arrangements to talk later to make the official plans. Only when Ronald calls days later with said arrangements, he has other news. He no longer is able to attend the party because of an invitation to meet his boyfriend's sister. He expects Frances to go along without him. At first, Frances refuses to go by herself. Who wants to attend a party alone when you don't know many people that will be there?
The next day, Martin calls. After deciding to get to know one another before the wedding date, Frances invites him to accompany her to the work party.
The night of their first official date, Frances is a bundle of nerves. After she picks Martin up, she quickly notices the feelings are mutual. They spend much of the drive in an awkward silence until Frances asks what he's thinking. They both admit to being apprehensive about the party. Martin doesn't know what to expect, while Frances is concerned that Martin will find someone better, more of his age. The gentleman that he is, Martin reassures her that that won't happen. Speaking honestly helps them both to relax.
Frances realizes that she should be more open with her thoughts, actually speak what's on her mind. Having this realization reminds her of a Zen relationship book that she has. She then decides to read more of the book. Maybe having more open and honest communication is the key to a better relationship.
The party goes well, even though it's actually quite boring, as most networking “business” parties are. The couple is able to spend a majority of the time getting to know one another.
Later that night, without even thinking about it, Frances drives them back to her apartment. After some wine and more easy conversation, Martin goes in for an attempt at their first kiss, which doesn't exactly go very well. It seems off to Frances, uncomfortable.
Martin is completely unaware of the weirdness and even takes the action into the bedroom, where Frances finally has to inform him that he is trying entirely too hard. With his ego bruised, Martin leaves.
The next day, still feeling a little down from the good-night-turned-bad, Frances gets a surprise call from the café waiter, John. And before she even realizes what just happened, she agrees to meet him for lunch.
After their casual lunch of John being his charming self, he persuades Frances to come to his apartment to see a painting he made of her. She reluctantly agrees. When they arrive, he shows her a painting that doesn't even resemble her. She's more than disappointed. While he's fixing her a glass of water, she picks the painting up and sees another woman's name on it. She immediately questions him and he stammers around his words. She quickly leaves and retreats back home, completely disgusted at the turn of the evening.
Because of the hectic last few days, Frances has a great deal to discuss with her therapist. Two men, mixed feelings, confusion, lies…it's a bit too much to handle. But, as always, Frances feels better after talking about everything.
Later, Frances is reading her Zen book and decides to call Martin to apologize for her insensitivity. Martin also apologizes for leaving so abruptly. They both forgive and move on. Frances tells Martin about the Zen book, about being open in relationships—mentally, emotionally and physically/sexually. He seems genuinely interested and even asks questions. Before ending the call, Frances invites Martin to join her when she visits her mother for her mother's birthday. He, of course, accepts.
After inviting Martin to come along, Frances must call her daughter to let her know of the new travel arrangements. (Instead of just the two of them, there will now be three.) The phone call that should've been brief turns into a lashing out from Janice. She says Frances is intolerable when in relationships and she's not comfortable with the age difference. The conversation takes an even worse turn when Janice confesses to having a messed up childhood because Frances and her tendency at bad relationships. Frances remains calm, as best as she can, and apologizes to Janice. It does no good, though. Janice ends the call saying she will be finding another ride.
It seems to be one bad thing after another for Frances. She's at her wits end, so she throws herself into her work project. She needs to focus her mind elsewhere. When she's not working, she's reading her Zen book. This seems to help, if only some.
The day of the trip to her mother's arrives. Frances picks up Martin and, as soon as she sees him, her spirits lift. The time away goes surprisingly well for the couple. Frances and Martin continue to open up to one another, thanks to the Zen book. And even though Frances isn't able to speak much with her daughter, the trip, as a whole, goes well. She is able to mend relationships with her mother and sister. She has a long talk with each of them, more of being open and honest.
Once back home, Frances and Martin decide to spend some extra time together, just the two of them. After a few days of having one-on-one time, they agree to attend a relationship seminar.
Things go awry at the seminar. The seminar actually starts off with a more cynical view of relationships—that women's purpose is to carry and give birth to children and that men want to procreate with as many women as possible, when bored with one, they move to the next. Who wants that kind of relationship?
Completely disgusted with what she feels is sad, but true, Frances storms out with Martin shortly behind her. With no other choice, she tells him she's done. Men and women are not meant to be together in the romantic sense that she wants. She's had too many bad relationships to know that, at the end of the day, all that matters is sex.
Because of her new look on life and relationships, Frances is ready to make some changes.
Her first major change is announced at her therapy session…her last therapy session. Frances has decided to move closer to her mother and sister. She's ready to take charge of her life and she is ready to get her family back.
Her next task is to rectify her relationship with her daughter. After calling Janice and “telling” her to come by for lunch, Janice actually does show up. They have a long talk about issues they've been having and they both apologize for problems they've caused. They agree to start having weekly visits.
The final thing for Frances to do is fulfill her promise to Martin—show up as his date for his ex-girlfriend's wedding. She doesn't phone him first; she just shows up. She gets to the chapel, which is thankfully not far from her apartment, but doesn't see Martin. Deciding to not give up on him, she also attends the reception.
Just before she is ready to leave, feeling defeated, she spots Martin, who is thrilled but surprised to see her. After explaining that she promised she would be there, they decide to hit the dance floor and show Martin's ex-girlfriend just how awesome he is.
After the wedding, they don't part ways. Instead, they end up at Frances' apartment and have a wonderful night together. The next day, Frances decides not to panic, not to over think. No, this time…she'll just let life happen.
Best part of story, including ending:
There was a great deal of back and forth in the book with Frances. (One minute she loves Martin, the next she doesn't.) While that was annoying at times, the story as a whole, has a good moral.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Frances realizes that her life is exactly that...HER life. Things happen because of her actions, so it's time for her to take charge of her life and where it's going.
Opinion about the main character:
Frances is a realistic and believable character. She's cynical but eventually does take a real chance on love. She learns how to open heart again, to not just a significant other, but also to her family.