Can a woman whose life has been defined by divorce ever allow herself to believe in love? Angela Lam explores love of all kinds in her charming novel, The Divorce Planner (The Wild Road Press), which centers around a complex and loveable protagonist with a personal vendetta against marriage. While packed with moments of heart-fluttering romance, the book also investigates the countless challenges of relationships with extraordinary insight, tackling the pain of divorce, the resentment stemming from past disappointments, the often problematic bond between a divergent mother and daughter, and the lies we tell each other — and ourselves — about love. The novel shines due to its many intriguing contrasts: fantasy and reality, truth and pretense, divorce and marriage, pain and fulfillment, among many others. All deeply inform the way the characters, and we the readers, recognize and pursue true love. The Divorce Planner adeptly walks the lines between happily-ever-after and the struggle to maintain the everyday love we need in our daily lives.

Darcy Madison has a chip on her shoulder. When she found out she was pregnant at only 21 years old, she happily married the father of her child and prepared for a fairytale future. Working long hours to support her young daughter Joyce and her “inventor” husband Nathan, she found her familial relationships growing steadily more strained and less secure. Catching Nathan with another woman became the nail in the coffin, and after an ugly divorce, Darcy was forced to create a new life for herself. Working as a divorce planner to fund her estranged daughter’s education doesn’t exactly allow her a luxurious existence; instead, she lives with roommates, wears the same dress to every event, and spends Friday nights at her beloved Books and Booze Club eating chicken wings and arguing about literary love and loss. Now fifty, Darcy doesn’t foresee a happy ending in her own future, especially after participating in countless divorces. When Joyce announces her engagement and asks Darcy to plan the wedding, Darcy feels nothing but doubt and frustration while dealing with her daughter’s perfectionism and controlling personality. To add insult to injury, Joyce requests that Darcy attend her ex-husband’s wedding. The only upside is the charismatic divorce lawyer Victor Costello, who Darcy can’t help but be attracted to. Things get complicated when Victor proposes to Darcy at Nathan’s wedding; it’s all a ruse for revenge and a laugh because Darcy and Victor certainly don’t love each other and certainly won’t stay in this pretend relationship. Right?

With Darcy and Victor’s false relationship taking center stage there’s never a shortage of romantic drama and hilarity in Lam’s novel. The true surprise is how beautifully and sensitively the relationship between Darcy and Joyce plays out. Their mother-daughter tie is frayed due to both physical and emotional distance, and both women have to learn the art of compromise if they ever want to reach a better understanding. Adding additional depth, Darcy’s clients’ stories impact her own life and offer a glimpse into the human condition. Darcy’s friendships are also crucial to the novel, depicted both entertainingly through the book club and more seriously in coffee dates with her best friend, adding another welcome layer to the loves reflected in the book. Lastly, Lam pinpoints the social scrutiny that a middle-aged woman falls under when attempting a new relationship and the way the ghosts of marriages past haunt the present unless some serious self-awareness intervenes to save the day.

All in all, the reader will find themselves flying through The Divorce Planner’s many entertaining twists and turns while simultaneously contemplating the nature of profound love and successful relationships. Lam’s characters are deeply flawed and thus deeply genuine, so it’s impossible not to wish them happiness in the end. Meanwhile, the reader feels happiness all the way through this winning novel. The Divorce Planner will appeal to anyone who needs a little confidence that love is not only possible, but, with some effort and compassion, quite probable indeed.

The Divorce Planner is available for purchase now.

Angela Lam studied journalism at Northwestern University as a Cherub scholar. She received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Sonoma State University. Her nonfiction articles on real estate, lending and finance can be found online at SFGate.com.  Her short stories, essays and poetry are published in a number of magazines, newspapers and anthologies, including The Dollar StretcherFoliate Oak , Kenwood PressThe PhoenixPotpourriThe SunThe Writer and Women’s Voices.