Helen Fairchild, is leading a privileged Pasadena existence: married to a pillar of the community; raising a water polo- playing son destined for the most select high school; volunteering her time on the most fashionable committees. It only bothers Helen a tiny bit that she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd or finished that graduate degree in Classics or had that second baby. The rigid rules of society in Pasadena appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon “fiber artists,” even if she’ll never be on the inside.
And then along comes a freak accident, killing her philandering husband and leaving Helen broke, out of her “forever” house, and scrambling to salvage her once-rarefied existence. Enter Dr. Patrick O’Neill, noted archaeologist, excavator of Troy, and wearer of adorable nubby sweaters. A job as Dr. O’Neill’s research assistant is the lifeline Helen needs to re-invent herself professionally, personally, and romantically. Helen’s world widens to include a Hollywood star, a local gossip columnist, an old college nemesis, a high-powered Benefit Chair, an unforgiving admissions director, the best real estate agent in the biz, and, of course, the intriguing Patrick O’Neill. While uncovering secrets about Ancient Troy alongside her archaeologist, Helen discovers something much more: a new sense of self and a new love.
Helen of Pasadena was a very enjoyable read. I have to admit that I cracked up at the beginning of the book when the demise of Helen Fairchild's husband was explained. Although the aftermath of his death left Helen in horrible circumstances, I was still pleased with the way that Karma stuck it to him. Helen herself, was portrayed as a very strong woman - forced to pick her self up and recreate a life for herself, both personally and professionally. She was fortunate to have very solid friendships to rely upon after her husband's death.
Lian Dolan was successful in weaving a bit of archeology into the story. I'm always happy when I feel that I learn a bit from a novel, instead of it being self-indulgent. In all, I found the story very well thought out, while it still managed to be a light and easy read. I think that Dolan did very well as a first time novelist. Her sense of humor was critical to making Helen of Pasadena a success. I'm looking forward to reading future novels by this author!