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Authors: Brenda Janowitz

Jack with a Twist

BOOK: Jack with a Twist
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Advance Praise for
Jack with a Twist

“Vibrantly written and visual. A funny, smart, true-to-life novel about being your own woman. Loved it!”

—Melissa Senate, author of
See Jane Date
and
Questions to Ask Before Marrying

 

“Another fun-filled page-turner from Brenda. Every bit as sparkling as the champagne that the bride-to-be’s mother is so fond of….”

—Carole Matthews, international bestselling author of
For Better, For Worse

 

“The most delightfully hilarious wedding novel I’ve ever read; you’ll either want to try on bridesmaids’ dresses immediately or run screaming from your nearest bridal shop…. A hilarious look at the not-so-holy side of holy matrimony.”

—Kristin Harmel, the Daily Buzz’s Lit Chick, author of
The Art of French Kissing

 
 

Praise for
Scot on the Rocks

“[A] rollicking debut…A breezy romantic comedy with plenty of laughs.”


Booklist

 

“Brenda Janowitz’s debut novel is dynamite. The entire cast of characters is genuine and uncontrived. Her heroine is sassy, smart and fun, but also a bit naive…This is a book you would like to tell everybody about because you just can’t say enough about it.”


Coffee Time Romance

 

“A quick and entertaining read. The main character’s theatrical, high-energy personality comes through loud and clear, but it is Janowitz’s secondary characters that develop and grow smoothly, rounding out the plot. Readers will enjoy the scheming, shopping and well-used irony that make up this New York tale.”


Romantic Times BOOKreviews

 

“A wonderfully funny, smart and engaging love story, and the narrator’s voice and vulnerability make her extremely likable. I found myself routing for Brooke no matter how sometimes silly her decisions…This is a perfect book for the beach or a plane ride, or, really, any time you want a fun and funny escape. I will never look at a man in a kilt the same way again.”

—Jennifer Oko, author of
Gloss
and
Lying Together

 

“I absolutely loved the sense of humor and sense of surprise in this novel. There were several moments where I laughed out loud.”

—Jill Smolinski, author of
Next Thing on My List
and
Flip Flopped

 

“[A] laugh-out-loud debut novel.”

—Kristin Harmel, author of
The Blonde Theory

 

“I enjoyed
Scot on the Rocks
predominantly because of Brooke’s voice. She’s sweet and very funny and I really enjoyed her asides to the reader. As a character, she’ll stick in my mind…”

—Trashionista

 

“Hilarious and entertaining…a believable tale of love, madness and hope.”


Fresh Fiction

 
Jack with a Twist
 

(Engaging your adversary and other
things they don’t teach you in law school)

 
Brenda Janowitz
 

 

For Doug, the man of my dreams.
You were worth the wait.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER
 

This book in no way depicts any actual events or actual people. Yes, the book is about a woman planning her wedding to the man of her dreams, and Brenda Janowitz did, in fact, plan her wedding to the man of her dreams, but this book is totally not about that.

Especially as pertains to the character of Brooke Miller’s mother. Please note that Miriam Miller is in no way related to, similar to, or based on Brenda’s mother, Sherry Janowitz. Sherry Janowitz is a wonderful and perfect human being. She is in no way flawed like the maternal character depicted in this book. And while we’re on the topic, the character of Barry Miller is in no way related to Brenda’s father, Bernard Janowitz. (Although, if you want to know the truth, he isn’t nearly as uppity about it as his wife. And both Barry and Bernard
are
devilishly handsome, but the similarity ends there.) Further to the point, just because the character of Brooke Miller is an only child, this in no way should be taken to mean that Brenda Janowitz does not love and adore her brother, Sammy Janowitz, sister-in-law, Stephanie Janowitz, and nephew, Noah Janowitz. And while we’re on the topic, the Luxenberg family is not the Solomon family. They’re just not. You’ll see what we’re talking about when you read the book. Which is not at all based on reality.

It’s just fiction, people! Geez. Doncha hate it when people get all lawyerly about stuff?

Prologue
 

A
nd they lived happily ever after….

Maybe I should have asked my mother for some clarification on that. Exactly
what happens
after they ride off into the sunset together? Do they park the white horse at Bloomingdale’s and go register for wedding presents? Do their families argue about whose castle will host the wedding? When the families disagree on something, does someone end up in the moat?

Why didn’t twelve-year-old me think to ask for clarification on that one?

1
 

T
oday should have been the happiest day of my life. Well, not the happiest—the day Jack proposed to me,
that
was the happiest day of my life—but today should certainly be
one of
the happiest days of my life. After all, I love shopping, I love that I’m getting married to Jack, and so,
therefore,
I should love wedding dress shopping. What could be better than combining these two fabulous things, à la the discovery of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Well, maybe combining shoe shopping with my excitement about getting married would be better, but you get the general point I’m trying to make.

The point is, I should love wedding dress shopping. But, I don’t. So far, it has been a haze of obnoxious and fake salespeople, unwanted commentary on my weight from my mother, and a wave of general dissatisfaction on my part. And that’s just today.

“Are you planning on losing any weight before your wedding?” the salesperson asks me.

“Um, yes?” I say, careful to position my body just so, away from the three-sided mirror, which has the effect of thrusting my cellulite directly into the line of vision of my mother, who is standing outside the dressing room in yet another mother-of-the-bride dress. The salesperson zips me up, and I turn around to face my mom.

“Oh, my God, Brooke,” my best friend, Vanessa, says, “you look so beautiful I think I’m going to cry!” Vanessa is not the type to cry—in the eight years since I’ve known her I can count the times I’ve seen her cry on one hand—so if she says she’s about to cry, this dress must be really good.

“I hate it,” my mother says, “take it off.” And then, to the salesperson, “Do you have anything with capped sleeves? Something to hide the fleshiness on her arms.” She whispers the word
fleshiness
as if, even though I’m standing but two feet away from her, I cannot actually hear her.

“I can hear you,” I say, reaching for the glass of champagne my mother is holding for me, the one given to me when we first arrived at the store. That was back when wedding dress shopping was all air kisses and warm congratulations. Now that our salesperson has agreed with my mother when she called me fat, I could really use something a bit stronger, but I’ll settle for the bubbly.

“Empty calories,” my mother sings, moving the glass away from me and taking a sip. “I’m just trying to find a dress that would make the most of your figure, BB.” I guess I don’t have to mention here that my fifty-two-year-old mother, a petite size six, with a crown of honey-blond hair, looks better in her dress than I do in mine.

“Marilyn Monroe was a size twelve in her heyday,” I say to no one in particular. “And no one ever called
her
fat. I’m only a size ten.”

“Marilyn was a bit fleshy, dear,” my mother says, admiring herself in the mirror. If I didn’t have to work and could take tennis lessons three times a week like my mother, maybe I would be a size six, too. Although, if I had that much free time, I like to think that instead of tennis lessons and mah-jongg, I’d fill my time with charity work and more important Angelina Jolie-esque type activities. And shopping.

What? You have to get new outfits for all those big important dinners at the UN, don’t you?

“Your figure is perfect,” Vanessa says. Vanessa
has
to say this because she’s my best friend. It’s in some sort of friendship handbook or something. Come to think of it, I think it may also be in the Code of the Girl Scouts. I’ll have to look that up sometime. But, either way, she has to say that.

She especially has to say that I look skinny to me because she’s tall and thin and is a dead ringer for Halle Berry and I’m short and not thin and not a dead ringer for anyone. Yes, Vanessa is tall and thin and gorgeous and she is
still
my best friend. I really think that says a lot about my character, don’t you think?

“Vanessa’s right,” my mom says, now clearly tipsy from downing my entire glass of champagne in two gulps. “All of these dresses are made for skinny, anorexic girls. We Miller girls have curves. Let’s get out of here.”

“Let’s have a bite to eat before we go to our next appointment,” I say to my mother as I take the empty champagne glass from her hand.

“May I ask where you’re going next?” the salesperson asks as my mother and I retreat to our dressing rooms to change back into our own clothing.

“Monique deVouvray,” Vanessa says and I can practically hear, from inside my dressing room, the salesperson’s mouth dropping to the ground. I look up and see Vanessa trying to pretend that she doesn’t notice, as if she goes to the most exclusive dress designer in the world every day, but I can see the edges of her mouth fighting back a tiny smile. Reason number 432 why Vanessa is such a great friend—she hates this mean salesperson as much as I do for asking me if I was planning to lose weight all morning, while my mother, the size six, fit into every dress in the showroom perfectly. (Salesperson: “What a figure! Did you use to dance?” Me: “I took ballet and tap until I was twelve.” Salesperson: “I meant your mother.” My mother: “Well, I do love to cha-cha!”)

“Yes, our appointment at Monique’s,” my mother says with a slight French accent, trying to stand up without teetering over. “We really must go.”

My mother was so excited when we got an appointment with Monique deVouvray, wedding dress designer to the stars, that she bragged about it for three weeks at her weekly mah-jongg game, which was funny since she was mispronouncing Monique’s last name for the first two of them.

“My mother will kill us if we’re late for Monique,” Vanessa says, leading the charge out of the dressing room.

“Your mother
knows
Monique?” the salesperson asks, doing her best to furrow a Botoxed brow.

“Yes, she does,” Vanessa says, her right arm linked in my left as she guides me quickly to the elevator. “Thanks so much for everything. Bye!”

As we hit the button for the elevator, I can hear my mother whispering to the salesperson that Vanessa’s mom used to model with Monique. My mother dashes into the elevator just as the doors are about to close (I was willing to leave her up there, it was Vanessa who pushed the door-open button), and in moments, we are down at the car.

Vanessa’s dad lent us his car and driver for the day so that we could hop around town to our various appointments. The three of us pile into the backseat of Vanessa’s father’s huge Mercedes (affectionately dubbed the “Nazi-mobile” by my mother) and head uptown.

“We need to get you a bite to eat before stopping at Monique’s,” I say to my mother. “We don’t want you throwing up all over the couture.”

“There are a million little delis up Third Avenue,” Vanessa offers.

“Let’s go to Tasty D instead,” my mom slurs. “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

She’s been saying that my whole life.

“Tommy,” I say to the driver, “would you please pull over here?” I run out of the car and hop into Dunkin’ Donuts, returning with a massive cruller, a delicacy that I know my mother cannot refuse.

“Well,” my mother says, “I suppose I could have just one tiny bite.”

Vanessa rolls her eyes.

By the time we pull up to Monique’s exquisite Upper East Side brownstone, my mother has downed the cruller…and also a stale cup of coffee that Tommy still had up front since this morning.

The brownstone looks exactly like the type of place where Monique deVouvray and her glamorous French businessman husband, Jean Luc—a couple who’ve been fodder for the tabloids since before Lindsay and Britney were even born—would live. To call it a brownstone doesn’t even really do it justice. It’s a huge brick house right across the street from Central Park. The ground floor is divided by a gated portico, and if you peek in (never mind those pesky security cameras), you can see straight back to the lap pool. On the left side of the portico is a two-car garage and on the right is a white brick stairway leading to the front entranceway—a huge mahogany double door with a big brass knocker, monogrammed with Monique and Jean Luc’s initials. Basically, the entrance to their single-family home is nicer than the one in the more-than-we-can-really-afford co-op building where Jack and I live. Actually, the entrance is really nicer than ninety-eight percent of the buildings I’ve ever seen in New York City. And that’s including Gracie Mansion.

As we walk up, I can hear clicking over my shoulder. I turn around to see a photographer hiding behind a parked car across the street. Only his lens peeks out from the hood of the car. A tiny smile creeps onto my lips. Now that I’m going to the person who designs wedding dresses for movie stars, maybe
I’ll
start being mistaken for a movie star! Vanessa sees me sucking in my stomach for the camera and says: “No need to get ready for your close-up, Brooke, they’re not here for us. The paparazzi is always staking this place out, just waiting for something to happen.”

And it often does. In 1979, Mick Jagger took off all of his clothing in the middle of a cocktail party at Monique and Jean Luc’s brownstone and jumped right into the lap pool. This probably wouldn’t have made news but for the fact that as he jumped, he dragged Monique with him. Who was wearing a white dress with very little underneath. (
Playboy
reportedly offered her one million dollars to pose nude after the “white dress” pictures became public, explaining to her that everyone’s already seen it all. Monique, to hear
People
magazine tell it, was unamused.) In 1985, Brat Packer Bobby Highe was caught in a compromising position in one of the guest bathrooms with Monique’s niece. Who was fourteen at the time. He somehow got out of the criminal charges, but later told
Vanity Fair
that it wasn’t fair—French women were so beguiling that he really had no choice. (Which, strangely, later became the advertising slogan for Monique’s signature perfume when it came out the following year.) In 1998, it was Monique’s husband who was front-page news—hosting a very bizarre “business” meeting in their kitchen with various condiments being used and passed around, but no actual food in sight. And on a summer evening back in 2003, you couldn’t get within a ten block radius of the entire Upper East Side since Monique and Jean Luc were hosting an engagement party for Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. The New York Police Department had to block off the entire eastern side of Central Park since photographers and tourists all up and down Fifth Avenue blocked traffic by standing smack dab in the middle of the street.

But I assume that nothing like that will be happening today. Even so, it’s not a bad idea to suck in my gut.

“How do you know they’re not looking to take pictures of us?” I ask, turning my head slightly so that the pap can get my best angle—left side of my face.

“They’re not,” she says. I can feel her eyes burning into the side of my head.

“Yes, but how do you
know?
” I say, careful not to move, so that I don’t mess up the shot.

“I just know,” Vanessa says, “okay?”

I begrudgingly nod back at her, but I can see her standing a little straighter, no doubt for the benefit of our invisible paparazzo friend.

On the first floor of Monique’s brownstone, we are greeted by a doorman, which is strange for a private single-family residence. Even in New York City, only large apartment buildings usually have doormen. But then Vanessa explains the set-up to me: Monique’s studio is on the second floor and she lives with her husband on the top three floors. (Vanessa doesn’t say a word about the lap pool, but I know what I saw.) I should mention here that it is absolutely impossible to get an appointment with Monique—she only designs for movie stars and diplomats and really, really,
really
rich people, so she doesn’t have an open showroom that you can just walk into off the street. (That and the fact that the
Post
’s Column Five gossip mavens are always looking to catch her or her husband in the act of something.) We only got our appointment because of Vanessa’s mom, Millie—she and Monique lost touch for a while after modeling together in the sixties, but had recently become friendly again when Millie needed a dress for a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

“You must be Vanessa,” Monique says as we enter her studio, pulling Vanessa in for a hug. “You’re just as beautiful as your mother. She tells me that you are a big important lawyer?”

“Well, I don’t know how big and important I am,” Vanessa says, “but I
am
a lawyer. And so’s our bride. We actually used to work together at Gilson, Hecht before Brooke abandoned me.”

“You still have Jack working with you there,” I say, smiling at my self-indulgent mention of my fiancé’s name.

“Ah, Brooke, our bride,” Monique says.

She kisses me on both cheeks and I introduce Monique to my mother.

“Enchanté,”
my mother says and curtsies. Maybe we should have stopped off at McDonald’s—the woman is clearly still drunk. I look over to Vanessa for some assistance with my mother, but she has meandered over to look at a framed copy of an old
Vogue
cover with both Monique and her mother on it. The contrast between Millie’s dark skin and Monique’s pale complexion is striking, and I watch Vanessa examine every square inch of the photograph. Millie, who I see frequently at her downtown art gallery, is every bit as gorgeous today as she was then, if not more so.

So is Monique. Who is now seated on a love seat with my mother. Who is drinking yet another glass of champagne.

“A celebration, no?” Monique says in her thick French accent, handing me my own glass. She wears black cigarette pants and a pristine white button-down shirt with its sleeves rolled up. On her feet, she wears simple black Chanel ballet slippers. Vanessa is wearing the same pair today in tan. Monique’s hair is pulled into a tight bun, pinned back in exactly the same way that Vanessa’s mom wears hers.

BOOK: Jack with a Twist
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